Pizza 101: A Monger Makes Her First Pizza

Potato, speck, garlic, Fontal, parm and arugula pizza

Potato, speck, garlic, Fontal, parm and arugula pizza.

Recently, a fellow monger, Mike, and I decided to have a leisurely pizza night at home. The weather outside was frightful, a movie was so delightful, and since there was no place to go, we made pizza. Pizza, beers and movies. Classic. However, instead of ordering from the mediocre pizzerias in my neighborhood, we decided that it would be more fun to make it ourselves!

In the car on the way to work, Mike and I discussed topping options. The possibilities are pretty much endless here at Formaggio Kitchen. Should we go traditional tomato, mozzarella and basil? Or, should we use some of Julie’s sausage and dollops of creamy ricotta? We thought about it all day. In the end, after much debating, we opted to top our pizza with pan-roasted garlic, shallots, Nostrale di Elva cheese, Chanterelle mushrooms and Julie’s housemade guanciale.

Nostrale di Elva, mushroom, garlic, shallots and guanciale pizza

Nostrale di Elva, mushroom, garlic, shallots and guanciale pizza.

I was put in charge of making the dough. Turns out, it’s way easier than I thought. I got the recipe from our kitchen here at Formaggio Kitchen. Chef Tacy, who knows her stuff, recommended a recipe from Italy in Small Bites by Carol Field. Using Mulino Marino “00” flour, Cambridge’s finest water, Aria olive oil, yeast and kosher salt, it took less than 15 minutes to make the dough, and about an hour and a half for it to rise. Once we put the toppings on, it took about 25 minutes for the pizza to cook. No sweat. The results were so satisfying and totally worth the extra effort. So much so, in fact, we decided to do it again the following night!

Nostrale di Elva, mushroom, garlic, shallots and guanciale pizzaThe second time round, I called on my co-workers for topping suggestions. Very quickly, I was very hungry. After some deliberation, I decided to go with a traditional pizza combo from northern Italy: pizza Val d’Aostana. I used the same pizza dough recipe, par-boiled Yukon gold potatoes and rubbed the pizza dough with crushed garlic. Then, I cut the potatoes into thin slices and spread them all over the dough, covering them with Fontal cheese. We baked the pizza in the oven until it was almost done, topped it with Austrian speck, put it back in the oven, and baked it until the crust was golden brown and the speck was just a little crispy. The final step – I took the pizza out of the oven and topped it with baby arugula and shaved parm. The pizza was incredible. The cheese melted into the nooks of the potato making every bite cheesy and delicious!

Both pizzas were so easy and tasty – perfect blizzard beaters! I’m already thinking about new topping combinations for our next snowstorm.

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Pasta per Pizza (Pizza Dough)

Based on recipes from: Italy in Small Bites by Carol Field
Yield: two 12- to 14-inch round pizzas or one 12- to 17-inch pizza

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105° to 115°F)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 cups (550 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour

Stir the yeast into the water in a large mixing bowl and leave until creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Then stir in the olive oil. If you are making the dough by hand, whisk in the salt and 2 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time; add the remaining flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and velvety, about 10 minutes. Using a heavy-duty mixer, add  the salt and flour at once and mix with the paddle for 1 to 2 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead at medium speed until the dough is soft, velvety, and slightly sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.

First rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Shaping and second rise: Punch the dough down, and divide it in half. Roll the halves into balls, and let them rest under a moist cloth for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once your dough is ready: On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough with a rolling-pin to form a 12-inch circle about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, leaving a thick edge. Turn the dough over as you roll it so it won’t shrink back later. Place each one on an oiled 12- or 14-inch pizza pan, baking sheet or peel, sprinkled with cornmeal. Dimple the dough with your fingertips or knuckles, brush the tops with the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and/or rub with garlic. Add any additional toppings.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you are using baking stones, preheat them in the oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the stones with cornmeal just before sliding the pizza onto them. Bake until the crusts are crisp 20 to 25 minutes.

The author of this post, Erin Tevlin, is kind of amazing and can do everything at Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge.