We’ve done it two years in a row now so I guess its officially a tradition, we get together with a few friends for the super bowl and we make pizzas from scratch. Susan and I provide the pizza supplies and our friends bring awesome sides and deserts. It’s a great party!
The pizza you pictured above was made that evening but is a day old meatball, sausage, and pepperoni, with everything going on the night before we forgot to take pictures.
Before we talk about the pizza we have to talk about the dough or for this crowd doughs. My wife and I love the pizzas you find in Naples, with the cracker thin crusts and sparse toppings. Others in the group are fans of the New York style, a little thicker and a little chewier, and able to handle a larger topping load. I found a cookbook that has recipes for both (and a couple of others), American Pie by Peter Reinhart.
American Pie is a must read book for anyone who wants to know where great pizza is made and how to make it. Its part travel log, from Naples, to Rome, to New York and New Haven and across the US. He talks about the history of pizza in each location and can’t miss spots to go on a cross country pizza trip. It’s also part cook book, he is after all a James Beard award winner for his book on bread baking. The book has 12 different dough recipes and more recipes for toppings than I care to count.
Now lets get back to the doughs. The two recipes I use and have very good luck with are the Napoletana and the New York. The Napoletana is as basic a dough as you can get: flour, water, salt, and yeast. By DOC definition those are the only ingredients in a Napoletana dough. This dough only works if you have Italian type 00 flour, which is softer than typical american flours, and available in specialty stores or on-line from King Arthur Flour. Even with the right flour this dough is tough to handle, sticky, and tears easily. I wouldn’t try this for my first pizza dough but if you like a very thin crust this one is worth the effort to learn how to do.
The New York dough on the other hand is a dream to use. It’s a soft dough but has enough structure so that it is easy to stretch and shape, and it can stand up to some rough handeling. It’s also thick enough to support a serious topping load. The meat lovers pizza pictured here was made with this crust. I wouldn’t put that amount of toppings on the Napoletana crust. The New York dough is made with bread flour, no need to track down the Italian 00. In a pinch you could also get by with all purpose flour but the dough won’t be as strong or stretchy.
Now for a few tips on shaping the dough. First, make sure you heavily dust your work surface with flour, and keep extra around to dust the top of the dough ball both before and as you work with it. Keep plenty of flour on the work surface to keep the dough from sticking. If you are working with the dough but it doesn’t want to hold its shape and it keeps springing back as you try to stretch it out, let it sit for 3 – 5 minutes. The short rest allows the gluten in the dough to relax. If your having trouble shaping the dough by hand don’t be afraid to use a rolling pin.
A great dough needs great toppings and we had a wide variety: pepperoni, italian sausage, prosciutto, pancetta, meatballs, clams, mushrooms, green peppers, caramelized onions, sliced roma tomatoes, fresh basil, arugula, pine nuts, pistachios, mozzarella, asiago and parmesan cheeses, garlic olive oil, pesto, and finally red sauce. Needless to say there were many interesting combinations. One of the hits of the evening was a red pizza (red sauce) with mozzarella, pistachios, and prosciutto. We never thought of pistachios on pizza until we had them on a pizza at a local Italian restaurant. Really good. The range of ingredients available allowed everyone to be as creative or basic as they chose. I still ended up doing most of the work but everyone got involved in the creative process. Good thing I didn’t care who won the game. By the end of the evening we made 12 pies. Several were taken home and everyone left very full and happy!
I’m happy to provide more details on the cooking process or recipes if anyone is interested.