Wednesday 22 November 2017

Classic neapolitan pizza

Classics: (clockwise from top right), the Capricciosa, the Margherita and the Marinara
Classics: (clockwise from top right), the Capricciosa, the Margherita and the Marinara


500g strong flour

2 tsps salt

30g fresh yeast or its dry equivalent

Pinch of sugar

1 tbsp good olive oil

Enough water to make a firm dough,

approximately 250ml

This will make four, roughly 25cm pizzas


Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Meanwhile, add the fresh yeast to a glass of warm water with a pinch of sugar and stir it well with a fork. For dried yeast, follow the instructions on the packet. When the yeast is foamy and creamy, make a well in the flour and add the yeast and the olive oil.

Start making the dough by adding the water a little at a time until the dough is firm and well mixed. Knead the dough until it's silky and elastic, then put it in a floured bowl, cover with a plastic bag or damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place. A cross cut on the top will help. When it has risen, which, depending on the room temperature, will be between one and three hours, knock the dough back by kneading it again.

Now roll out your four pizzas. Put them on oiled tins or trays and ladle on your pizzaiola sauce, which is Paolo’s Tomato Sauce flavoured with oregano instead of basil. Pizza needs a hot oven, pre-heated to about 220°C/425°F. Between five and 10 minutes should be sufficient, depending on the topping. A dish of boiling water in the oven will help give a crusty texture to the dough. I like to give a pizza two passes in the oven, which is a way of ensuring you won't have a topping of burnt mozzarella.

Put the pizza in the first time with just the tomato sauce and olive oil on it, until the base is almost cooked. Remove it and add the mozzarella and whatever other topping you want, then put it back in the oven to finish it off.

Here are some classic toppings:

Margherita: This topping has a special place in Italy. It was created in Naples especially for the new queen of Italy, Margherita, the wife of Victor Emmanuel. It uses the colours of the Italian flag: red, white and green. The red is the tomato sauce, the white is the mozzarella and the green is leaves of basil. Simple, tasty and classic.

Marinara: The name might lead you to think that this pizza uses seafood, but it's actually named after the wives of the fishermen who used to make it. The marinara and the Margherita are the only two pizzas whose toppings are codified by the Authentic Pizza Association of Naples. For this pizza, you'll need only pizzaiola sauce flavoured with garlic, oregano and olive oil.

Capricciosa: Literally a ‘capricious' pizza, this is the one I nearly always order in a pizzeria. The base is covered with tomato sauce and the topping is made up of mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, cooked ham and stoned olives. In Lazio, you'll often find half a hard-boiled egg in the middle.

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