Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pizza alla Napoletana

When my husband and I went to Naples this year, one thing we were determined not to miss was pizza. After all, Napoli is the birthplace of pizza, and we weren't disappointed. We managed to snag two seats at L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, which overflows with locals picking up pizza for takeout and tourists jockeying for tables. A pizzeria for purists, da Michele has been around since 1870 with only two choices -- margherita and marinara. We got one of each, and I've been trying to replicate their savory, crispy perfection ever since. The margherita was milder, and had tomato and mozzarella, while the marinara was topped with nothing but tomato sauce, garlic and oregano. Something so simple should be possible to replicate, right? I wish.

Here's a recipe from The Silver Spoon, marketed as Italy's bestselling cookbook, for Pizza alla Napoletana. You can see the difference a brick oven makes with the crust -- the top photo is of a margherita pizza from da Michele (courtesy of keepwaddling1 on Flickr). The bottom photo is a margherita pizza from L'Nuova Pizzeria da Meghan.

Pizza dough
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour, preferably Italian type 00, plus extra for dusting
3/4 t salt
1/2 oz fresh yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water
olive oil, for brushing (optional)

Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well. Incorporate the flour iwth your finger to make a soft dough. Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for about 3 hours until almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a round about 1/4 inch thick. Brush a cookie sheet with oil or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough round on it and press out until it covers the area. Make sure the rim is thicker than the center.

Pizza alla Napoletana
olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
1 quantity pizza dough (see above)
all-purpose flour, for dusting
5-6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 mozzarella cheese, sliced
pinch of dried oregano
8 canned anchovy fillets, drained (I didn't include these, since they're not part of the da Michele pizzas)

Preheat the oven to 425. Sprinkle the tomato flesh evenly on top and drizzle with oil poured around, once, in a circle. Bake for about 18 minutes. Add the mozzarella, oregano and anchovies, season with salt and drizzle with oil if necessary. Bake for a further 7-8 minutes until crisp.

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