Some of the purists out their might turn and say something about the fact pizza is not British, but I would say in a way it is. Britain is and always has been a great absorber of other food cultures, we are lucky to have such a varied cuisine. Along with our national favourites we also get to delight in dishes like this. This is the original and best, first created in Naples it is said that this recipe was devised to celebrate queen margherita of Italy, whether that is true I don’t know, one thing I do know is this pizza has become part of our food culture, it’s super delicious and very easy to make…..and thankfully not a piece of ham and pineapple in sight!
Ingredients (makes 1 medium sized pizza)
For the base:
- 150g strong white bread flour
- 1tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 100ml warm water
For the sauce:
- 150ml passata
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 1 tsp tomato puree
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the topping:
- 125g ball of fresh mozzarella
- 6 vine ripened cherry tomatoes halved
- about 5 fresh basil leaves plus extra for garnish
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
1. Start by making your pizza dough. Take the flour and place in a mixing bowl, add the yeast on one side, the salt and oil on the other then pour the warm water in the centre and mix with a spoon until combined. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm, place in the fridge until needed.
2. For the sauce, put the passata in a pan with the olive oil, garlic, tomato puree a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half and has thickened, Leave to cool.
3. To assemble the pizza first turn your oven on to it’s maximum heat (if you have a pizza stone put that in the oven), roll out the dough on a floured surface to about the size of a large dinner plate, push out the edges with your finger for a rustic look. If you have a pizza paddle then use that, if you don’t then simply place the base on a floured chopping board. Add the sauce to base and smear all over with the back of a spoon leaving a good couple of cm clear around the rim. Tear thumb sized pieces of the mozzarella and dot on the pizza, then place the tomato halves seed side up in between the cheese, tear up about 5 basil leaves and scatter evenly on the pizza, finally a good glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Now place the pizza in the oven, slide it off the paddle or chopping board straight on to the oven shelf (or pizza stone if you have one) and bake until it’s golden brown. Don’t be tempted to keep opening the door every 2 minutes as this will reduce the heat. Check after about 10 minutes, the pizza is ready when the cheese is bubbling with the base crispy and golden on the edges. Garnish with a few more basil leaves and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.
I eat this with a nice ice cold beer and good company, it’s unfussy and completely classless. Simplicity at it’s best.