Hey, It’s Friday! The perfect night for a Pizza Party! And don’t order out - make one instead. It’s easy. It’s fun. And family and friends can join in creating their own personalized endeavor.
The history of pizza begins in antiquity when various ancient cultures produced basic flatbreads with several toppings.
The precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flatbread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were then added. Modern pizza developed in Naples, when tomato was added to the focaccia in the late 18th century.
The word pizza was first documented in 997 A.D. in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy. Pizza was mainly eaten in Italy and by emigrants from there. This changed after World War II, when Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods.
Pizza first made its appearance in the United States with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century and was popular among large Italian populations in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Trenton and Saint Louis. In the late 19th century, pizza was introduced by peddlers who walked up and down the streets with a metal washtub of pizzas on their heads, selling their pizzas at two cents a slice. It was not long until small cafes and groceries began offering pizzas to their Italian American communities.
Before the 1940s, pizza consumption was limited mostly to Italian immigrants and their descendants. Following World War II, veterans returning from the Italian Campaign, who were introduced to Italy's native cuisine proved a ready market for pizza, in particular, touted by "veterans ranging from the lowliest private to Dwight D. Eisenhower". By the 1960s, it was popular enough to be featured in an episode of Popeye the Sailor. Pizza consumption has exploded in the U.S. Pizza chains such as Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's.
This recipe, adapted from Roberta’s, the pizza and hipster haute-cuisine utopia in Bushwick, Brooklyn, provides a delicate, extraordinarily flavorful dough that will last in the refrigerator for up to a week. It rewards close attention to weight rather than volume in the matter of the ingredients, and asks for a mixture of finely ground Italian pizza flour (designated “00” on the bags and available in some supermarkets, many specialty groceries and always online) and regular all-purpose flour. As ever with breads, rise time will depend on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen and refrigerator.
Following the recipe for the dough is the one for the archetype of a thin-crust pizza pie, a Pizza Margherita adorned simply in the colors of the Italian flag: green from basil, white from mozzarella, red from tomato sauce. This pizza is adapted from the recipe used by the staff at Roberta’s, who make their tomato sauce simply by whizzing together canned San Marzano tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. The ingredients offer in their proportions what appears to be a kind of austerity — not even 3 ounces of cheese! But the result is home-cooked pizza to beat the band, exactly the sort of recipe to start a career in home pizza-making, and to return to again and again.
Roberta’s Pizza Dough
YIELD: Two 12-inch pizzas
TIME: 20 minutes plus at least 3 hours' rising
153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (a little less than 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)
To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape them into rounds.
1 12-inch round of pizza dough, stretched
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (see tip below)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 ¾ ounces fresh mozzarella
4 to 5 basil leaves, roughly torn
Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.
Put the sauce in the center of the stretched dough and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the pie. Break the cheese into large pieces and place these gently on the sauce. Scatter basil leaves over the top.
Using a pizza peel, pick up the pie and slide it onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
Tip: In a food processor, whiz together whole, drained canned tomatoes, a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Keep leftover sauce refrigerated.