Who of you knows that many tomato-based sauces have a pinch of sugar in the recipe? Why is that?! I believe it is to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes. What follows is a recipe modified from a good friend of mine - with a pinch of sugar in the sauce, you can leave it out!... So gather your family 'round and modify it still! - It's not so much about pizza (or pandemic..), but about having your loved ones near and dear to you while working on a fun cooking and learning project together.
This is a simple margherita style pizza: fresh mozzarella and quality homemade marinara sauce on a soft focaccia crust - but mix it up as much as you like! Simple, but quality ingredients. Together with your family, divide and conquer tasks. Someone can measure the ingredients into smaller bowls.. someone else can slice tomatoes and gently cut fresh mozzarella into slices.
Suggestion: create this sauce a day in advance to let the flavors develop... You can of course use pizza sauce from the store.
You will want to use extra virgin olive oil in the sauce and for the focaccia crust; as well as fresh garlic and basil.
Use a large saucepan to heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Add 3 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half and cook until golden brown for about 5 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add a 35 ounce can of whole Italian tomatoes and crush with the back of a spoon. Season with salt, fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Add a couple of fresh basil sprigs and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened and reduced (about 30 min), then discard the basil sprigs and garlic halves.
Let this quality marinara sauce wait in anticipation for your pizza making the next day!
The next day:
The next day:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon (1 package) rapid rise yeast
1 cup of yesterday's marina
Fresh mozzarella: 4-5 pieces or about 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
Fresh basil - don't have it? Grow it (*see epilogue).
Use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to liberally grease a metal baking pan, 13x9 rectangle or 15" round pizza pan. Then load up the bowl of your standing mixer - and if you don't have one, a regular large mixing bowl - you can take turns mixing - with the warm water, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the salt, flour, and yeast. Beat on medium for about 1 minute until just combined, or use your own elbow grease, taking turns, until just blended. Scoop this batter out into your oiled pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
During this hour head on over to BuzzFeed presents: The History of Pizza, as Told by Pizza
1) How did the "Margherita" Pizza get its name?
2) How did pizza come to America?
3) How did tomatoes make it over to Italy? (They come from America.) Trick question. Not told in the BuzzFeed video. Let's see who can find the answer the fastest. Hop on devices. Whoever gets to the answer the fastest gets the first pizza slice!
And if you still have time:
Find out more about the origins of pizza with a virtual tour of Naples
Visit Venice. (Not having to do with the origin of pizza, but just a really incredibly beautiful city.)
Ok, enough stalling... After an hour left to rise the dough will be ready for poking. Poke it all over with your fingers and then drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to another baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread your marinara sauce over it using the back of a mixing spoon, add sliced fresh mozzarella (or shredded mozzarella), fresh sliced tomatoes, break up the fresh basil and scatter over the top. Return to the over for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Slice and serve first to the winner of Question #3 of the pop quiz. A good side for this meal is a tossed green salad and fresh fruit for dessert.
During this Pandemic Pizza meal you can review your virtual trips to Italy and brush up on your Italian:
Buon appetito = enjoy your food
Molto bene = very good
Deliziosa = delicious
Per favore = please
Grazie = thank you
Prego = you're welcome
Buon giorno = good morning
Buona sera = good evening
Buona notta = good night
Ti amo = I love you
If you still have time for discussion plan your next food trip as a family. What food will you make? What are it's origins? What can you learn from cooking together as a family and finding out new things from the world?
Stay safe and healthy ~
Eat well and be well. Buon appetito!
*Epilogue project: go to your local home improvement store; hit the gardening section. Plant some tomato seedlings in pots your backyard and some basil plants either indoors or also in your backyard. Let these grow and be ready for another round of homemade pizza night - this time pandemic-less pizza!