Along with chambray shirts and Tom Ford Lipsticks, pizza is right up there on my list of Best Things Ever. I’m fairly confident that I could eat pizza every day and never tire of it, a bold claim I plan on substantiating when I travel to Italy later this year (I will be packing my extra stretchy pants for this very reason). When I started making pizza from scratch at home a number of years ago, “hot mess” would accurately describe the first few attempts. After experimenting with recipes that were overly complicated, required more kneading than I was willing to commit to, or just took too damn long, I gave The Smitten Kitchen’s no-nonsense measure-knead-rest-roll-bake method a crack, and I haven’t looked back. Perfectly crisp base? Check. Smugness after creating a restaurant-worthy pizza at home? Got it in spades.
This minimalist approach to mastering pizza at home ticks all the boxes when it comes to simplicity and deliciousness, and unlike a lot of pizza recipes, it’s pretty casual when it comes to timings. While the dough definitely benefits from a solid rest, it’s still totally doable if time isn’t on your side. I’ve whipped up pizza in under an hour for a quick weeknight dinner, but have also been known to spend entire afternoons resting the dough and lovingly tending to an intensely garlicky caramelised onion and roasted tomato sauce on my stove top.
Good pizza loves high temperatures, so start things off by cranking your oven as high as it goes and throwing in a pizza stone – I use this French-made glazed ceramic one.
When it’s dough time, measure out half a cup of warm water, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of salt, 1.5 cups of flour (I use Italin Tipo ’00’), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and half a sachet of yeast (I use the Tandaco Dry Yeast sachets).
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and work them together into a ball, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and start kneading. There’s no need to strain any muscles here, just work the dough until it’s nice and smooth. If it’s too dry and crumbly add a little more water, or flour-up if it’s too wet and sticky.
Once the dough is all kinds of silky, smooth, supple and stretchy, pop it back into the bowl and cover with some plastic wrap, then leave in a warm place to let the yeast do it’s thing. Aim for at least 30 minutes if you’re strapped for time, but if you have a couple of hours up your sleeve then by all means, make it rain. You can even plan ahead and stick it in the fridge over night – some chill time will only improve the flavour and texture later on.
Once it has rested, give the dough another quick knead then roll it out to roughly the same size as your pizza stone. Carefully lift the dough on to the stone then start loading up your toppings, making good use of the less is more approach. More often than not I’m going with this tomato sauce, some home-made mozzarella (recipe coming soon!), lashings of smoked ham or prosciutto, finely sliced mushrooms, whole kalamata olives, and some fresh basil strewn over over the top.
Bake until the dough is golden and the cheese is molten – depending on your oven this should take 10-15 minutes. If you’re feeling extra luxe, drizzle some olive or truffle oil over the top, and enjoy with a cold IPA or a good Rosé. Makes enough to feed two hungry humans.