Pizza or Pittsa, what Italians called it, has bowled over the whole world with bready, cheesy and spicy flavors. The origins of Pizza can be traced back to Romans, when they baked flat bread called Focaccia(see recipe here) and called it Picea, yes you read it write Focaccia is the inspiration for Pizza. The modern day Pizza has it's roots in Naples, Italy and in the honor of Queen Margherita, the famous Margherita Pizza got it's name.
Today, Pizza is eaten throughout the world, and has perhaps even overtaken Pasta as being a foreigner's idea of "genuine Italian' food. In India, whole chains specialize in this round delicacy, even if they are sometimes very fanciful and not always orthodox Italian creations. So far I have tasted some of the best Pizzas at Tuscano (Chennai), Toscano (Bangalore), Pondicherry French Cafes, Toit Brewpub (Bangalore) and in all these places I have found one thing in common usage of wood fired stone ovens because stone oven can only provide the necessary temperature of about 750 degree Fahrenheit to get crisp and crusty pizza.
Traditional Pizza recipes often specify usage of fresh, very ripe tomatoes though nowadays many Chefs prefer readymade tomato puree or tomato paste, I have made sauce both the ways and I like the one made with fresh tomatoes. Once you master the Pizza base then it is so easy to play around with toppings and cheese, infinite number of permutation and combination can be applied for pizza topping, recently I came across Fruit Pizza, which was quite amusing for me.
When I bake Pizza at home we devour two 9 inches Pizza for dinner, I know that's way too much but it is so hard to resist. Many of my friends complain that they never get authentic flavors, when they bake Pizza at home and I always suggest them to use fresh and authentic ingredients like Fresh Basil leaves, Olives and most important Cheese, try use good quality mozzarella cheese instead of processed pizza cheese.
I still remember, when I was in college my mom use to make Pizza with those thick Pizza base with lots of Tomato Ketchup and vegetables sprinkled along with processed cheese, that too done over Tawa, though that too we use to devour in one go but I must say in few years all the Pizza chains have entirely changed the definition of Pizza.
Recipe: Classic Vegetable Cheese Pizza
Yield: Make two 9 inch medium crust Pizza
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp instant (or active dry) yeast
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For Marinara Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 Tomatoes, Blanched and Pureed
1 tsp chilli flakes (or less)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Cup Fresh Basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 Onion chopped
⅓ Cup Green Olives
⅓ Cup Chopped Jalapenos
⅓ Cup Assorted Bell Pepper Chopped
1 Cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
A Fistful of Fresh Basil leaves
In a large bowl, mix ½ cup water, sugar and yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 mins until frothy. This means that the yeast is active.
In a bowl sieve flour and salt. Make well in centre and pour in activated yeast. Cover it with flour and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
Add the olive oil and Knead the dough using remaining water by rolling it backward and forward, using your left hand to stretch the dough toward you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let double in size for about 45 minutes.
This could take 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the weather.
Heat the oil, saute the garlic and onions until soft (around 3-5 mins), do not brown the onions. Add all remaining ingredients, and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and mushy. Remove into a bowl and blend into a coarse paste.
Preheat oven to 275 degree celsius.
Keep the toppings of your choice and mozzarella cheese ready.
Divide the dough in two. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze for another batch.
Grease pizza tray with olive oil. Place the ball of dough and with fingers stretch it out by pressing, into 7-8" diameter circle. Brush with oil and allow this to rest for 5 minutes. Smear the generous amount of sauce over the base of your pizzas and spread it out to the edges. Top with cheese (teared or grated) and then with the toppings of your choice (olives, jalapenos, bell pepper, onions etc.). Scatter the basil leaves on top. Drizzle with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
Cut into wedges and drizzle a splash of olive oil. Serve hot!!!
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