Whether you’re just having a casual night in with friends or planning a sophisticated soiree, this homemade pizza will definitely hit the spot. While our modern day pizza originates from Naples (derived from the Italian verb pizzicare: to season), the concept actually began with the Ancient Greeks (pēktos, πηκτός: solid, clotted) who spread cheese, oils and herbs over their bread – and, by the Romans (pinsere: to pinch), who developed the dish placenta (mentioned in Cato’s De Agri Cultura), a sheet of dough topped with cheese, sweetened with honey and flavoured with bay leaf. The traditional Neopolitan pie consisted solely of tomato; cheese was added in 1896. In the same year, Queen Margherita was served a pie in Naples with the tricolore represented in the three classic ingredients: tomato, mozzarella and basil, and, ever since, this kind of pizza has been given her name.
It is always more fun to get creative with your toppings, but if you’re stumped on good ideas, try out a classic Margherita, a pizza topped with mushroom, or one with ricotta, spinach and cherry tomato…or, my new favourite, bolognese and spinach. I’ll drink a glass of Chianti to that.
Homemade Pizza (Makes 4 9 inch pies)
- Blend together the yeast, sugar, flour and sea salt in a medium bowl. Add in the warm water in a steady drizzle and mix thoroughly with your hands.
- Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until you have a large ball.
- Put the ball of dough in a clean, large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to proof for at least 18 hours in total – or until it has more than doubled. After a few hours, punch down the dough and let proof again.
- Unwrap the dough and divide into four equal portions. For each portion: pull the right side of the dough out and back towards the center (repeat for the three other sides) and shape into a round seam side down. If not using straight away, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a maximum of 3 days. Return to room temperature by covering dough with a damp cloth for a few hours prior to use.
- On a floured surface, stretch out each portion of dough into a thin 9 inch round – be careful not to stretch it too thin or it will break. Spread tomato sauce over the dough base, add mozzarella cheese, basil and any other additional toppings (or, try using some Bolognese sauce for a unique twist).
- Transfer the assembled pizza onto a pizza stone and cook in a 450 F/ 230 C oven for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden and crispy. Enjoy with a Peroni or glass of Chianti.