extra-virgin olive oil

How to make a perfect Italian pizza dough

This is an how-to, long, long overdue, post. In case you need this dough for anything other than pizza, come back here and check. I also put the tag “dough” in the list, in case it’s going to be buried by the next posts.

Pizza dough represents the base for what it’s the modern concept of pizza, sold worldwide, in thousands of different variations of crust, topping, size, price and so on. It’s the base over which you can express your creativity in toppings. Though, is fun to notice that pizza is only one of the possible “outcomes”. For example, you could use this recipe to bake your own bread, if you want.

Making a dough do not follow a strict list of rules. In fact, any variations of the quantity of ingredients will still give you a dough. It can be personalized and adjusted according to allergies, taste, kind of flours, gluten tolerance, and availability of ingredients. As in bread, there can be many variation and flavours.The taste of the dough will influence the taste of the final product you are going to bake.

“…this dough reflects my regional, working, and family tradition in pizza making. As you may probably know if you had a look at my about page, I can claim a bit of expertise in making it. The pizza recipe is argument for another post…”

Time required: from 2 to 24 hours

Ingredients for 1 kg flour:
Pizza dough is the kind of product of which the portion are difficult to guess, and varies across country. To make it easier, I use kilograms of flour as a measure unit for the final outcome, and a bit of trial and error expertise: 1 kg will probably give you enough dough for 6/7 reasonably sized pizzas (1 pizza enough to feed 1 reasonably hungry person).

1 kg white flour (choose what you think is good for you and try it out for yourself)
3 sp of iodized salt
3 sp of extravirgin olive oil
3 sp of sugar
1 cube of fresh yeast OR 20 g of dry yeast
lukewarm water QS (quantum sufficiat) – start with the less the better

Preparation (about half an hour):
This preparation resemble the one used to bake bread. If you have bread-making experience, you are pretty much covered. If you have an electric machine, a robot, or someone else doing it for you, it’s just a matter of attention in mixing the ingredients together.

Start with 2 breakfast bowls and a clean, large, table area. Fill the bowls halfway with lukewarm water. In one you will put the salt, in the other one the sugar. Use different spoon to mix them. Put the yeast in the sugar bowls and stir it thoroughly until it dissolves completely in the water.Put the flour on the table, the whole kilo. It will look like a mountain of flour 🙂
Do not flat it, rather place your palm over the top and push it straight downwards, while enlarging it the more you reach the surface of the table. Now looks like a volcano of flour 😀
Make the crater large enough, and keep the “walls” high. This will help you in kneading the dough.

Empty the yeast/sugar bowls in the crater and start working the flour with it. It’s important that you don’t flood the flour, the yeasty water should not be enough for the whole kilo. It will look like a brown crater lake in a dormant volcano! The high walls are there for a reason: they keep the water from running around. Use the flour on the internal side of the walls and let them slide in the lake. This will keep the rest of the walls safe. Make a dough ball out of it, as good as you can it doesn’t matter now, and put it aside.

Rebuild the flour volcano as before, and empty the salt bowl in the crater. Work it until you are able to make another ball out of it. Only after this, you can mix the 2 balls together. The point of this 2-steps procedure is: do not let the yeast touch the salt prior than the flour does. The rising reaction induced by the yeast will stop if in direct contact with salt. The 2 bowls system is an easy and clean way to dose water levels and avoid this unwanted event at the same time.

Possibly, the water you have added so far is still not enough. This will give you enough leeway to add the extra lukewarm water you need to make the dough consistent enough so “it doesn’t stick anymore to your hands”. If the water is too much, add a bit more flour. The dough will have a plastic feeling and it will not stick anywhere anymore. You can in fact use it to collect all the flour leftover from the working area.

Now, spread it a bit on the table and poke it with your finger. The holes in it are for the oil. Spoon it on the dough and keep on kneading, until it nicely incorporates in it. Done for now!

Place it in a large container or pot and put on a lid, plastic foil, or a cloth to cover it. Let it rise for 1 hour. After that, cut the mass in pieces and start making dough balls out of it the size of a baseball ball (a bit bigger than a tennis or cricket ball). You should have enough dough for 6 or 7 of them. Place the ball in a tray and give them enough space to rise double or triple their actual size. Let them rise for another hour before using them, or place the tray in the fridge and use the dough the next day.

If you use (parts of) this method, please send me pictures of your dough, or put a link in the comments. The better ones could be showed here 😀

Thanks Ginny for the pic

Red kidney beans and sausage

The best way to cook beans is with sausages, no jokes! I know this may sound gross to vegetarian, and I am the first to enjoy a beans salad (in some later post), but the salty and spiced texture of sausage is well coupled with the creamy texture of the beans; their flavours do mix perfectly together. By the way, this recipe is an excellent source of proteins, especially if you choose leaner sausages, for those of you interested in bodyfat loss or workout meals!

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 pork sausages
2 cans of red kidney beans of 400 gr each
1 onion
4 roma tomatoes
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. paprika powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. of iodized salt

Preparation:
Switch on the fire at high. Chop the onion in small pieces and toss it in a pan with the salt, a generous grind of black pepper, the paprika powder, and the cayenne pepper. Add 2 spoons of olive oil; I am being conservative here because the sausages release some fat usually, according to how lean you choose them.

Put the pan on the fire and let it cook for 2/3 minutes, until the onions are gold (not brown). Cut the tomatoes in thin slices and put them in, you may cover with the lid for 4/5 minutes. In the meantime you can cut the sausages in pieces; they can be also made out of beef or any other ingredients, even vegetarian if you prefer to. I have just used pork meat as my personal taste.

To make things easier, you can open up and crumble them, then add them in the pan. Let the meat brown for other 4 to 5 minutes, it will also release part of the fat. Open the cans of kidney beans, drain the liquid inside, was and drain them again, then pour them on top of the sausages. Add a half glass of water now. You can cook them for other 10 minutes with the lid on top.

To be served with some bruschetta, or any other toasted bread. Are excellent also with some steamed vegetables aside.

Buon appetito! 

 

P.S.: thanks Nezemnaya for the shot!

Cauliflower salad

Gnam!

This is one simple salad that I am enjoying recently. The cauliflower has never been one of my favourite when I was kid, but you know, everything changes! I guess the only important direction is the spices we are going to use to season it. I like the lemon juice, some uses balsamico vinegar, your choice.

The quantity really depends on your pot and your good will. You may decide to boil the whole “head” and then store it in the fridge for day after or cut few florets out of it and boil them before eating, again your choice.
The recipe is going to be for 2 people, just to prepare 2 portions because I am quite sure you are going to have another one after the first 😉

Cooking Time:
it is actually 15 minutes from raw to mouth, plus another 10 in the fridge if you like them cold.

Ingredients (for 2 people):
1/4 cauliflower in florets
1 ts salt
grinded black pepper
a bit of chilli flakes
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon

Preparation: 
Cut the “head” in florets, if you don’t know what is it, I have inserted a comfy link in the ingredients list. It’s also here, if you need it 🙂 To make everything blazing fast, cut the florets in slices, as you would do for mushroom. The thinner, the less they need to be cooked. You can do this while bringing to boil the pot with salty water.

The trick is there, it should be just enough water to submerge the cauliflower. no point in putting more water. Add a dash of grinded black pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes in the water. Yes, do it. The fire should be at medium/high.
When the water is boiling, toss the cauliflower in and cover with the lid. It should take no more than 10 minutes to make the cauliflower soft enough to be easily holed by your fork, in case you are not sure and want to “probe” them.

When they are done, drain them completely and place it in the salad bowl. In case you want them cold, put the whole bowl in the fridge for another 10 minutes. No worries for the steam, is not going to harm your fridge!
Season with lemon juice and a dash of oil on top.

Buon appetito!

P.S.: thanks Jeremy for the pic 😉

Penne ham and mushrooms

Uncooked Penne

New recipe of the year, with one of the “most-commonly-found-abroad-after-spaghetti” type of pasta, penne rigate.

Small digression: the word “rigate” refers to the ribbed surface of them; such lines are called “righe” in Italian, so its adjective become “rigate”. 

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p>Very fresh, very quick, and tasty as usual.

Ingredients for 2 people:

1/2 onion (red or white according to the wine)
1/2 glass of wine (red or white according to the onion)
100 gr of mushrooms  (any cheap will do)
50 gr of cooked ham (if possible sliced)
100 ml of tomato purée (or sauce or passata) (or roughly 2 glasses)
extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper
chilli pepper  (optional)
salt
250 gr of penne rigate
grated grana padano (or other hard cheese)

Preparation (it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes): 

Let one of the fire go to max while you are preparing. I would suggest you chop all the ingredients first, then you are kind of free to do the rest while saving time.

Chop your onion nicely in small pieces, and put it in a large pan together with a generous amount (3 tablespoons should be fine) of oil, grinded black pepper, a bit of grinded chilli or powder if you like, and a pinch of salt.
Chop the mushrooms in thin slices and put them apart.
Slice the ham (if not already) and cut it in small pieces, as with the onion.

Put the pan on the fire, and let the onions fry till gold. Do not forget to stir it often, if the fire is high enough and the onions very small, they will easily burn.
Put the ham in and lower a bit the fire (from 5 to 4, for instance).

Let the ham cook for 2/3 minutes before putting the wine in. This will “cool down” things a bit, giving you time to start boiling the water for the pasta. To quicken up, you may also pre-boil the water in a kettle.
By the time you do that, the alcohol should be evaporated. It’s time to put the mushrooms in, together with the tomato purée and a generous pinch of salt.

Add half a glass of water, stir nicely and cover the pan with its lid. Of course you have the lid for that pan, right? If not, just add some more water as it dries up.

Now focus on the pasta; as soon as the water boils, put a generous amount of salt in (1 tablespoon should be fine) and then the penne. Check the cooking time of your chosen brand and stir it from time to time when it boils to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Drain it 1 minute before the suggested time for “al dente”, usually penne rigate may vary between 9 and 11 minutes but YMMV, and keep some of the boiled-salty-starchy water in a mug, a glass may break accidentally because of the heat.

Pour the pasta in the pan with the sauce, put a third of the water from the mug in and stir it at low fire, so you can let the pasta simmer  a bit and absorb all the flavours from the sauce. This is the right time to grate some cheese in, the quantity will be according to your taste, but don’t be greedy!

Penne rigate can absorb a fair amount of water and sauce; as the sauce get dry, add some more boiled water in, but just to smoothen it up, we don’t need a soup! Add the last bit of water before getting the pan off the fire and let the pasta “rest” for a little while, to get the creamy texture just right!
To be served with some grated cheese on top.

Buon appetito!

Thanks J.D. for the shot