This is the Great Italian Chefs’ pizza dough recipe although I changed the preparation to show you how to create 4 generously-sized individual pizzas with your choice of toppings.
I made this recently with children aged 5 to 12 and they loved participating in every step, kneading dough, smelling herbs, and deciding on their own toppings/presentation.
Makes: 4 (large-ish) pizzas
- 7g sachet of dried yeast
- 25g olive oil (extra-virgin, or just regular)
- 1 tsp caster or granulated sugar
- 250ml warm water
- Fresh herbs, and pepper (optional) – finely chopped thyme (regular or lemon), parsley, oregano, etc.; with black, rainbow, or pink peppercorns, finely ground
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus additional for kneading and proving
– see Dough footnote for options
- 1 tsp salt
- Semolina (optional)
- 1 litre passata (2 x 500g packets)
- 2 tsp tomato purée (paste) – one good squeeze from a tube will do
- Dried oregano; or, fresh oregano leaves (no stalks)
- 1/2 tsp salt or more, to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground black (or rainbow) pepper or more, to taste
- Fresh basil leaves, finely torn/chopped
- Toppings (see footnote) and optional side salad ingredients (see Step 7)
- 2 mixing bowls: 1 small, 1 large
- A small whisk
- Wooden spoon
- Tea towel, wet under very hot water and (carefully!) wrung dry
- 2 baking trays
- Baking/parchment paper, or tin foil, to line trays if necessary
- A small, heavy-bottomed saucepan
- A chopping board and sharp knife
- Rolling pin
- Cooling rack
- Put the yeast, oil, sugar, and water in a small bowl, and whisk well until the yeast is dissolved and everything’s fully combined.
If using fresh herbs, chop finely and add to the bowl. A tsp of finely ground pepper (black, rainbow, or pink corns) is also a nice optional touch.
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the liquid to the dry, and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s almost come together. Stick your hands in, and manually mix until you can bring it all together into a ball.
- Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured (or semolina’d) worksurface. Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and ‘springy’ (lightly punch with a finger; it should spring back quite quickly).
- Wash and dry your large bowl (or use another); lightly flour it – or scatter with semolina – and put the dough in. Cover with a dampened tea towel (wet it under very hot water, and wring it out thoroughly). Leave in a warm, draught-free place to prove until doubled in size, about an hour or so.
You can also leave the dough to prove overnight in a bowl sealed with clingfilm.
- Whilst the dough is proving, make the tomato sauce. Put the passata, tomato purée, oregano (if using dried), salt, and pepper into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring up to ‘bubbling’, then reduce the heat to low and leave for 5 minutes. Taste, and add more salt / pepper to your liking. Simmer for 5 more minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the fresh oregano (if using) and fresh basil, taste, and add more if you like. Stir and set aside.
- Gather all topping ingredients (see footnote), and chop/slice as necessary. Leave on plates / in bowls / on the chopping board.
This is a good time to make a salad to accompany – lettuce/spinach plus any topping ingredients that entice, with a simple oil+vinegar dressing. Put salad into the fridge until ready to serve.
- Preheat your oven to maximum, 250 C (230 C fan-assisted) if possible and put the trays in to heat. (The trays should be lined with baking paper or tin foil only if necessary due to age/scrappy surfaces.)
- Cut the risen dough into quarters and pull each portion out onto a floured (or semolina’d) worksurface. You can pull/stretch each portion out just using your fingers and knuckles; or, use a rolling pin until the dough is 1/4″ thin. Create a ‘lip’ around the edge of each portion, whether it’s a circle, square, rectangle, or other shape.
- Spread a generous amount of tomato sauce on the base of each pizza. Sprinkle / place the rest of the toppings over. If you like, the pizza can be folded over and the edge crimped, to create a calzone.
- Carefully move each pizza/calzone onto the heated trays, 2 on each tray.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes (turn the trays halfway through for even baking), until the crust edges are browned and the raw toppings are cooked. Calzones will take 2-5 minutes’ more baking.
- Remove from the oven to plates, and serve immediately, with remaining additional toppings (see footnote) and a serving of salad on the side. Any remaining tomato sauce can be used for dipping the crusts.
You could use 450g strong white bread flour with 50g rye flour, or 50g brown bread or whole wheat flour. If doing so, increase vigourous kneading time to a minimum of 15 minutes to ensure a finger poke in the dough springs back quickly.
Make your own frozen pizzas and forget shop-bought with dodgy ingredients!
Stretch/shape the dough to fit sealing freezer bags; add sauce and all toppings, then slide into the bag. Seal, and freeze on a flat surface (you should be able to stack bags of frozen pizzas after about 2 hours).
If doing this, using semolina on your worksurface is much better than flour. Ensure you dust a wide/large spatula with semolina and use that to ease the uncooked pizza into the bag.
Whatever you want, in whatever quantities, is all up to the diner. Here are some suggestions, but add whatever you (and your children) want to eat.
– Black olives (whole or sliced)
– Mozzarella cheese (2 x 220g packets for 4 cheese-loving kids and adults)
– Goat’s cheese and/or feta cheese
– Parmesan cheese or similar, finely grated
– Fresh basil, oregano, and/or thyme leaves (no stalks)
– Pepperoni or chorizo discs
– Aubergine [eggplant], very thinly sliced, and dried on a plate between layers of kitchen paper
– Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and slivered/chopped
– Medium-large vine tomatoes, very thinly sliced
– Sliced or spaded mushrooms
Lightly steam on the hob, or, quickly roast in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil before using as dough topping:
– Baby spinach leaves
– Asparagus tips
– French [green] beans
– Tender-stem broccoli
– Spring onions (dark green ends only)
– Cherry tomatoes (red and/or yellow)
– Sweet peppers (bell [capiscum] or Romano), sliced lengthwise
– Courgette [zucchini], sliced into thin rounds
– Hot chillies, red and/or green, chopped finely
– Garlic cloves
– Fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Place on cooked pizzas when out of the oven:
– Hard-boiled eggs, quartered
– Tinned tuna, in chunks
– Sliced thin (cooked) sausages
– Additional fresh basil and/or oregano leaves
– Additional mozzarella, goat’s, feta, and/or Parmesan cheese