Pizza Autentica!

16 Feb

On a recent snowy Chicago Sunday, a few members of the Collective elected to spend the cold, dreary day gathered around a fire—a 700 degree fire, to be exact—learning the secrets to making authentic Italian pizza.

We couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon.

First off, Mario Rapisarda, the head chef of Antica Pizzeria, walked us through the importance of the right ingredients.

Many hand gestures drove home his point. The yeast must be exactly this, the flour, exactly that. Don’t fool yourself  with all-purpose flour or standard baking yeast, he told us—you must have double zero—the kind we use in Italy. The water, he didn’t have much to comment on, though we have it from reliable sources in Puglia that many Italians (divided regionally as they are) swear the quality of the pizza dough is directly attributable to the local water. Some things can’t be imported I guess.

Even though there appeared to be quite a bit of back-and-forth conversion from metric to imperial units, as we understood it the dough recipe is (roughly) as follows:

500ml water
1kg flour
25g salt
2.5g yeast

(Even though Mario goes ‘by eyes’ to measure, we figured that kind of estimation comes with practice.) The water should be room temperature, as to not kill the yeast. When mixing the dough, you will know it’s too wet if it sticks to the bowl—keep adding flour until it remains workable and elastic.

After mixing, wrap in plastic wrap (completely sealed). Then, you have two options for allowing the dough to ‘mature’ before kneading. Recommended: 14 hours overnight in the refrigerator. Same day: 15 minutes tightly sealed in the saran wrap ball.

Another overnight task: fresh mozzarella strained in the fridge; brings the flavor forward.

Once the dough is ready to be worked, make dough balls of 3″ diameter by rolling it into itself until elastic, then seal the ball closed so the air you’ve worked into the dough stays put. Let rest/rise at room temp for 1.5-2 hours (if overnight maturation).  Same day: 3 hours to sit. Always keep covered in plastic, or the dough will dry out.

The next process Mario called ‘opening the pizza’. Despite all we’ve seen, he emphasized that one is NOT supposed to throw the dough in the air, but rather open it by hand by pushing out into a circle, starting with fists, and encouraging into a pizza shape by spreading the tips and sides of your hands in a fan-like motion, rotating the dough on a floured surface until 12″ in diameter, or thereabouts. When slight bubbles (the ‘angel of the pizza’) begin to appear, you’re good to go.

Topping the pizza is also an art. Place two tablespoons fresh marinara sauce (see below) in the center of the pizza and spread to the sides, leaving about a ½” offset from the pizza edge.

Marinara sauce:
San Marzano tomatoes
Black pepper
Olive oil
puree all ingredients–no cooking!

If cooking with your oven (or grill) at home (“as hot as you can get it”), Mario recommends ‘pre-cooking’ the dough and sauce alone for 6 minutes, then adding toppings and to go back in for approximately 8 minutes more.

Go light on the cheese (chopped fresh mozzarella, strained as directed above), sprinkling mainly on the outside. Use the toppings (also sparingly!) to fill the ‘hole’ in the center. Finish off with a generous dusting of finely grated parmesan, and pop it in. You’ll know it’s finished when the bubbles in the crust just begin to brown.

Buon Appetito!

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