Following a recent holiday in North Italy, i’ve tried my hand at traditional Italian pizza. What a revelation. The takeaway menu’s are in the bin and frozen supermarket pizza’s off the shopping list. Why oh why didn’t someone tell me about this earlier. All you need are some basic ingredients, 30 minutes prep time (20 of which are letting the base rise) and 10 minutes to cook. What you end up with is a traditional Italian base that will trump anything on offer on the highstreet!
It all started following my first visit to Italy, Summer 2009 saw us take in the truly delightful lake Garda in northern Italy. Flying in to Milan, we picked up our car hire Milan from the airport and were swiftly on our way. Only a few hours drive gets you to the south of the lake where you’ll find lots of camping spots and a very commercial feel to this increasingly popular resort. Travel around the lake (higher the better) and you’ll stumble across some truly exceptional scenery and villages. We decided on the sleepy harbour town of Malcesine with its qaint cobbled streets, traditional restaurants and fantastic harbour serving the great lake. A short walk from the harbour in either direction and you’ll find various hotspots for lapping up the sunshine on the lake side. Stroll south you’ll see the small island a few hundred yards from shore that provides an appealing point to swim. We did this on a number of occasions, but be warned, its further than it looks, I’m a competent swimmer and it took me a good 20 minutes in fair weather! If you’re uncertain or the water is cutting up, I’d give it a miss. So if you are planning on taking in the delights of Lake Garda in Northern Itlay, do your home homework and check out a Lake Garda Travel guide
or just pack your tent and take a chance, either way you'll be sure to enjoy the fantastic scenery on offer!
Back to the Pizza.
After a few efforts at making the base, I must confess to cheating here, its far easier to buy a base mix (not pizza base) from the supermarket, these come in small sachets and just require warm water a bit of kneading, let them rise for 20 minutes then they are ready to roll (or stretch by hand if you fancy a challenge). You can experiment with making your own, but you’ll need to get your flour / yeast mix spot on to succeed!
The key to a good pizza is to get the oven upto its max temperature, not many of us have the luxury of a traditional stone pizza oven, so get it hot nice and early, roll out your base (approx 12” diameter), lightly flour a baking tray and lay the base on. I use a tomato and basil passata (again I buy from supermarket, but if you have time its easy to make your own, blend fresh tomatoes and add some chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste), lightly cover the base and add mozzarella (approx 3-4mm thick slices). From there on, the world is you oyster, just grate a little cheddar cheese over your chosen topping and a light drizzle of olive oil, you can add whatever toppings you like, but here are a few that I have tried and tested and come back to time and time again!
• Prawn and garlic (well drained baby prawns work well)
• Steak and pepper (best steak you can get – slice into fine strips – add raw)
• Smoked Ham and mushroom
• King prawn and smoked salmon – add sliced smoked salmon to pizza once cooked and drizzle with fresh lemon
• Goats cheese and caramelised onions
• Pepperoni and Chorizo – my twist on a classic!
Personally, I like rocket and its peppery taste, so often scatter the cooked pizza with fresh rocket and add a generous grating of parmesan to the finished pizza before serving….Belissimo!