Pizza Homemade pan style: a family favorite. But what does the word pizza mean? What is its origin? The answer: no one really knows. Go online to research the word and its beginnings. There are sites that suggest that "pizza" may be related to "pita." Other sites suggest that "pizza" may be a word of German origin. Whatever the origin of the word, the food it stands for is a gift from Southern Italy. A gift the immigrant children of the Mezzogiorno brought with them to America. In Italy pizza may take several forms. The most famous for travelers is the Neapolitan thin crust, wood oven delight made in a lightening flash to your order. But there is also the pan variety. The pan variety is often found in Rome where you will find pre-cooked pizzas of numerous varieties sold by the piece or by weight. Whether Neapolitan or Roman the Italian versions are excellent in their own right. In America, however, we find an extensive gamut of foods that claim the name pizza. Some are the equal of anything Italian, others do disgrace the name. In my estimation, most American preparations do not merit the slightest consideration. Chain pizzas are not worthy of the name. I do not have the slightest idea what those things are in the freezer of your grocery store.
I am befuddled that folks will spend a ridiculous price for bought floppy or frozen dough when you can so easily make real pizza at home? There is nothing easier and more satisfying than home-made pizza. Pizza does take time, but not work time. The time factor in pizza is the time it takes for the dough to rise. The actual hands-on work time is less than thirty minutes.
The home made pizza I have always put together is based on childhood memories. Although I remember watching my aunts there was no recipe. It's all from visual memory. My aunts each had their own version of pizza. Aunt Florie married a man of Calabrese origins. Aunt Annie's husband was of Abruzzese stock and my direct uncle Frank, of Cilentano descent, married Lena who was, I think, of Sicilian stock. All of them were American born, and few, if any actually spoke Italian. Yet, in each case, the influence of Italy and the specific province of the spouse made variations in the way the pizza was prepared and served.
The pizzas were always baked in a cookie baking pan. They were always on the thick side. And the only cheese that I remember was what they called "scum-utz." That was their Italian-Americanized pronunciation of "scamorza," a cheese something like a denser mozzarella. I can still see and smell Aunt Lena's pizza with the slices of melted "scum-utz," in their South Philadelphia kitchen. The "scum-utz" was always thinly sliced and lightly set out over the tomato sauce. Aunt Annie's was rich in tomato and Aunt Florie's sometimes had olives and even slices of hard boiled egg. There was certainly no such thing as grated cheese in a bag. In each case the pizza was nothing short of a table of joy. Pizza was a standard meatless Friday night fare. It was dinner that was fun with all the cousins at the table. It was served directly from the baking sheet. And, you cut it not with a fancy slicer. You cut the pizza with scissors!
Now, it must be said that homemade pizza in an American oven cannot in any way replicate the historic Neapolitan pizza. In Naples, the wood burning stoves are heated to nearly one thousand degrees: such a high temperature that the pizza is ready in just a few short minutes. It is also so thin and delicate that only an oven of such heat can produce it. So, as wonderful as such pizzas may be, they cannot be duplicated in the home oven.
So, where does that leave us? Even though we cannot replicate the original Neapolitan pizza we can create a dough that is tender, crusty and easy. Homemade pizza is simply a question of a good dough.You don't spin it. You don't fling it. You just roll it out and press it into a baking sheet. Top it with whatever you like, from perfectly plain raw chopped tomatoes to pizza bianca to the most complicated concoction. Bake in an oven pre-heated to at least 450 or even hotter. No, it's not the Neapolitan original. We just can't do that. But this is satisfying "cuisine of accommodation" that will please.
What you need.
When the dough has risen twice and is ready to be prepared, preheat the oven to 450.
Then, on to the pizza.
The Pizza tray
Here are two possibilities.
But only your imagination makes the limit,.
Two possible toppings,
These are just two possibilities. The first is a simple tomato pie, the simple and traditional Italian American version. The second is inspired by the broad variety of pizzas that you might find on the street in today's Rome.
But, you can finish your pizza anyway you choose from the most savory with anchovies to the most sweet with pineapple.
Once you have the pizza base in place, everthing else is your creativity.
For this most traditional topping see our recipe for tomato sauce.
Eggplant, onion and potato with ricotta
Spread a thin layer of ricotta over the dough.
Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice down the onion, potato and the eggplant as thinly as you can.
Sauter the onions until they are golden.
Sauter the eggplant.
Lay out the onion, eggplant and potato over the ricotta. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper.