One Regular Pizza, Hold the Smoothie

Pizza is one of those dishes that has become so varied and has adjusted so easily to different cultural tastes that the concept of authenticity in relation to it is largely obsolete. Of course, pizza has a specific time and place of invention (Naples in the 18th century to be precise, but the first documented use of the word “pizza” was in 997), but most preferences for this food are a far cry from Antica’s recipe.

When I first arrived in South Africa, I was pretty elated to discover that South Africans love pizza, and that there wasn’t any mayonnaise, seaweed, or larval fish on it like so many pizzas in Japan. However, I did find that pizza in the Cape has its own unique features. Although the pizza scene in Cape Town has changed considerably since my arrival (for instance, New York Slice opened on Kloof Street, and more recently in Seapoint), my Midwestern stomach was very disappointed to be presented with many a crackery crust loaded with toppings that I thought belonged in a smoothie, like bananas, avocados, or figs. Not only that, South African pizza-makers seem to be very happy to play around with the rest of the pizza, too; “tomato jam” is a sauce I’ve seen at more than one stylish pizzeria in the City Bowl…

The easygoing Capetownian attitude towards pizza made the Midwesterner in me pine for a chewy crust and a stricter attitude towards toppings. The only way to avoid another paper-thin letdown was to figure out how to make my own. And so, I did.

 

Yield: 1 pizza, serves 2 (or one really hungry person)

For the crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry/instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • glug of olive oil (for greasing the bowl)

For the sauce: 

About 6 tablespoons of the Red Sauce we Deserve

For the assembly:

  • 150-200g shredded mozzarella (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depends on your preference for cheesiness)
  • toppings of your choice (this can include fruit, you’re the one eating it)

 

Method:

Sift the flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the water. Stir with a fork or a dough-hook until the dough comes together. Roll out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth, elastic and uniform, about 5-8 minutes. Use the oil to grease the bowl, then return dough to bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about at least 30 minutes, or until about doubled in size. Alternatively, place the dough in a sealed container (a zip-close bag is a good idea– the dough needs room to expand and release air) in the fridge and store for up to 5 days. If you make the dough in advance, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to use it.

Pizza Assembly:

Preheat the oven to as hot as you can get it, at least 250-280C (480-550F). Punch down the dough (you can achieve this by kneading it for 1-2 minutes) into a ball and lay on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a round. Don’t be afraid to use flour as liberally as needed. To obtain the most consistent shape and thickness, rotate the round about 45 degrees (add flour each time, otherwise it will stick) after about two turns with the rolling pin, and flip the dough over occasionally. Continue this process until you have reached the desired thickness.

Place the dough on a floured (I suggest using polenta instead of regular flour) pizza stone or baking sheet. Spread the sauce evenly, using the back of a spoon,  to about 1-inch (2cm) of the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce, and arrange your toppings over the cheese. Feel free to sprinkle the cheese over your toppings, if that’s how you pizza…

Place the pizza in the preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (this will depend on how hot you can get the oven, so keep an eye on the pizza), or until the cheese is bubbly and developing golden-brown spots. Remove from the oven, slice it up, and eat it.

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The Red Sauce we Deserve

I ate spaghetti Napoletana at least four nights a week when I lived in Japan. This was not only because it is probably one of my favo(u)rite dishes, but also because it was incredibly cheap to make, even in Japan. While other shapes of noodles in are reasonably rare, and often expensive if available, the price of spaghetti indicates that this noodle has obviously been integrated into the mainstream of Japanese cooking. The other ingredients required (mostly onions and garlic) to make Napoletana sauce are also inexpensive and readily available in even the smallest supermarkets in Japan. It also just so happens that tomatoes, while not a central feature of Japanese cooking, are still one of the more inexpensive items of produce available– especially when considering nutritional value.

Since I started making it in Japan, this recipe has evolved considerably. It is only in the last year or two that it has become constant. I like to think that this sauce has undergone a fundamentalist revolution in my kitchen. While history has shown us that fundamentalism is often a sign of political turmoil, in this case it saved the sauce.

I don’t know much about how the Italian naming convention of sauce works. There’s some story about how specific names for sauce, like Napoletana or marinara, are only used for specific dishes. Whatever this sauce is actually called, I use it most often as pizza sauce, but it works– as I discussed emphatically above– as a pasta sauce too. It also works as a sauce for seafood (think baked fish or potted mussels), or a dipping sauce for bread-sticks and deep-fried mozzarella. Whatever you want to use it for, it also freezes very nicely, so it’s a good use of time to make a huge batch.

 

The Red Sauce we Deserve 

Yield: 2-3 servings of pasta, or 4-5 pizzas

  • 1 can of chopped, peeled tomatoes, or about 1kg (about 2lbs) fresh tomatoes
  • 3-4 fresh, very ripe tomatoes, any variety
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 fresh chili; or about 1 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano; or about 6 sprigs fresh
  • 2 tsp dried basil; or a small handful fresh
  • 1 can water (simply fill the empty tomato can with water)
  • glug of olive oil (about 1 tbs)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

Dice all the vegetables. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, chili, oregano, and basil. If using fresh herbs, do not add them yet. Cook gently until the onions become translucent and the mixture is fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, canned and fresh tomatoes, and water. If using fresh herbs, add them with the tomatoes. Once the sauce begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least 30-40 minutes.

Optional, but recommended step (especially if you will be using this as pizza sauce): after cooking for 30-40 minutes, remove from the heat for at least 10 minutes. Place in a blender or food processor on the lowest setting for about 30 seconds, or until the sauce just becomes uniform.