THE CHALLENGE HERE IS MAKING A DELICIOUS, SATISFYING PIZZA WITHOUT MEAT OR CHEESE. TOTALLY DOABLE, AS YOU’LL SEE; YOU JUST NEED TO MAKE SURE TO HAVE A FLAVOURFUL SAUCE AND SEASON THE PIZZA WELL. Also, see the tip at the bottom of the page for a balsamic reduction, if you want to get all 1990’s fancy restaurant about it.
THIS CRUST IS A THICKER, BREADIER ONE, WHICH WORKS WELL HERe—AND IS BETTER FOR THE LOWER TEMPERATURES AND LONGER COOKING TIME OF THE HOME OVEN. THE TOMATO SAUCE YOU CAN USE FOR CANNING, LASAGNA, PASTA, ETC. -JRS
Here I use molasses instead of sugar as well as smoked salt (this is my favourite brand); the idea is to provide additional flavour and complexity. If you don’t have these, you can just use sugar and regular salt.
2 packages yeast
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp smoked salt
¼ olive oil
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
4+ cups flour
Add the flour and sugar to a big bowl and stir a bit with a fork. Next, add the water, sugar (or molasses) to a different bowl or mixing cup, along with the olive oil and yeast. Give it a stir; the yeast should activate pretty quickly—you’ll smell a kind of brewing smell, beer-ish, acidic.
Make a well in the flour and pour in the liquid ingredients. Using a spoon, stir the wet and dry ingredients until the come together and you can’t stir them anymore.
Now it’s time to get your hands dirty—or, better, hand: Use one hand to start mixing the dough until it’s no longer sticky. Washing one hand is easier than two.
When the dough has pulled together, dump the ball a lightly floured surface and start to knead. Do so for ten minutes, dusting lightly with flour when necessary. You should end up with a ball of dough that’s a little springy to the touch.
NOTE: Conditions can vary, i.e. the humidity, the type of flour, your measurements. Sometimes you might need to add a little more water, for example. Just pour a little bit on your surface and work it into the dough.
Grease the bottom and sides of a big bowl and put your dough in there. Cover with Saran wrap and a towel to keep out the light and set aside and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes. The dough will more than double in volume.
Tip: Make this dough three to five days in advance, put it in a sealed container and keep it in the fridge. This is known as a “cold fermentation”: You end up with much more complex flavour and a better crust.
This sauce requires few ingredients and little effort, plus you can use it anywhere you require a basic tomato sauce. Feel free to add any additional ingredients, herbs or spices as you see fit (I add a good pinch of chili flakes for heat).
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 medium onion, diced
6-8 cloves of garlic (more if you like), sliced or finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
Add the olive oil to a big pot along with the onions and garlic. Toss in a very light pinch of salt. Sweat everything over medium heat for 5 or so minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are translucent and cooked through.
Tip: You can add a splash of water at the start to cook the onions more quickly.
Next, add about ¾ of the can of tomato paste. Cook the paste for about a minute or two, stirring constantly. You should notice the colour change from the original red to a more rusty-red.
Then add your canned tomatoes, stir through, and simmer over medium-low heat for some 25-30 minutes until cooked.
Time to season. Taste the sauce. Add a good tbsp of salt, stir through and taste again. It may need more salt; season until you’re happy with it (see my post on seasoning with salt). A lot of freshly ground pepper is also a good idea. If you feel it’s missing garlic, smash a clove and toss it in there and cook a few minutes longer.
When the sauce is done, remove from heat. You should end up with a very flavoursome, chunky sauce.
If you’re going to be cooking your pizza soon, turn on your oven to its highest setting, 500°C or so.
Choose whatever toppings you like or have available. In this case, I used:
½ a large red onion
3 bell peppers (red, yellow, green)
1 package of cherry tomatoes
Cut the onion and peppers finely, as thin as possible. This way, they cook nicely in the oven, and you can really pile them on (same applies to other ingredients like zucchini, mushrooms, etc.) Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
“FACCIAMO UNA PIZZA”
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and begin stretching it. In general, it’s best to do this by hand, gently pulling and pushing the dough into a wider, thinner shape. You can use a rolling pin, but your final crust won’t be as airy and light. That said, do what you gotta do.
Grease a baking pan or sheet lightly and place the dough in the pan. Stretch it to fit the sides. It’s great to have a higher crust to hold in the sauce and toppings.
Add a light drizzle of olive oil to the uncooked crust. Then start adding your sauce, as much or as little as you like. Since this pizza has a thicker, soft crust, it can handle a lot of sauce (for instance, I used nearly all the sauce for the one I made).
Then add your toppings. Pile them on, don’t be shy. When that’s done, season the pizza with a light sprinkling of salt, add some pepper, and another light drizzle of olive oil.
Shove your pizza into the hot oven on the middle baking rack. Bake for about 15 minutes, and start checking after 10 minutes or so. The crust should brown a bit, and if you use a spatula to lift the corner to take a peek underneath, you should see that the bottom has cooked and browned a little.
Done! Let cool a bit, slice and have a bite. The pizza may need a touch more salt and pepper. Enjoy!
P.S.: A balsamic reduction is a clichéed but fantastic addition post-cooking. To make one, reduce 1 cup of balsamic vinegar over medium heat until you’ve got about 1/4 cup or less remaining (it’ll be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and let cool, it will continue to thicken as it does so. Drizzle over the pizza before serving.