Neapolitans would balk at cooking pizza in anything less than a purpose-built stone oven, but the I’ve devised a technique that works at home. Conventional ovens aren’t designed with pizzas in mind, but there are a few tricks you can use to give yourself a fighting chance.
For the dough
“00” flour 875g
fresh yeast 1.5g
cold water 500ml
For the tomato sauce
Italian tinned tomatoes 400g
salt a large pinch
fresh basil half a handful
For the toppings
grated parmesan a small handful
fior de latte or normal mozzarella 375g, cut into small cubes
olive oil a glug for top of each pizza
fresh basil 4 leaves for each pizza
To make the dough, add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a crater in the centre, so that it looks a little like Mount Vesuvius.
Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour it into the middle of the crater. Using your hands, start pushing the flour into the water. When it reaches the consistency of custard, add the salt, then continue mixing until it comes together as a dough.
On a clean work surface, knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes and knead for another 10 seconds.
Compact it into a ball, tucking the dough in on itself, and cut into 250g balls – each 250g ball should give you a 30cm circular base.
Leave these to rest on a large tray or chopping board under a sheet of cling film, at room temperature, for at least eight hours, although 24 hours is best.
Make the base. In Naples, rolling out a pizza is a cardinal sin, but I’d recommend using a rolling pin if you’re doing this for the first time. Just don’t roll to the edge of the dough – that stops it from getting a nice crust.
To make the sauce, it’s really important you use good quality tinned Italian plum tomatoes. I use San Marzano tomatoes from Campania. No need to cook them: just blitz them up with a pinch of salt and the basil, keeping a bit of texture.
To heat the bottom of the pizzas and add the toppings, turn the oven on full blast until it’s properly hot, then switch over to the grill. Heat up a large frying pan on the hob. Add a pizza base to the pan without oil. Cook until the bottom of the base has browned and the crust has slightly risen – this should take between 90 seconds and a minute.
Meanwhile, ladle on a thin layer of tomato sauce, leaving 2.5cm around the edge for the crust to rise. Sprinkle over a pinch of grated parmesan, then add mozzarella (or even fior de latte if you can find it).
Less is more with the toppings – a glug of olive oil on top and three or four leaves of basil is all you need – but you can also add some spicy sausage if you like: i sometimes use a soft Calabrian pork sausage called nduja (chorizo is good, too).
To heat the top, put the pan under the grill, as close to it as possible, and cook for another minute or so until the cheese has melted and the top crust has browned and risen.
Serve hot and repeat with the rest of the dough.