Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Perfected pizza recipe

February 28, 2013

Pizza was the one meal I could make, back before I could cook. And thanks to my Italian grandmother, I was very particular about how to make it, as my friends in high school can attest. No pre-shredded mozzarella, a very thin crust, and definitely no store-bought pasta sauce. I also wasn't very adventurous. Cheese pizza was just perfect, thank you very much.

A decade later (scary!), I'm still particular with my pizza, but I have ventured away from all cheese all the time. Ben and I have had plenty of chances to perfect our perfect recipe because I couldn't stand the disgusting lump of dough and cheese that passed for pizza in Argentina. I also started making my own dough because pre-made dough is unheard of there.

For one of the most amazing pizzas you've ever had, consider the following recipes.

Whole wheat pizza dough
Adapted from Pizza, my Christmas present from Ben

Note: This recipe makes three thin-crust pizzas. Pizza dough keeps nicely frozen, but if you don't want to make this much, you can always reduce the ingredients accordingly.

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 2/3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 2/3 cups bread or all-purpose white flour (bread flour makes the crust crispier; last time I split it half and half because I'm carefully rationing my bread flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place yeast in a small bowl and add warm water. Stir gently until yeast has dissolved. Set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.

Combine flours and the salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and oil. Add up to 1 cup of lukewarm water to obtain a fairly sticky dough. (Note: I almost never need anywhere near this much water. Start with no more than 1/4 cup and evaluate from there.)

Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a lightly floured work surface. When it is firm and no longer sticks to your hands, bang it down hard a couple of times to develop the gluten.

Place in a large oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about one to two hours.

Tomato sauce
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I couldn't believe how delicious this tomato sauce was the first time I made it. I haven't used it in combination with the other recipes listed here because it takes a little time and we're impatient. But I imagine it would be equally delicious. If you're pressed for time, just drain the canned tomatoes and spice with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Last time I even added some nutmeg (I grabbed the wrong spice jar).

28 oz of diced tomatoes (1 can), drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Splash of white wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for a minute with a wooden spoon. Add the red pepper flakes and stir it for anther minute. You do not want the garlic to brown. Add the drained tomatoes, along with the wine, sugar and salt.

Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down. Carefully taste without burning your tongue and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

(You can also make this with fresh roma tomatoes by following the recipe linked above, but I haven't tried since tomatoes aren't in season.)

Arugula Topping with Lemon-Parmesan Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1/6 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
Baby arugula

Blend first 4 ingredients in processor or mason jar. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Toss arugula with enough dressing to coat.

Assembly instructions

Whole wheat pizza dough (see above)
Tomato sauce (see above)
Shredded mozzarella
Minced garlic gloves
Sliced red onion
Arugula topping (see above)

Preheat oven to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. I always used to call my grandmother to ask the appropriate temperature for baking pizza and she always told me, "It depends how you like."

Roll out the dough. Transfer to a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet or pizza stone. Cornmeal is a new addition for me, and I like the texture it gives to the bottom of the pizza.

If you like your pizza crispy, you can bake the dough for 3-5 minutes before adding the rest of the toppings. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic and red onion. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the cheese and underside look cooked.

Top off with the arugula and cook for one more minute to slightly warm the arugula.

Serve immediately. And enjoy.

Let me know what you think! What are your favorite pizza recipes?

- Steph

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