Several years in Italy is guaranteed to destroy your appreciation of American-style pizza. Like so may American wines, pizza here features too much of almost everything. The vast pile of cheese and other ingredients turns the crust into a soggy mess. Delivered pizza is even worse. As easy as it is to make pizza at home and as bad as most American pizza is, why would anyone bother with delivery?
Pizza, like all Italian cooking is based on one thing: get great ingredients and don't screw them up. The most important part of any pizza is the crust, and good pizza crust is one of the easiest thing to make - especially if you have a food processor or KitchenAid. Here you go...
- 2 packages quick-rise yeast
- 1 cup very warm (not hot) water
- half-teaspoon sugar
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
In the bowl of the food processor with the kneading blade in place, put the warm water, yeast and sugar. After a quick spin to mix, let stand for about 15 minutes until there is a thick foam on the top. Then add the flower, salt and olive oil and turn on the machine for a minute or so until the dough is kneaded. It should easily form into a smooth ball that is just a bit sticky. If not forming into a ball, you will have to add either a bit of flower or water depending on your climate. Put dough into a bowl rubbed with olive oil, cover and put in a warm place to rise for 3 or 4 hours. After tripled in volume, roll out and top with your preferred toppings. Please - not too much cheese: simple pizza is beautiful pizza.
Nothing can replace the searing, smoky heat of a wood burning oven, but you can still get good results at home. Be sure to pre-heat the oven to its highest temperature – you want fast hot cooking. A pizza stone is best, but if you don't have one get a pizza pan with holes in the bottom so your crust doesn't steam and get soggy while cooking. You are looking for a crisp crust.
In Italy, the preferred beverage with pizza is beer, but in the USA many of us think of wine. Deeply fruity, high acid wines go perfectly with pizza, but oaky, tannic or alcoholic wines taste jarring and overwhelming. An excellent example of the perfect pizza wine for someone serious about their wines is the 2004 Rosso dei Dardi by Alessandrio e Gian Natale in Monforte d'Alba in Piemonte. A blend of barbera, nebbiolo and friesa from the famous Dardi area, this delicious wine would be just as adept with grilled steaks as it would with pizza. My all time favorite pizza wine would be the Poderi Colla Friesa, whose light effervescence is a great compliment to any pizza. It's too bad this style very lightly sparking dry red wine, so popular in Italy, is almost impossible to sell in the USA.