Makes 2 large pizzas
500g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
10g fresh yeast
325ml lukewarm water
A few dried breadcrumbs for sprinkling
300g tinned plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
25g Parmesan, freshly grated
A few basil leaves or some dried oregano
150g mozzarella, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 250°C/Gas 9. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and gradually add to the flour, mixing well until you obtain a dough. If you find the dough too sticky, just add a little more flour. Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rest, covered with a cloth, for 5 minutes. Knead the dough for 8–10 minutes and split it in half. Knead each of the pieces for a couple of minutes and shape into balls. Sprinkle some flour on a clean kitchen cloth and place the dough on it, then cover with a slightly damp cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a bowl, crush them slightly with a fork, season and mix well. Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface and spread the dough into a circle about 35–40cm in diameter, making it as thin as a pancake (being careful not to tear it), with the border slightly thicker. Repeat with the other dough ball. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs on two large baking trays and place the pizza bases on them.
3. Spread a little of the tomato evenly over each base – not too much, or the pizzas will be soggy. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle over the Parmesan, add a few basil leaves or sprinkle over some oregano and top with pieces of mozzarella cheese. Place in the oven for 7 minutes (a couple of minutes longer if you prefer your pizza crisp). Remove from the oven, drizzle with some more olive oil and consume immediately.
A little history...
The origins of the word 'pizza' are debatable: it could come from the Latin word pinsa or from the Middle Eastern pita or pitta (both meaning 'flatbread'). Early pizza consisted of a dough, made into a flatbread, used by bakers to test the oven temperature. Filling and portable, it was a staple of cucina povera, sold in the streets of Naples in the 18th and 19th centuries. It gradually acquired toppings, among them tomatoes, and became a popular snack (although it was reviled by many). In 1889 a famous Neapolitan pizzamaker, Raffaele Esposito, made a pizza for Queen Margherita, topping it with the colours of the Italian flag, using tomato, basil and mozzarella. The pizza was a hit with the Queen and, after the emigrations of the 1950s and 1960s, the rest of the world! Now Italians consume around seven million pizzas a day.