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Pizza and Penne with Pesto

La Cucina Italiana has really become my favorite cooking magazine. I love the basic simplicity of the dishes. The recipes are straight-forward and you just know that they’re going to come out as promised.

Case in point is the pizza dough recipe in the August 2012 issue. It’s a slow-rise dough that takes 2 days to come together. And it uses Italian “00” flour.  Just about any recipe you pick up will say you can substitute “all-purpose” flour. You can. But it doesn’t taste as good.

Trust me on this one.

I made the dough yesterday and did the punch down early this morning so it would have another 8 hours in the ‘fridge before I pulled it out, formed the balls, and let it rise.

Pizza

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100º to 105º)
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Let proof about 5 minutes.

Mix together flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Mix on low speed about 4 minutes or until dough forms a coarse ball. Stop mixer and cover bowl with a towel. Let dough rest about 5 minutes, then remove towel and continue mixing another 2 minutes or so.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.

Punch down dough, re-roll, and return to bowl. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface. Loosely cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

Fresh Sauce

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed assorted fresh herbs – basil, oregano, thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until fairly smooth.

Assemble

Heat pizza stone in oven for at least 45 minutes before assembling pies: Place pizza stone on rack in lower third of oven. Heat oven to 500º.

On a lightly floured work surface, press 1 dough ball with your fingers to begin to shape into a round. Use your hands to gently stretch dough to a 12-inch round. Drape over sides of hands and spin the dough repeatedly until stretched to desired size. Transfer dough to a well-floured peel; gently shake peel to make sure dough does not stick.

Working quickly, spread sauce over dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Add cheese and sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Slide pizza onto pizza stone. Bake until crust is lightly golden, about 8 minutes.

Let sit about 3-4 minutes before slicing.

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Roll the dough into balls and then let rise to double in size about 2 hours at room temperature.

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I had them in the kitchen for an hour and then brought them outside in the 85° heat with high humidity for about 45 minutes. Mother Nature’s Proofing Oven.

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Start by using your fingertips to press the ball into a circle. Then with a combination of fingertips and the palm of your hand, press and pound it flat. At this point you can lay it across the side of your hands and with a bit of a motion with your fingers, spin the dough to let it stretch. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. You want a goodly amount of flour around to keep it from sticking to anything.

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Place it on a well-floured pizza peel and – working quickly – top the pizza and slide it into the oven.

Okay… I made hand-spun pizza for 6 years in my youth at Pirro’s in San Francisco.  I worked there while in high school and then after I went into the Navy while stationed in San Diego – my boss would pay my airfare on PSA to fly up and work weekends. I continued working there while stationed at Hunter’s Point and Alameda. It was my first management position and I continued for another 2 years after I got out. I’ve made more than a few pizzas in my life.

Pizza is all about the dough – and I can make a good pizza dough – but this one took it just a step farther. We used a pizza blend flour back in the Pirro’s days – both hard and soft wheats to give it stretch, texture, and bite. Something the home cook won’t find at the grocery store. But more and more stores are carrying Italian “00” flour.

If you see it – get it.

And anyone can spin a pizza.

The second part of dinner tonight was Penne with Pesto.

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Victor made the pesto last month and we still have a bit of a stash in the freezer.

I have a ball of dough in the freezer and think the next pizza shall be a pesto variety.

Cooking is fun.

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3 Comments

  • avatar image
    maryo1230
    August 21, 2013

    Looks great. Where did you get your pizza stone and "00" flour? Thx. MaryO

  • avatar image
    Tim
    August 21, 2013

    Geeze... I've had the pizza stone slightly longer than forever... I may have bought it mail order from Fantes.com. but I really don't remember. I was getting the "00" flour from specialty shops when I saw it, but a local market = Wegmans - has been carrying it, lately. It really does make a difference!

  • avatar image
    maryo1230
    August 21, 2013

    Thanks Tim. I've looked at several pizza stones (truth to tell we don't do a lot of pizza, but we do make it occasionally) and they range in price from 17.00 to 39.00 bucks - even at my favorite store - Target! Don't want to buy a super-cheapie and don't want to spend the earth either. ;-)

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