La Pizza Rossa

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Cuts up into

    12–15 pieces

Appears in

Many times we have this plain, but, if you like, you could coarsely grate up 250 g (9 oz) of mozzarella and strew it here and there over the pizza about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Often I do half red and the other half with mozzarella. You could also scatter a few thin slices of ham or Vienna sausages over the top. The dough must be sticky (this is what gives a nice texture to the cooked pizza), so don’t feel you’ve done something wrong or be tempted to add any more flour. Mine is impossible to knead on the table, so I just punch it around and bash it in the bowl until it is smooth. It takes about 5 minutes to get the dough unstuck from my hands and find my ring. It gets a bit easier to work with after the rising. There should be quite an abundant amount of tomato sauce, which is the way I like it. If you prefer, you can set a few spoonfuls aside to dress pasta later or use for eggs in tomato.

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Ingredients

Dough

  • 435 ml(15¼ fl oz/ cups) warm (comfortable to your fingers) water
  • 20 g(¾ oz) fresh yeast, crumbled, or 10 g(¼ oz) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 600 g(1 lb5 oz/ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

Tomato Topping

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and squashed a bit
  • 800 g(1 lb12 oz) tinned diced tomatoes
  • 3 basil leaves, torn

Method

Put the water, yeast, honey, olive oil and 3 fistfuls of the flour in a bowl. Mix with electric beaters until smooth. Cover the bowl and leave for 20–30 minutes, until the mixture froths up and looks foamy on top. Mix in the rest of the flour and teaspoons of salt. The dough will be very soft and sticky — don’t be tempted to add more flour. Now, using a dough hook, mix for about 4–5 minutes so everything is completely incorporated. If you don’t have a dough hook just mix it with your hands, slapping it from one side of the bowl to the other as it will be too soft to knead. Cover the bowl with a couple of cloths and leave it in a warm and draught-free place for about 1½ hours, or until the dough has puffed up well.

Very lightly oil a 28 × 38 × 4 cm(11 × 15 × 1½ inch) baking tray. Punch down the dough with one firm blow to the centre. Spread the dough gently into the tray, right out to the edges, working it with your palms to stretch it along the tray. If it won’t stretch easily, leave it to relax for another 5 minutes and then gently stretch out the dough, starting from the centre and flicking your palms across it. Make sure the dough doesn’t break anywhere and that it is more or less evenly spread. Put in a warm draught-free place. Arrange four glasses around the tray and drape a couple of tea towels or a towel over them like a tent to completely cover the tray (so that the dough doesn’t stick to the cloth as it rises). Leave for 45 minutes or so, until the dough has puffed up.

For the tomato topping, heat the oil with the garlic in a saucepan and, when you begin to smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, basil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 15 minutes over fairly strong heat, until the sauce loses its wateriness and starts to look thick and bubbly. If you like, you can whiz it a couple of times with a hand-held blender to make it a little smoother, but still keep some chunks. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to its hottest temperature.

Dimple the top of the dough here and there with your fingers, so that the tomato has some nests to settle into (take care not to deflate your dough, though). Scatter the tomato sauce over the top and gently spread it out with the back of the ladle. It may seem like a lot of sauce, but it keeps the pizza lovely and moist. Put the tray in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven) until the pizza is golden and a bit crusty here and there. Check that the bottom is crusty and crisp, too, and cook for longer if you need to. Cut up into squares to serve. I think this is best warm but it can also be served at room temperature, or reheated.