PIZZA SAUCE and VARIOUS PIZZA TOPPINGS
There are probably thousands of pizza sauces and toppings, maybe even millions if all of the variations made yearly across the planet are considered. We will not try to be exhaustive in our presentation, but only present those we have come to like, and have eaten in Italy, the nexus of pizza lore. If you are looking for a pizza dough recipe, as well as baking ideas Click Here.
Pizza Sauce - Uncooked
Before doing anything turn the oven on to 500°. Do this at least a half hour before cooking the pizza. Make sure that your pizza stone is in the oven before you turn it on, and is on the bottommost rack of the oven.
Simple is best. This the case because the sauce need not be so flavorful as to overpower the taste of the dough and the toppings. Many commercial pizze (plural) made in the United States are covered with 1/2 of a quart of thick gooey sauce and topped with a pound or so of everything but the cutlery used to slice the pizza. This is an American phenomenon, and probably is a custom started by those who feel that if there is a lot of it, people will like it and buy it. This trend has resulted in pizza with cheese rolled or injected into the crust, a truly disgusting practice.
The basic rules for making authentic Italian style, Roman or Neapolitan pizza are simple: Make it thin, put only a few toppings on it, keep the sauce and the cheese to a minimum. Let your taste buds know that they will be able to distinguish between ingredients.
Take 6-8 ripe tomatoes, San Marzano or Roma tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water for a minute or so. Remove the tops and the skin. chop them into small pieces. Place the pieces in a strainer and let most of the water drain from them. Place them in a bowl and salt and pepper them to taste. At this point a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive oil, a teaspoon of dried oregano flakes and 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves can be added. Exactly how much garlic, if any at all, will depend upon the toppings you are planning to use. If the toppings are to be subtle, leave the garlic out.
If fresh tomatoes are not available, a 14 oz. can of Italian plum tomatoes can be substituted. Remove them from the can and drain. Chop them into fairly small pieces and proceed with the addition of olive oil, oregano and garlic as described above.
Do not use a food processor to chop the tomatoes unless you are willing to dirty the machine for 2-3 seconds of processing. More than that and you get a very liquid tomato paste that is too aerated for a good sauce.
Saucing The Pizza
Flour the board with a handful of the same flour used to make the dough. Roll each dough ball into a 10-12 inch disk. Do one at a time, i.e. roll out one pizza, sauce it, top it, put it in the oven and then do another if you are doing a few. Purists stretch the dough either on their knuckles, or by pushing at the dough with their fingers and thereby stretching it accordingly. We have done all three and with small differences the resulting pizze are pretty much identical. Each disk should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.
Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil onto the pizza. If you have a bottle with a pouring sprout, the easiest way to do this is to make a loose spiral of oil starting at the center. When you finish the pizza will look like a target made of dough and oil. Spread the oil around the pizza evenly -- your fingers work fine. Do not oil one inch from the edge.
Now place 1/2 of a ladle full of tomato sauce in the center of the pizza. Using the back of the ladle, spread the sauce evenly over the olive oil. Again, do not sauce the edge. Now you are ready to add toppings. A few of our favorites are detailed below. You must work fairly fast as the pizza is now in a "wet" stage and the possibility of it sticking to the board increases with increasing time sitting there.
Fairly classical toppings include: As is; just slide the sauced pizza into the oven. Cheese can be added to the tomato base. Any cheese from a creamy mozzarella to goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Fontina or Teleme works well. Parmesan added to the cheese adds another taste.
Sausage, prosciutto or thinly sliced Pancetta added to the tomato base make a good pizza. A favorite of ours is to add prosciutto, mozzarella and a raw egg as toppings. The egg cooks perfectly in the 5 minutes it usually takes to cook one of these thin crusted pizze. Alternatively, leave the prosciutto off until the pizza comes out of the oven. It will become quite flavorful from just the heat of the fresh baked pizza.
For those who like fish, anchovies, salmon or tuna, adding these to a pizza result in very good and different pizza. For example, after removing a tuna and black olive pizza from the oven, cover it with fresh Arugula, and serve. Very light cheese with fish is the rule, and some pizzaiola would have heartburn for a week if any cheese at all were added to a fish pizza. A summer pizza is made by baking the pizza with only the oil and the tomato sauce on it, removing it from the oven and letting it cool. Once cool, add chopped arugula and shredded tuna. Sprinkle with olive oil prior to eating. Pitted black olives - not the canned ones -- atop the tuna. A variation of this is made in Rome where a dressing made of tomato puree and mayonnaise is lightly slathered on the cold pizza, and then the tuna, or in another case, thin slices of prosciutto are added along with the chopped arugula. Sounds funny, but it really is good!
Vegetable toppings are very popular in Italy. Thinly slices potatoes that have been briefly baked in the oven are layered on the pizza and then sprinkled with Fontina or gorgonzola. The same treatment can be done with eggplant or squash. A very simple, if pungent pizza is to add a few handfuls of chopped garlic onto the tomato base and bake. Pepperoncino flakes can be added for more "bite".
Mushrooms alone or in combination with almost anything are excellent. Slice them thin, but do not cook them, and then add them to the pizza.
A pizza we have eaten in Macerata, Italy is a spinach and gorgonzola pizza. This is a white pizza and is very tasty. Oil the dough, lay the spinach on it, and then the Gorgonzola. Bake and eat! Additional white pizze can be made using sliced broiled chicken, turkey or rabbit and your favorite cheese, with or without spinach.
We could go on for another 4-5 pages, but it should be obvious that the only hindrance to eating good toppings is a lack of either ingredients, imagination or both. The only caution we offer is to use these ingredients sparingly. More is definitely not better in pizza making. Rather than put 4-6 toppings on one pizza, put 1-2 or maybe 3 on three or four pizze.
We at The Artisan would like to hear about the toppings you have made. Send us a note and we will add yours to the site.
Click the pizza to return to the basic Pizza Recipe page.
Last Updated on: 06/29/99 12:08:20 AM