New and Improved: Pizza.
By Michael Hawkins
I have many go-to meals that are favourites in my house and pizza is certainly one of them.
But with pizza and everything else I slap together, I’m constantly tinkering with all aspects of the dish, looking for better ways of doing things, looking for better flavours to ultimately drive into my face.
That’s why as soon as I write out a recipe for a dish, it’s already as horribly outdated as today’s newspaper. I’m definitely going to do something different the next time I make that same meal.
And so, tinker I shall. With this latest pizza, I did a few little changes and actually ended up with one of the better pizzas I’ve made. I’ll simply provide some pointers because, you know, that recipe thing…
1. Cornmeal. Have this stuff on hand for pizza. It’s texture magic. I put a couple of tablespoons of cornmeal right in the dough and also grease a pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle on a thin layer of cornmeal. This helps the pie brown nicely on the bottom for a firm crust that doesn’t stick. Crunch!
2. Getting saucy. Pizza sauce has been an obsession of mine from the first time I made my own pizza. This time, I made a sauce by sautéing a little onion and garlic in olive oil, then added a can of low-sodium diced tomatoes (any canned tomato is fine though) and a full 5 oz can of tomato paste. I let this simmer very gently for a solid hour to reduce and get crazy thick. I passed the works through a food mill into a bowl and seasoned with salt, pepper and lots of dried basil and oregano. A key addition this time was also a teaspoon or so of red wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Think sweet and sour. This tangy, thick sauce held up very nicely on the pizza.
3. Toppings. Choose only two (aside from the mozzarella of course). Don’t confuse your pizza with a thousand toppings. That’s Pizza Hut’s job. For this one I went with a homemade Italian sausage I made the day before and cooked until browned before going on the pizza. Combined with green pepper, it was simple and delicious. I find with fresh ingredients such as fresh-chopped bell peppers, it’s better to put them on top of the cheese so that the toppings get cooked and carmelized. They just get kinda soft when they’re under a blanket of mozzarella.
4. Mozzarella. Buy the ball, not the block. I don’t know the specific chemical difference between the two, but I’ve always found mozzarella sold in blocks just don’t melt as well as the balls of mozzarella. Don’t ask me, that’s just the way it is.
5. Dough! It’s almost like the foundation of the pizza, to use a loose metaphor. All I can say here is let the dough rise as long as you can. I often make pizza on a weekday with a dough that I’ll slap together and have in the oven 45 minutes later. Passable, but there’s nothing like a dough that’s been bubbling and burping for four hours.
Okay, make and eat pizza. Now.