Our Fave Eats This Week; Pizza Picante from Craft Pizza

Our fave new summer pizza book "Craft PIzza" is so great! With no need for elaborate equipment, you’ll be shown it’s possible that—with just the most basic, fresh ingredients—you, too, can make luscious handmade pizzas, calzones, and focaccias. If you’re a fan of the classics you’ll find recipes for a Margherita, Stromboli, or Pizza Piccante but, if you fancy something a little different, why not put your hand to the Pulled Pork Calzone or the Truffled Breakfast Focaccia.

Once you master the basics of the pizza doughs and sauces, you’ll be amazed at how this popular dish is wonderfully easy to make, always tasty to eat, and guaranteed to transport you to the vibrant streets of Italy—you’ll want every night to be “pizza night”!

Pizza Picante

Makes 1 medium-crust pizza (25–35 cm/10–14 inches)

This contains all the heat of southern Italy. Provolone piccante, originally from Campania, is a sharp, aged cow’s cheese often found in a globe shape and usually covered in a waxed rind. It makes a delicious sandwich with fresh tomato, dried oregano and a drizzle of olive oil.


1⁄2 recipe Sicilian Pizza Dough (recipe follows), making just 1 ball of dough

4 tablespoons Pizzaiola Sauce (recipe follows)

50 g/2 oz. buffalo mozzarella or cow’s milk mozzarella (fi or di latte)

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

50 g/2 oz. provolone piccante, thinly sliced

2 fat red chillies/chiles (or more), thinly sliced

Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Chilli oil, to drizzle

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A testo, terra cotta baking stone or a large, heavy baking sheet

A pizza peel or rimless baking sheet

Put the testo, baking stone or a large, heavy baking sheet on the lower shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) Gas 7 for at least 30 minutes.

Lightly squeeze any excess moisture out of the mozzarella, then slice it and leave the slices on paper towels for 5 minutes to absorb any remaining moisture.

Uncover the dough, punch out the air and roll or pull into a 25-cm/10-inch circle directly onto baking parchment. Slide this onto the pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Spread the pizzaiola sauce over the pizza crust, leaving a 1-cm/3/8-inch rim around the edge. Scatter the garlic over the top. Arrange the provolone and mozzarella on top and scatter with the chillies/chiles. Season well with plenty of ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Working quickly, open the oven door and slide paper and pizza onto the hot baking stone or baking sheet. If you are brave, try to shoot the pizza into the oven so that it leaves the paper behind—this takes practice!

Bake for 5 minutes, then carefully slide out the baking parchment. Bake the pizza for a further 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese melted and bubbling. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the chilli oil. Eat immediately.


Sicilian Pizza Dough

Makes 2 thin-crust pizza bases (3 ½-4 cm/8-10 inches)

Sicilians tend to use the indigenous yellow farina di semola (hard wheat flour), which ensures a lighter crust, with lemon juice to add to the lightness and strengthen the dough.

10 g/1⁄2 cake compressed yeast, 1 teaspoon/1⁄2 packet active dry yeast, or 1⁄2 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast

A pinch of sugar

150 ml/2⁄3 cup hand-hot water

250 g/2 cups fine semolina flour (farina di semola) or durum wheat flour

1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium bowl, cream the compressed yeast with the sugar and beat in the hand-hot water. Leave for 10 minutes until frothy. For other yeasts, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture, olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until the dough comes together. Add more water if necessary—the dough should be very soft. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface, wash and dry your hands, then knead briskly for at least 10 minutes until smooth, shiny and elastic. It takes longer to knead this type of dough. Don’t add extra flour—a wetter dough is better. If you feel the dough is sticky, flour your hands, not the dough. The dough should be quite soft. If it is really too soft, knead in a little more flour.

To test if the dough is ready, roll it into a fat sausage, take each end in either hand, lift the dough up and stretch the dough outward, gently wiggling it up and down—it should stretch out quite easily. If it doesn’t, it needs more kneading. Shape the dough into a neat ball. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm/plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size—about 1 1/2 hours.

Uncover the dough, punch out the air, then tip out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 2 and shape into smooth balls. Put the balls well apart on baking parchment, cover loosely with clingfilm/plastic wrap and let rise for 1–1 1/2 hours. Use as desired.


Pizzaiola Sauce

Makes about 400 ml/1 3/4 cups

This is a key ingredient of pizza and gives it its distinctive flavour. It is a specialty of Naples, but is quite common throughout Italy. To acquire its concentrated, almost caramelized flavour, the tomatoes must be fried over a lively heat.

In a large shallow pan, heat the oil almost to smoking point (a wok is good for this). 

Standing back to avoid the spluttering, add the garlic, oregano and tomatoes including the reserved canned tomato juice (if using). Cook over a fi erce heat for 5–8 minutes or until the sauce is thick and glossy. Season.

Pass the sauce through a food mill (mouli) set over a bowl, to remove seeds and skin. You can put the smooth sauce back in the pan to reduce further if you like. Ladle the sauce into the centre of the pizza crust and spread it out in a circular motion with the back of a ladle.

Excerpted from Craft Pizza by Maxine Clark which you can buy here, Photography © Ryland Peters & Small.

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