Pizza della Nonna
This is the pizza that I remember my maternal grandmother, Clotilde Basile Lo Conte, making for family celebrations around 50 years ago. My mother had told me years ago that when she was a child in Italy, her mother would make bread once a week and send it to the communal oven down the street to be baked. If there was some dough left over, she would press it into a baking pan and make a simple pizza like this one. When we had this pizza at home, we only had mozzarella on it if there happened to be some left over in the refrigerator, so it’s not an essential ingredient. If you do use mozzarella, try to get the freshly-made type which has a sweeter, milkier flavor than the industrially-made rectangular ones. And don’t break the bank and use imported buffalo milk mozzarella, it’s wildly expensive and leaks out enormous puddles of water while the pizza is baking.
Makes one 12 x 18 or 11 x 17 thick-crusted pizza, about 6 to 8 generous servings
3 cups chopped tomatoes, see Note
3/4 cup coarsely grated or diced mozzarella, optional
1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1 large clove garlic, peeled and cut into paper-thin slices
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
One Focaccia crust, below, at the point where it is just put to rise before baking
- While the crust is rising, prepare the toppings.
- When the crust is almost risen set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
- Uncover the crust and gently dimple it at 1 1/2-inch intervals, using a fingertip. Drop spoonfuls of the onion mixture all over the top of the crust and use a small metal offset spatula to evenly spread the sauce all over the dough – there will be a thin layer.
- Evenly scatter the tomatoes on the crust, followed by the mozzarella, pecorino, sliced garlic, and oregano. Drizzle with the oil.
- Bake the pizza until it is well risen and the topping is dry and beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Turn the pan back to front about halfway through the baking.
- Let the pizza cool it the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to slide it to a cutting board. Cut and serve immediately.
Serving: Use a sharp serrated knife or a pizza wheel to cut the pizza into squares. Serve the pizza for lunch, or as a snack in the evening. Or cut it into 2-inch squares as an hors d’oeuvre.
Dough for Thick-crusted Pizza and for Foccaccia
This dough is used in recipes here for several focacce with toppings or a filling and for a thick-crusted home-style pizza. The dough is very simple to prepare – you just stir all the ingredients together and let it rise once before pressing it into the pan.
Makes one crust for a 12 x 18-inch or an 11 x 17-inch focaccia or pizza
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons (about 1 1/2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
3 tablespoons olive oil
Olive oil for the pan
One 12 x 18-inch or an 11 x 17-inch jellyroll pan, generously oiled
- Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir well to mix.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the yeast into the water and whisk in the oil.
- Use a large rubber spatula to make a well in the center of the flour in the bowl. Pour in the liquid and sue the spatula to begin stirring in the center of the bowl, gradually stirring in a circle toward the side of the bowl, incorporating more flour as you stir. When all the flour has been incorporated, the dough will still be fairly soft. Use the spatula to dig down to the bottom of the bowl from the side, between the bowl and the dough, and fold the dough over on itself, until no dry bits remain.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until double, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
- Scrape the dough into the prepared pan without folding it over on itself. Lightly oil the palms of your hands to prevent sticking and press down on the dough so that it evenly fills the pan. If the dough resists, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Cover the pan with oiled plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until it is double, up to an hour. While the dough is rising prepare the toppings.