Fresh tomatoes and basil just SCREAM pizza to me. Nope, summer is not over just yet.
Even though I live in the land of great pizza (NYC baby), still enjoy making my own. While I love a slice of New York’s finest, I have equal affinity for Roman-style ever since I tasted Gabriele Bonci’s pizza in Rome in 2011 (oh yeah, am still dreaming about it after all these years).
Not sure what Gabriele Bonci does to his pizza, but it’s damn good. Maybe it was the fact that I was in Rome on a warm summer’s night — nicely tanned after a peaceful few weeks spent exploring Sicily — with a glass (of nerello mascalese) from Mt. Etna (albeit, in a plastic cup), sitting on a bench enjoying a simple dinner with Patrick. Whatever “it” was, it left a lasting impression.
While Bonci stresses using the best quality toppings, his pizza is really all about the dough/crust. I’ve been trying to perfect my Roman/Bonci-style pizza for years. The recipe for his dough comes by way of Elizabeth Minchilli (an American food blogger living in Rome) by way of Bonci himself. While my pizza is good, with its nice crispy crust, soft chewy interior, and super fresh toppings, it will never be as good as his. Bonci is a true master at what he does.
Oftentimes, simple is best. When it comes to pizza, I like it simple — good quality tomatoes, freshly made mozzarella (not by me, by someone else; although, making my own mozzarella has crossed my mind, perhaps another time), and basil.
The dough, with a basic tomato sauce and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, is first baked and then the toppings — a good amount of mozzarella and basil — are added after the pizza comes out of the oven. The mozzarella melts a bit on top of the steaming hot out-of-the-oven pizza.
This pizza has a nice crispy bottom with a tender chewy interior. The key to crisping the bottom is to place the pizza (on a baking sheet) on the floor of your oven for the first 5 minutes, but no longer (in the past I’ve completely charred the bottom of my pizza when I inadvertently left it on the oven floor for the entire cooking time).
The dough is alive….
To make the dough, you gently mix and fold, and then the dough goes in the refrigerator for a slow 24-hour rise. The next day, bring the dough to room temperature and you’re ready to make some pizza.
Here are a few photos of the process (am still trying to perfect this part)…setting the timer and posing in front of the camera as I’m preparing the dough is not conducive to the process. But you get the gist.
I like a lot of sauce (and tend to go easy on the cheese). And a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil…
dough recipe adapted from Elizabeth Minchilli (via Gabriele Bonci)
For 1 large 9 by 13 pizza (or divide the dough and make 2 smaller pizzas)
1 pound tipo 00 flour (used Mulino Marino flour purchased from Eataly, NYC)
1 1/4 teaspoons dried or instant yeast (I like this brand)
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups water (used closer to 2 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 14-ounce can Pelati (peeled, whole) tomatoes, crushed and seasoned with sea salt
Mix the flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl with a spoon. When most of the lumps are gone, add the olive oil and salt. It will be wet. The wetter the better.
Flip onto a floured work surface and gently fold the dough in half, over itself, toward you. Grab the dough by the corners facing you, pick it up like an envelope and turn 90 degrees and place back on the floured surface. Gently fold and turn. Repeat a few more times.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest 15 minutes. Then repeat the folding and turning action as above. By the third pass, the dough will be springy and less sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 1 hour. While the dough is coming to room temperature, preheat the oven to 500°F.
Lightly oil a 9″x 13″ baking sheet.
Lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on the work surface. Start with the edges of the dough and press down gently and then go to the center and press down. After the first pass, flip the far end over, so the top becomes the bottom. Make sure your flour is evenly distributed under the dough and continue to gently massage the dough, so the balls of air remain intact. Flip again and repeat until the dough is evenly distributed.
Pull the dough over your arm and then pull the other side over your other arm (as pictured above) with your palms facing down. Transfer the dough to the baking pan and distribute the dough toward the edges of the pan. Press down, distributing the dough evenly, but gently.
Add the pelati tomatoes. Distribute evenly over the dough. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Place the pan on the bottom floor of your oven for the first 5 minutes. Then transfer to the bottom-middle rack of your oven and cook another 15 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven.
Add *mozzarella cheese and basil. I like to finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
*If you want the mozzarella warm and gooey, place the pizza back in the oven until the cheese is melted, then add the basil.
**I roasted some small cherry tomatoes on the vine separately and added them to the pizza when it came out of the oven.