A pizza, or two, helped celebrate special occasions; family and friends often put in their request. My Grandma Angelo called this style pizza, the only kind she made, “the frienda kind.” In fact, she called a lot of things frienda, her Italian slang the best I can explain it, means something that is the most familiar to all.
This recipe is similar to the days gone by - as I only have memory to go on, it was never written down; crushed tomato sauce, sautéed garlic, basil, a sprinkle or two of pecorino and melt in your mouth stringy mozzarella over a square shaped yeast dough that bakes airy and crisp – that’s the frienda kind.
Today, I keep the pizza memories alive, and am known not only for the pizza but for the party moments that goes with it; definitely a feast enjoyed by all.
SAUCE Heat the olive oil, add the garlic, sauté a minute to soften, add the tomatoes, salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil. Let the sauce cool.
CRUST In a large bowl, combine 3-1/2 cups of the flour, yeast packet and the salt. Add the water until a soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary, about 10 minutes.
Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to oil the top. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft free place and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Oil a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly-roll type pan. Place the dough in the center of the pan, with your fist flatten. Continue to stretch and flatten the dough to fit the pan. NOTE: You may need to relax the dough; let it rest around 5-10 minute intervals, a couple times, relaxing the dough helps to stretch and flatten. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1 hour, until puffy and almost doubled.
Grate the cheese, set aside until needed.
BAKING THE PIZZA
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
With your fingertips, firmly press the dough to make dimples at 1-inch intervals all over the surface. Drizzle a little olive oil over the dough and then the sauce, leaving a ½-inch border all around.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle half of the grated cheese and then scatter the mozzarella over top. Sprinkle with rest of the grated cheese.
Return the pizza to the oven and bake for about 5-10 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned. Let pizza sit for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot.