BIG TONI’S ITALIAN KITCHEN

Pizza, one of the worlds favorite foods

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Pizza invented in Italy, with its origins going back over 7,ooo years the modern pizza has become one of the worlds favorite foods. 

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Purists, consider there to be only two true pizzas — the Marinara and the Margherita  These two "pure" pizzas are still the ones preferred by most Italians today.

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The marinara is the older of the two and has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “marinara”, because it was traditionally the food prepared by "la marinara", the seaman's wife, for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

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The Margherita is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. It is widely attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked at "Pizzeria di Pietro", established in 1880.  The Margherita is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy. 

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This weekend was my grandaughters 1st birthday and we had about 30 people round to celebrate. I cooked over 20 pizzas. It was hard work but worth it.

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To make 8 pizzas the roughly the size of a dinner plate.

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900 g strong white bread flour

1 level tablespoon fine sea salt

2x7 g sachets of dried yeast

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

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TOMATO SAUCE (8 PIZZAS)

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of fresh basil

olive oil

2 x 400 g tins of quality Italian plum tomatoes

4 balls of Mozzarella the best you can afford

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How to make Pizza's

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To make the dough, sieve the flour and 1 level teaspoon of sea salt onto a clean worktop and make a well in the centre.

Add the yeast and sugar to 650ml lukewarm water, mix and leave for 15 minutes, then pour into the well.

Using a fork or fingers from one hand slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. keep going, bringing in all the flour – until the dough comes together, pat it into a ball.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough. You can use a mixer with a dough hook which works just as well.

Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove for 50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

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For the tomato sauce, finely chop the garlic, then pick the basil leaves and finely chop the basil stalks.

Heat a splash of oil in a pan, add the garlic and basil stalks, cook gently for 3 to 4  minutes, until the garlic is lightly golden, then add 3/4 of the basil leaves, the tomatoes, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Leave the sauce to cook for 20 minutes, or until the tomato separates from the oil.  Then taste and season.

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To assemble the pizzas, divide the dough into 8 equal balls. ( You can freeze whatever you don't need at this stage just wrap the dough in cling film.)

Flour each dough ball, then cover wrap with clingfilm, and leave to rest for about 15 minutes this helps when you roll it out.

Dust your work surface and the dough with flour, and roll it out into a rough circle, about ½cm thick.

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You're now ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/gas 9.

Start to apply your topping: spread the tomato sauce over the base. Tear over the mozzarella and scatter with a few basil leaves. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

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You can, cook the pizzas on a pizza stone or pizza baking tin in your conventional oven or cook in pizza oven, Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pizzas are golden and crispy. If you are lucky enough to have a pizza oven follow the makers instructions or cook a test pizza for timings.

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There are loads of toppings, the world is your Pizza. Just have fun.

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Jason’s Wine recommendations

One of my favourites is Greco di Tufo

Greco di Tufo from Campania in Italy. 

Tre Fiori, Greco di Tufo at Waitrose - £8.79

Spaghetti with clams – If this dish is the classic Italian style without tomatoes then the classic pairing would be a Pinot Grigio, but remember it’s better to pay a little more with this wine as quality improves dramatically from the bargain level stuff widely available. If the dish has tomatoes aswell then the wine needs to have a greater intensity and one of my favourites is Greco di Tufo from Campania in Italy. Tre Fiori, Greco di Tufo at Waitrose - £8.79