Hailing from super humble beginnings, pizza has become one of the most widely eaten and consistently loved foods in the world. It's crazy to think that something made from just flour, water and a little bit of love has become a national Italian treasure. You could say it's just posh cheese on toast, but I'm not complaining! Of course, the principle of pizza has been around a lot longer than we realize, and it hasn't always been Italian – from the Egyptians to the Greeks, people have been making flatbreads and topping them with delicious ingredients for thousands of years. Who can claim the original pizza? Who knows, but what's clear is it's the Italians who became famous for their undeniable flair and focus on simple, delicate flavours.
This week, I've given you a really reliable pizza dough recipe that's easy to use, but will still give you a delicious crust every time. You can use the same dough to make my pizza fritta – this is the original pizza base that all the others, all over the world, have come from. The base is fried in hot oil, giving it a kind of puffy, crispy, naan-bread texture, which can be topped with simple combinations of ingredients. The pizza is then finished off under a hot grill. It's delicious, light and different. You'll only need half the pizza dough to make your pizza fritta, but it's a good idea to make it in a big batch anyway. Divide and roll out any leftover dough into rounds, stack them up with a piece of parchment paper between each, then freeze for more pizza another day.
And, I just want to say a big thanks to everyone who supported Food Revolution Day yesterday. It was a great success, loads of people got involved and we made a huge noise on social media, shouting about the importance of good, fresh, nutritious food in the fight against diet-related disease. The Revolution doesn't end there – check out www.jamiesfoodrevolution.org to find out more.
Basic Pizza Dough
1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) Tipo 00 Italian flour or strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 x 7-gram (¼-ounce) sachet of yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
450 grams (1 pound) ripe mixed tomatoes, on the vine
½ clove of garlic
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ batch Basic Pizza Dough
Semolina flour, for dusting
2-2½ cups vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
¼ cup finely grated pecorino cheese
100 grams (3.5 ounces) burrata cheese
For the Basic Pizza Dough:
Sift the flour and sea salt onto a clean work surface and make a large well in the middle.
In a large measuring cup, stir the yeast and oil into 2 ¾ cups of warm water, leave it for a few minutes, then pour it into the well.
Using a fork, gradually bring the flour into the liquid and mix it in. Keep mixing, drawing in larger amounts of flour, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of it with clean, flour-dusted hands.
Knead it for about 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and sprinkle a little flour over the top. Cover the bowl with a damp, clean tea towel and place in a warm room to rise for about 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Once risen, tip the dough onto a flour-dusted surface and knead it a little to push out the air – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or until needed.
Makes 6 to 8 pizza bases
For the Pizza Fritta:
First make the salsa. Chop the tomatoes so you have a mixture of small and large pieces and pop them into a bowl. Peel and finely grate in the garlic, then pick, chop and add most of the oregano leaves.
Stir in the oil and red wine vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Tear the dough into 10 equal-sized pieces and roll out each one on a flour-dusted surface. You want them to be roughly circular, about 6 inches in diameter and the thickness of a toonie. If you’re not cooking them straight away, stack them up with sheets of greased and floured aluminum foil between each, then place in the fridge until needed.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Pour oil into a large frying pan so it’s about 1 inch deep and place it over a high heat. Once the oil is hot (drop in a piece of bread – if it sizzles and rises to the surface, it’s ready), gently add one of the pizza bases, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil.
Fry 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then drain on a double layer of paper towel. Place on a baking tray and pop it in the oven to keep warm.
Repeat with the remaining dough rounds. If, after a while, the oil starts to reduce, top it up and get it back to the right temperature before frying more.
Spread each one with a spoonful of the salsa and a little pecorino. Tear some burrata overtop, then scatter with the remaining oregano leaves and serve.
Makes 10 mini pizzas