The Big Pizza Guide
Homemade pizza, with its slightly uneven, charred crust and searing-hot toppings, is a wonderful thing. Mix up your own dough, knead with love and shape with care, and cooking lunch becomes an occasion. Outdoor pizza ovens are becoming increasingly popular – adding woodsmoke and theatre – but conventional ovens do just fine, too. And if you’re short of time, try ready-made dough and bases, and add your own toppings – the possibilities are endless
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN PIZZA BASE
It’s best to make your dough the night before, to give it plenty of time to prove
1. Put 500g strong white bread flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and add ¼ tsp easy bake yeast and 1 tbsp fine sea salt. Incorporate 325ml warm water until you have a rough, sticky dough.
2. Knead vigorously on an oiled work surface for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 minutes; repeat twice, using more oil as needed. Prove in the fridge in an oiled bowl covered in cling film for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours.
3. Divide and shape the dough into 4 even balls, space on a floured baking tray, cover and rest for 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 250˚C, gas mark 9. Put a baking tray on the highest shelf. Shape each ball into a pizza base, then transfer 1 to a well-floured baking tray. Scatter with your favourite toppings and slide onto the hot baking tray. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until crisp and golden; repeat with the remaining bases. If you’re using a pizza oven, heat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Prepare your pizzas, then slide into the oven using a pizza peel. Cook until crisp, bubbling and slightly charred.
HOW TO SHAPE PIZZA
Pizza bases are shaped differently, depending on where you are in Italy. Neapolitan pizza is known for its chewy texture, puffed and slightly charred crust, plus sparse toppings. In Rome, pizzas are ultra-thin, crisp and almost crustless, with toppings pushed right to the edge.
1. Place a dough ball on a well-floured surface and, using your fingertips, press around the edge to create a crust, about 1cm thick. Flatten the centre with your fingertips, then press with the palm of your hand to ensure it’s even.
2. Lift the dough onto your knuckles, then pull and stretch the centre, rotating it as you go, until it is as thin as you can get it with a well-defined crust.
Using a rolling pin, roll out a dough ball on a well-floured surface, rotating as you go. Aim for a rough circle, about 0.3cm thick.
SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE
Master a quick tomato sauce and you’ll always be ready for pizza night. Make ahead and freeze, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
1. Heat 6 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan and fry 1 finely chopped clove of garlic over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until soft.
2. Add 400g can chopped tomatoes, 6 torn fresh basil leaves and some salt and pepper, and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until thick and glossy. Season with 1tsp sugar, if you like.
5 ITALIAN PIZZA TOPPINGS
Spread a thin layer of simple tomato sauce, then scatter with your choice of these iconic pizza toppings
5 AMERICAN PIZZA TOPPINGS
After spreading with tomato sauce, add one of these toppings made famous in the United States
MARTHA COLLISON’S 3 PIZZA TOPPINGS WITH A TWIST
Waitrose Weekend columnist Martha Collison loves experimenting with different ingredient combinations. Try her topping ideas for pizzas packed with flavour
1. ‘NDUJA, CHORIZO AND RED ONION
Gently fry thinly sliced red onion in olive oil for about 7-8 minutes until soft and golden. Top the pizza dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella, slices of chorizo de Navarra, 2 tsp ’nduja paste and the caramelised red onions. After baking, scatter with thyme sprigs before serving
2. PINEAPPLE SALSA AND SERRANO HAM
Roughly chop 100g fresh pineapple and place into a small pan with 2 tbsp brown sugar and ½ tsp chilli flakes. Heat until the mixture is reduced and jammy. Top the pizza dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella, dollops of the salsa and 3 slices of Serrano ham, torn into pieces, before cooking
5 TIMESAVING PIZZA HACKS
Dreaming of homemade pizza but no time to knead? Stock up on a few clever ingredients and pizza will only ever be a few minutes away
1. KEEP PIZZA DOUGH IN THE FREEZER
Stock your freezer with handy packs of Northern Dough Co. Pizza Dough. Each has enough to make two 12-inch pizzas, and you can buy regular or wholemeal.
2. BUY READY-TO-TOP PIZZA BASES
Crosta & Mollica makes authentically Italian specialities, so its Ready To Top Pizza Base doesn’t disappoint. The traditional slow-proved sourdough is baked in a wood-fired oven for a puffed-up, charred crust, and it’s already been spread with tomato sauce so it’s ready for your toppings
3. TRY TORTILLAS
If you’re craving pizza but have no bases or dough, tortillas make a neat substitute. Just add toppings (we love salty gorgonzola and prosciutto with sweet pears) and grill for a couple of minutes
4. SPREAD WITH PASSATA
Keep a jar of Cooks’ Ingredients Soffritto Passata in the cupboard ready to spread on pizza. It’s made with slow-cooked onion, carrot and celery to add flavour and richness to the tomato sauce
OTHER THINGS TO COOK IN YOUR PIZZA OVEN
If, like many of us, you’ve invested in a pizza oven for the garden, you’re probably wondering what else you can cook in it apart from pizza. The good news is that you can use it to cook many things you’d cook in a regular oven – and once heated up, most pizza ovens stay hot for hours.
Try jacket potatoes, a tray of garlic and rosemary-scented root veg, or steak. You can even bake a loaf of bread ready for breakfast the next morning.