Stage 2: Assembling the perfect Italian style pizza – Prosciutto, Mascarpone and Rocket

Right, now you’ve made the perfect dough, how can you turn it into the best, tastiest, most amazing-est pizza possible? By using this holy trinity of Italian ingredients – Proscuitto, Mascarpone and Rocket!

I guess this is time for a disclaimer… I say Italian style to distinguish this pizza from the deep pan, greasy monstrosities that you find at your local takeway/American pizza chain. Having spent four years as a student, and a lifetime as a glutton, that type of pizza does have a special place in my heart – ah, that magical box smell and the endlessly stretchy cheese – but the pizza I am talking about in these recipes definitely has a lot more in common with the more authentic, thin crust pizzas of Italy. However, I can’t vouch for any of my techniques being truly authentic – for one I roll the pizzas instead of stretching them by hand as I always get a better result that way! I’m sure there are many other discrepancies Italian pizza-purists would find with my recipe. Personally though, I find these pizzas as delicious as any of the good Italian pizzas I have sampled in my 21 years.

The finished pizzas

Here's how the finished product looks!

PROSCIUTTO, MASCARPONE AND ROCKET PIZZA

Makes enough for two 12 inch thin-crust pizzas. Yes, I know the dough recipe was for three pizzas… But as it’s just my fiance and I eating, I usually make some bread rolls for tomorrow’s lunch with the dough for the third pizza. If you want to make three, just make a little more sauce and perhaps invest in an extra mozarella ball.

If you were following my pizza dough recipe, you should now have a nice ball of dough that has been freshly risen, knocked back, and risen again. If you made the dough in advance, it can be kept it in the fridge until you need to use it. I have kept dough in the fridge for up to 24 hours before and it still came out perfect. I have heard you can keep it up to 3 or 4 days in the fridge but it might not be as good by that point.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes (I use half a 400g tin)
  •  1 small onion or half a large onion
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 100ml vermouth or white wine (or water if you must)

Pizza toppings:

  • 40g prosciutto
  • Around 10 heaped teaspoons of mascarpone
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • Homemade pizza sauce (ingredients above)
  • Handful of rocket
  • Small handful of basil
  • Fresh black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 – or as hot as your oven can go really! Make sure it has lots of time to preheat because you want it as hot as possible.  While your dough is in the last hour of rising, start making the pizza sauce as follows!

Finely dice a small onion (or half a big one). I used a red onion because I didn’t have anything else available but a regular onion is better really.

Chopping the onion

If you have a food processor/blender to puree the sauce at the end, I wouldn’t worry too much about dicing the onion ultra fine. I tend to chop it reasonably fine as I don’t have too much of an issue with watery eyes and I find it fries faster this way.

Diced onion

Frying onions… Now that’s an interesting concept in the world of food bloggery/online recipes. You will often find recipes telling you to “sautee” onions. Sautéing is a method which involves cooking the onions in a pan, in a very small amount of oil, over a very high heat.  Yet most of the time, people use slightly more oil and a lower temperature so that the onions soften slowly over around 5-10 minutes. Still, the words “fry” and “sautee” are being used everywhere pretty much interchangably. It does seem that people often just use the word “sautee” because it sounds more posh, as most of the time they are really referring to frying…

So I say fry the onions in around half tablespoon of olive oil. Fry it over a medium heat for around 5 minutes or more until softened but not browned.

When the onions are getting soft, add in a crushed garlic clove if desired. I didn’t bother this time because I didn’t fancy cleaning the garlic crusher afterwards… Lazy, I know. Now add your chopped tomatoes and a generous splash of vermouth or wine (I’m guessing I usually use at least 100ml).  Vermouth is amazing for cooking, you can always use it instead of wine in most recipes, and the best part is that it keeps a lot longer than wine so you can always keep it stocked in in your cupboard. Nigella Lawson seems to swear by the stuff as she uses it in most of her recipes.

In goes the Vermouth

Add a generous helping of oregano, stir, and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes. Top up with extra vermouth, wine or water if it starts looking a bit thick. My rule is that if you start seeing the bottom of the pan when you stir, its reduced a bit too much and needs more liquid.

While it’s simmering, now is a good time to roll out your dough.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into three equal pieces. If you are only making two pizzas, now is the time to put one of the three dough balls into the fridge to use another day! Form a piece of dough into a roughly flattened ball, and start rolling! I think the authentic Italian way is to stretch the dough by hand, but I have found the rolling pin a lot easier and it came out a more even thickness this way. Rolling the dough When it is roughly the same size and shape of your 12 inch pizza tray, slip it onto the tray. If it doesn’t quite reach to the edge of the tray start stretching it a little at a time until it does!Stretching dough in pan

At this point I might just mention that a pizza stone would be a lot better than a metal pizza tray. I couldn’t find one at any shops near me in time to satisfy my pizza cravings so I had to use these trays I found at ASDA (that’s Wal-Mart for any of you American readers!). Pizza stones are a lot better though, I have heard. I will eventually get round to ordering one – Tesco sell them online here at a reasonable size and price.

Eventually your rolled out pizza base should fit roughly to the edges of the pan something like this:

Pizza base

Now, when the sauce has been simmering for around 20 minutes, blitz it in a blender/food processor to make a relatively smooth puree. If you don’t have either of these machines, you can either use the sauce as it is – it may be a tad lumpy but I’m sure it would still taste great.

I’ve used a flexi spatula thingy for spreading the sauce before but this time I used a brush. It didn’t make a huge difference though.

Pizza bases with sauce

Now all that’s left is to assemble all the delicious toppings! Actually, not quite all. With this pizza, all you need at first is the cheese and perhaps a small sprinking of oregano. The rest of the toppings go on when the pizza comes out the oven, so they taste nice and fresh.

Thinly slice the mozzarella and distribute evenly on both pizzas. Add around 10 or 15 teaspoon-blobs of the mascarpone on each pizza. It’s hard to tell the mozzarella and mascarpone apart on the picture as they both look like white blobs, so I have helpfully labelled it for you!

 

Mozzarella and mascarponeThe oven should now be at its hottest temperature; once it is, it’s time to put the pizzas in the oven! Do this quickly so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat. All ovens are notoriously different so start checking on the pizzas after 7 minutes but you will find that it may need around 15 minutes.

Don’t rely on the colour of the crust as an indicator of done-ness – depending on your oven it might not go particularly golden. What you really need to do is give the edge of the crust a little tap, if it seems relatively hard and crispy then it’s ready – even if it doesn’t look golden. I only mention this because I have got too hung up on waiting for my bread, pastry, cakes and cookies to become golden before – and these things have always ended up overcooked when I do. I guess it must be my oven.

While the pizzas are in the oven, if you want to be super-efficient like me, get the rest of the toppings ready so they can get on your pizzas ASAP with minimum pizza heat loss!

Rest of the pizza toppings

No need to chop the basil – it looks prettier whole and seems to retain more flavour too! When the pizza is ready and passes the tap-test, time to take it out!

Pizzas coming out the oven

As you can see, my pizzas don’t look like they’re done if you go by the golden-ness of the crust – but in fact hey were perfectly done. You might find they go more golden depending on your oven, however.

They do look horrendously plain and unappetising with just the tomato sauce and cheese, but worry not, they will look great once the rest of the toppings are in place. All that’s left to do now is to gently arrange the prosciutto, rocket and basil! (I did it in that order, not that it really matters!)

The finished pizza!

Ta-da! The perfect pizza is now complete! I used a pizza cutter to cut these into four slices each, I hate to mangle my pizzas more than necessary but making it into tiny slithers! Oh, and don’t forget a little dash of black pepper before serving…

Well, that’s my second post complete – although I guess these two posts are really just one pizza recipe including dough and toppings. I did have my fiance’s assistance taking some of the later photos this time though, which was very handy because although this blog is supposed to be improving my photography skills, it’s quite hard cooking and taking pictures simultaneously!

I’m still not sure I will continue with this format of including pictures of the various recipe stages. I could simply have one or two shots of the final dish, along with a written recipe without pictures. Any feedback on which format is preferred is very welcome! I may even do both – by starting a seperate page on the blog for “printable” versions of the recipe. The printable version would only include one picture of the finished dish, and I would probably cut away some of my blabbering to make the recipe instructions more concise.

Thanks for reading!

- Rebekah

P.S. Here’s a bonus shot of the little bread rolls I made with the leftover third of of the pizza dough, before going into the oven:

Little bread rolls

Just enough for lunch-for-two the next day!

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