Italian pizza in a standard oven

How do you make a pizza from scratch?

It might seem complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you can make it with your eyes closed. Well, almost. Someone once asked me, “Julie, you cook and eat very healthy, but do you ever eat pizza!?”  You bet I do!  And I make my own, right here in my kitchen!

I make pizza with white flour, either a 00 pizza flour or bread flour. Both give good results. For a healthier version, I sometimes mix wholewheat flour with white flour. You can also make the dough with white whole wheat flour (if available in your country).

In the past, I’ve made pizza dough with all sorts of healthy flours, from oat to rice flour. I’ve even added chia seeds, ground linseeds or yoghurt. However, my Italian neighbour Gianni told me a long time ago: “Julie, you are making pizza dough and not a cereal cracker or a cake! Real pizza dough is made with minimal ingredients and with white flour.” I have to agree; it just tastes better.

But is white flour good for you? White flour is a refined flour that has been stripped of its natural nutrients and fibre. It’s a flour that has been processed, bleached and enriched with synthetic nutrients, so it isn’t the healthiest. And, if you’re sensitive to gluten, look the other way.

However, good health is more than the sum of its parts. So when it comes to eating well, it’s the entire diet and not just a single food that promotes good health. From time to time, a few slices of pizza topped with healthy ingredients and accompanied with a wholesome dish, like a mixed salad, makes for a good meal. Even when the pizza is made with white flour.

Pizza should be fun to make and to eat. This recipe was adapted from Gennaro Contaldo, an Italian Chef who exudes loads of fun in his cooking videos. He makes his dough with his bare hands and he is full of expression. Watch the video and see how he kneads the dough.

In my recipe below, I’ve made a few changes in Gennaro’s ingredients and procedure because I don’t have access to a firewood oven. The outcome is a great tasting Italian pizza made in a standard oven. Bon appétit!

Italian Pizza in a Standard Oven

Makes two or three dough balls.

You can freeze remaining dough ball(s) in container(s) or reusable freezer bags.

Equipment (see images below): pizza palette, pizza stone (or a sheet), cutting wheel for slicing, cooking measuring scale, parchment baking paper.

Measurements: Different types of flours have different weights. It’s better to weigh the flour in grams or ounces instead of cups. I use a cooking scale.

A. INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING THE DOUGH

  • 350 ml (1 1/3 cups) of warm water
  • 7 grams (1 tablespoon) dry yeast
  • 500 grams white flour (bread or 00 pizza flour) -or- 300 grams white flour + 200 grams wholewheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of diastatic malt powder (option)*

* Diastatic malt powder gives bread texture, a better rise and brown crust. Your pizza dough will have more of a crunch. Can be found in supermarkets or biological stores.

B. PROCEDURE FOR MAKING THE DOUGH

Remember to heat up your oven to 220°C/ 428°F, about 15 minutes prior to making and assembling your pizza.  Also, make sure to place your pizza stone or sheet on the bottom rack to heat up as it needs to be very hot.

In a small bowl, pour the warm water and add the yeast. Mix this well with a fork.

In a big bowl, add the flour and mix in the salt and malt with a fork.

Add the water and yeast to the flour and mix with a fork. The dough will look lumpy and feel sticky.

With clean hands, form a large mass and turn this over on a floured surface and knead the dough by hand — The Gennaro way!  See video at 1:22. Basically, with one or two hands, fold, roll and stretch the dough several times. If it feels sticky, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put some flour on your hands. Knead until the dough comes together and feels soft. Shape it into a long thick mass and slice with knife into 2 or 3 equal pieces.

Roll each piece on a floured surface and shape into 2 or 3 dough balls (depending on how big you want your pizza).

Sprinkle flour or breadcrumbs on the bottom of a large platter and place the dough balls several inches apart. Alternatively, you can place each dough ball on a separate platter. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the balls and cover with a damp cloth.

Let this rest in a dry, warm place for 3 hours. The balls will enlarge a lot!!. After they’ve enlarged, you can chill or freeze the dough balls or proceed to making your pizza. For freezing or chilling, gather the expanded dough ball and form it into a more uniform soft ball with floured hands, wrap up and put in fridge or freezer.

Below are the dough balls I made.

Pizza dough balls
Above: Shaped into dough balls.
Pizza dough balls
Above: Enlarged dough balls after three hours.
Whole wheat pizza dough
Above: The dough that I made with a mix of wholewheat flour and white bread flour.

C. PROCEDURE FOR MAKING THE PIZZA 

Now you can heat up your oven at 220°C/ 428°F and place the pizza stone or sheet on the bottom rack. The stone or sheet has to be very hot.

To make one pizza, flour one sheet of parchment cooking paper that is large enough for a 30cm/12 inch pizza. Put one dough ball on it. Press the centre of the ball with the knuckles or fist or palm of one hand and elongate and stretch out the dough by hand with knuckles pressing outwards to make it thin. Flouring your hands is helpful. You can also pick it up and stretch it out (see video at 3:24) until you get a thin round-ish dough. You can sprinkle some extra flour on the dough if it feels too sticky.  It won’t be perfectly round, but with practice, it gets easier. Pinch close to the edges to form an end crust. Always keep the parchment paper under the pizza dough.

Pizza base and ingredients for dressing  

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of tomato purée sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) pure olive oil
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed (option)
  • Dried oregano
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (dairy or vegan)
  • Additional ingredients to dress your pizza (artichokes, kale leaves, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion rings, etc)
  • Mozarella cheese slices or shredded pieces (dairy or vegan)

Putting your pizza together

In a small bowl, mix the tomato purée, tomato paste, olive oil and garlic. With a brush, spread this on the pizza dough. Sprinkle oregano and grated parmesan cheese. Dress your pizza with ingredients that you like. Place the mozzarella slices on top. Never overly dress your pizza. Too many ingredients will weigh it down and it won’t cook properly.

With the parchment paper kept underneath, slide the dressed pizza on the pizza palette and then slide the pizza with the parchment paper kept underneath on the heated stone or sheet in your oven. Cook on bottom rack for 5 minutes then on mid-top rack for 3 minutes.

Remove and immediately slide the pizza on a serving platter or the pizza palette (don’t leave it on the hot stone or sheet as it will continue to cook on it and will be overly cooked).

Serve and have fun!

Pizza cutter
Pizza stone
Palette
Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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