Una Pizza Rustica e Autentica for Sophia Loren

By • May 7, 2010 32 Comments

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Author Notes: Please cease with all the sissy pizza recipes! For the uninitiated the authentic article was created in Naples sometime between 1830 and 1860. It was not created in New York or New Haven in the 1950s, and Wolfgang Puck played no role. The authentic pizza Neapolitana was the perfect match, like the one between Sophia Loren and Clark Gable in “It Started in Naples”. The tomato arrived from the New World most likely via Spain (Naples was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies). There it met Sophia Loren with all the charms of its volcanic soil, water buffalo herds and abundant basilico. There was already a tradition of flat breads as well as a culture of poverty. An ideal match.
To cook pizza the correct way you will need very high oven temperatures or even better, a wood fire that you can stoke with real charcoal wood. The recipe I’m offering employs those things. Not so long ago I purchased a piastra from the cool collection of Mario Batali endorsed products. Essentially it’s a big slab of stone that fits perfectly over my outdoor wood grill. You can find them at Sur La Table. If you don’t have one of these, at least use a large pizza stone that fits in your oven or at worst a very heavy iron pizza pan. You are going to have to crank the heat as high as it will go. Wood burning ovens can exceed 800, yours can’t do that (especially in a New York apartment). That’s why the outdoor method is preferred. Yea, Bobby Flay you can throw the dough straight onto the grill grate but the end result is some misshapen thing that has nothing to do with pizza. Don’t do that while I’m watching.
Of course the tomato sauce, as well as the cheese, are critical too. I prefer to use canned San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz or 800grm) imported from Italy.* I also use real buffala mozzarella.** Italian tomato or marinara sauce tends to be “looser” than American. Keep that in mind. And by the way, allocate two days to do due diligence to a correct pizza. - pierino

Food52 Review: We can always count on pierino for strong conviction about the right and wrong ways of cooking a dish. When it comes to pizza he is no different, as you can read in his headnote. But we can't always rely on pierino for details in the instructions. For instance, he doesn't tell us how long to cook the tomatoes or what to look for -- we went for pulpy but still loose enough to drop from a spoon. But we still love pierino anyway. His passion translates into a crisp-crusted pie (complete with authentically charred bubbles), topped with smears of buffalo mozzarella, aromatic scraps of torn basil and a kicky, bright tomato sauce. A couple of notes: we weighed 3 cups of flour and ours came out to be 395 grams, so we went with that. The dough is very elastic so you need to be patient when rolling it out -- do your best to get it super thin. The payoff will be worth it! And our pizza took 8 minutes to bake at 500 degrees. - A&MThe Editors

Serves well, you know

Godfather Part 1, the crust

  • 3 cups (450 grams) high gluten flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt

Godfather Part 2, the sauce

  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes (or substitute Muir Glen)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • A good handful of basil (holding some leaves back to finish).
  • 2 really good anchovy filets, salted or jar, just be sure they’re quality good
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sea salt
  • 3-4 ounces buffala mozzarella, sliced
  1. Godfather Part 1: Make your pizza dough. In the bowl of your heavyweight stand mixer proof the yeast with that little bit of warm water. You know it’s going to work, right? Of major importance (I don’t make this stuff up), use a pastry scale to properly tare the flour weight---it does matter.
  2. Gradually add the cold water and then the flour and salt and mix and dribble in that olive oil. It should be a bit sticky at the end.
  3. Bench it. Make sure your hands have access to bench flour. Massage (knead) the dough to the protypical baby bottom feel. Bowl it. Cover it with cling wrap. Let it rest for 45 minutes. Yank it out and massage it further on a well floured board. THIS IS ALL DONE BY FEEL AND THE LOVE OF YOUR HANDS. Get it into a big old, tender ball. Divide with a knife or pastry cutter into two parts. Cuddle them and then wrap them in cling wrap. Stick em’ in the fridge overnight. The dough, I’ve discovered, only improves if you let it hang out in cold air.
  4. Godfather Part 2, Dawn of the Corleones: Make the sauce. Chop your cool-io anchovies into bits. Likewise with your garlic clove.
  5. Simmer the above (and onions) in 2 tablespoons hot but good olive oil, shimmering but not smoking. Carefully add the tomatoes. You can squish them by hand if you want to help the process move forward.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to your ownself taste.
  7. Keep it loose. Push it through the medium plate of a food mill and hold/refrigerate until ready to use.
  8. Godfather Part 3.01 (Beta): Wake up. Now the good part. Crank up your indoor/outdoor cooking platform to its maximum. Can you handle 600? I can. We mean smoking hot!
  9. Roll out your pizza dough into round discs (a pastry ring can help you here) that will actually fit on your peel. Give 'em a bit of hand toss to stretch the dough out. Make sure that your pizzas do in fact fit your peel and your cooking stone/lpan. Shape em. You don't have to fling them in the air but sending some centrifugal force toward the outer edges is not so bad. You will want a stretchy middle. I didn't say that this was simple. Brush the outer edges (the "cornice") with just a bit of olive oil.
  10. Now work fast, really fast; ladle sauce in a spiral pattern starting from the center outward in a circle over your soon to be pizza(s) and then apply thin slices of buffala. Slip that disc of dough upon the stone. Slam the oven door or grill shut. And then you shut up, because I don't want to hear your mouth right now.
  11. Tear up some basil leaves while you are watching and waiting. After about five minutes of intense heat your pizza is, or should be, finished. But it's okay to look in between.
  12. A flourish of basil (basilico) and you are done, and Sophia will invite you over for cocktails.
  13. Notes to cooks: the thing about real pizza and not sissy pizza is heat. I can't emphasize that enough. Get the dough right, get the heat right. Crank it!

More Great Recipes: Pizza|Cheese & Dairy|Basil|Tomatoes|Olive Oil

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