We make pizza every day at Flour using whatever strikes our chefs’ fancy as toppings. Sometimes we go exotic, sometimes simple, but always we start with our delicious, amazingly easy pizza dough. It is soft and a bit sticky and makes for a crispy, chewy, light crust. It’s wonderfully forgiving as well: you can use it as soon as two hours after you’ve made it or up to two days later. As with making great pastries, the key to making great
pizza is to start with the best ingredients available. For this classic cheese pizza, don’t skimp on the sauce (make this easy one in forty minutes, which is mostly just simmering time, and use highquality canned tomatoes, such as San Marzano) and get the real stuff for the cheeses. If you like, chop up some fresh basil to sprinkle on top of the sauce before piling on the cheese.
- Yield: 2 to 3 Really Hungry People or 4 to Regular People (Two 12-By-16-in/30.5-by-40.5-cm Pizzas)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1 small onion, cut into ½-in/12-mm pieces
- 28 oz (800-g) can “no salt added” crushed tomatoes, with juice
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp granulated sugar, if needed
- 1 batch Flour Focaccia dough, or 2 lb/910 g store-bought pizza dough
- All-purpose f lour for working with the dough
- Small handful of cornmeal for sprinkling on the pan or stone
- 1 cup (250 g) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 lb (455 g) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup (100 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is soft and golden. Remove the garlic and discard. Add the tomatoes and mix well with the onion. Season with the salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. (Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.) If the sauce tastes too acidic, add the sugar. Let cool completely before using; you should have about 2 cups/480 ml. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- If you will be baking the pizzas the next day or the day after, uncover the risen dough and punch it down in the middle a few times to deflate it. Using the same oiled piece of plastic wrap or lint-free cloth, re-cover the dough and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours until ready to use.
- About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake the pizzas, preheat the oven to 500°F/260°C, and place one rack in the center and one rack in the top third of the oven. If you are using a pizza stone, place the stone in the center rack of the oven and if you have two stones place the second stone on the top rack.
- Lightly flour a work surface, turn the risen dough out onto it, and divide the dough in half. Flour your hands and gently stretch one piece of the dough into an oblong. Generously flour the dough and the work surface. Using the rolling pin, and working from the center of the dough outward, roll out the dough into a rectangle or oval that fits your baking sheet or pizza stone. Depending on how long the dough has rested, it can be very elastic and hard to roll out, so you may need to be patient and persistent. Keep flipping the dough over and moving it from side to side, and lift it up every now and then and stretch it with your hands. It will slowly start to stretch and eventually, with patient rolling, you will get the dough to fit the sheet. I promise.
- Liberally sprinkle one baking sheet with about half of the cornmeal and transfer the pizza rectangle to the baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the second baking sheet. If you are using a pizza stone, sprinkle the pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with half of the cornmeal and transfer the rolled-out crust to the peel. The stone will likely be a bit smaller than a baking sheet, so stretch the dough so it is about 1⁄8 in/3 mm thick and make a slight rim around the edge with the excess dough.
- If using baking sheets, spread each crust with an equal amount of the tomato sauce. Dot both pizzas evenly with the ricotta, then sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella and finally with the Parmesan. If using the pizza peel and stone, top the crust as directed, using just half of the ingredients.
- If using baking sheets, place one baking sheet on the center oven rack and the second sheet on top rack and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Start checking the pizzas after 15 minutes, as ovens bake very differently at such high temperatures. To ensure the pizzas bake evenly, about midway through the baking, switch the sheets between the oven racks and rotate each sheet from back to front. The pizzas are ready when both the cheese topping and underside of the crust are golden brown. (Lift a corner of the crust and take a peek.) If using the pizza stone, slide the pizza off of the peel onto the stone and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. You don’t need to rotate the stone, but do start checking the pizza after 15 minutes. The doneness cues are the same golden brown on the top and bottom.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven. If using a pizza stone, use the peel to retrieve the pizza, then assemble the second pizza on the peel, slide it onto the stone, and bake it the same way. Drizzle the pizzas evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately.