In honor of Mother’s Day this month, the Food Bloggers of Los Angeles‘ meeting’s theme was “food that our mothers used to make.” There was some grumbling in the trenches as some bloggers claimed that that would mean they’d have to bring overcooked chicken and frozen veggies, so the theme was given some latitude.
Fortunately, I had the opposite problem as my mother was, and still is, the most incredible cook! She was born in a tiny village in Southern Italy, and had 6 older sisters (every single one of whom are also fabulous cooks.)
I really had a hard time narrowing it down to one thing as I could really choose from hundreds of things she has on her “mental menu.” Let’s just say I didn’t inherit my sweet tooth from my mother, so I narrowed it down to something savory.
I finally decided on pizza; not just any pizza, but her favorite pizza, which has nothing but tomatoes as a topping. Since she grew up in Italy, one can only imagine that this is not strange, but perfectly understandable, as the flavor of the pizza crust and tomatoes alone is heavenly!
Of course, my pizza can’t compete with pizza made in Italy, but using DOP (Italy’s Federal government certification) tomatoes, really good quality extra virgin olive oil, and fresh garlic from Gilroy, definitely helps.
I have recently started making Chef John’s no knead pizza dough from FoodWishes. The hardest part is doing the math to figure out when to mix the dough so that it is ready when you need it to be! It’s the same ingredients I’ve always used, but just given much more time to rise with much less yeast (and less work!) The original recipe is here, but I make mine without any whole wheat flour (all white) and I increased the salt to 2 tsp as I found the dough a bit lacking in flavor the first time I made it. I also do not use cornmeal, but put olive oil on the baking tray; this adds more flavor too.
My Mother’s Favorite Pizza
- 4 cups (18 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) warm water (Chef John’s advice: if possible, use bottled water as chlorinated water can retard the yeast growth)
Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Make a well and pour in the water. Stir just until everything is thoroughly mixed into a slightly sticky dough. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for approximately 18 hours, or until doubled in size.
- about 1/2 can (12 oz) of DOP tomatoes, pureed (or any good quality Italian tomatoes)
- one or two diced, fresh, roma tomatoes
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
- 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, minced (do not use garlic in a jar)
- fresh basil, finely chopped (1 or 2 leaves)
- 1/2 tsp of good quality dried oregano
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste for saltiness, adding more if necessary. If you accidentally add too much salt, just add more tomatoes.
(Use a stick blender to puree the tomatoes right in the can!)
Prepare two 12×16 (or smaller, if you like a thicker crust) baking trays by drizzling with some extra virgin olive oil, avoiding the edges.
When the dough is ready, knock it down with a spatula, then place it onto a well floured surface and knead for a minute and divide into two equal pieces.
Shape the dough into 12 x 16 rectangles and place on each tray.
Then drizzle with some more olive oil, and rub all over the dough, again, avoiding the edges.
Let rise for about 10 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.
Heat the oven to it’s hottest setting, minimum of 500ºF (260ºC) then evenly spread the tomato topping on the dough.
When the oven is ready, place one pizza on the very bottom of the oven for 4 or 5 minutes. Then move to the center of the oven for another 5 to 7 minutes. (These cooking times will vary depending on your oven and oven temperature.)
Just lift the pizza with a fork to peek underneath and see if the bottom is brown. The bottom should look like this when it is ready:
The pizza crust should be light brown on top too-I left this one a little pale as I was going to reheat it in the oven later.
Remove the pizza from the oven, and place it on a surface on which to cut it.
Cut the pizza into larger pieces which can be folded in half and eaten this way.
You can wrap the bottom part of the pizza in parchment, which is how pizzerias serve their “to go” pizzas in Italy (not necessarily in parchment, but in paper.)
Of course you can make any size or shape pizza with this recipe, and add some mozzarella and toppings too, but give this version a try…just plain tomatoes.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised–and you can thank my mother.
Pizzas with toppings:
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