My first memory of eating a pizza was in the iconic ‘Casa Piccola’ on Residency Road, Bangalore. Those days there were not many places to get burgers and pizzas. For burgers, we also went to this small place at the end of Brigade Road (the name escapes me). I remember going to Casa Piccola with my mother and ordering a pizza. It was a thick crust pizza, the toppings I do not remember. What I remember was my mom teaching me how to use a knife and fork to cut the pizza. I also remember trying to cut a piece and the pizza flying off my plate. I may have used my hands after that.
Fast forward a few years, I move to Sweden and my memories of pizza there are at a pizzeria called Lilla Huset. They served a thin crust pizza (which I was seeing and eating for the first time). This was our favorite haunt, eating there at least once a week. Our favorite being Margherita or Vegetale (a vegetarian pizza). All pizzas were served with a side of pizza salad – which is a type of coleslaw but with a vinegar dressing instead of mayo and a pickled banana pepper. Of course, they were very different from Italian pizzas (which I only recently ate) or the pizza scene in the USA. Today, of course, right in Bangalore, we get all types of pizzas, my favorite being the Brik Oven on Church Street.
Many many years ago, we received this book as a gift – Light and Easy Italian Cooking. I use the pizza dough recipe from this book. My toppings depend on my likes and maybe with what I have at home.
Basic Pizza Dough:
1 packet active dry yeast (1 3/4 tsp)
1 pinch sugar
335 ml warm water
1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
500 g (3 1/4 cup) plain flour – you could substitute half with whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
Dissolve yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy. (Do not make the mistake I made – I used a small bowl)
Stir rest of ingredients and mix until a rough dough forms. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until soft. Add more flour if required.
Lightly oil a large bowl and roll the dough around so it is covered with oil.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel or a plastic wrap and place in a warm draught free place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in volume. I usually place it in the oven.
Knock down the dough. Knead briefly before rolling out to the desired shape.
Transfer to an oiled pizza pan and finish shaping by hand.
For a thicker crust, cover with a tea towel and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
Top with sauce of your choice, veggies of your choice and cheese of your choice. Drizzle some olive oil and bake at 220ºC (425ºF) for 15-20 minutes.
My favorites are pesto with zucchini, mushroom and pine nuts or tomato sauce with eggplant and capsicum. Also, I sprinkle just a little goat cheese.
Easy sauces for Pasta and Pizza
Basic Tomato Sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
5- 6 tomatoes, chopped finely
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of Italian basil leaves (if you get your hands on lemon basil, it is even better)
salt for seasoning
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp black pepper powder
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
In a wide pan, add most of the olive oil (spare 1 tsp to drizzle at the end).
Add onions and saute on a low flame. Add garlic and saute till golden. Add tomatoes, salt and cook for 10 -15 minutes. (If you have time, blanch the tomatoes and remove skin and then crush before adding instead of chopping)
Add the basil, pepper, chilli flakes and seasoning. If the tomatoes were not chopped finely, you could blitz them in a blender.
Taste and add seasoning if required. Drizzle some olive oil on top.
Use this as a basic sauce for pasta or pizza.
2 cups Italian basil
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts (I also use cashew nuts instead)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I usually leave this out to make it a dairy-free option) – add it only for people who choose to eat cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Toast nuts in a pan.
In a food processor or blender, mix the basil, garlic, nuts and blend coarsely. Drizzle olive oil and continue pulsing until smooth. Add more oil if required (to make it healthier, you can add a few teaspoons of water instead). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer pesto to a bowl and mix cheese. Cover with saran wrap to avoid discoloration. When serving, add a little more olive oil.
This goes well with pasta, pizza and as a spread for sandwiches.