The secret of a good pizza is a crisp wafer-thin base, and the keys to that are in the dough recipe and in rolling it very thinly. You'll need to use a good solid baking sheet on the bottom of a very hot oven.
If you don't have time to make a rich tomato sauce, use tinned tomatoes cooked with a good 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 whole garlic cloves, which I later take out, and reduce.
We've done taste trials of different types of mozzarella and, once your pizza is cooked, you really can't tell the difference between the uninviting Danish blocks and the more expensive buffalo spheres. Use the ordinary mozzarella for cooked toppings and save the delicious buffalo for eating fresh, sliced on top of the cooked pizza base with a handful of rocket and slices of juicy fresh tomato drizzled with olive oil.
For 8 medium-sized pizzas
For the bases:
- 600g strong white flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
- About 300ml tepid water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Sunflower oil for the baking sheet
For the pizza topping:
- Tomato sauce (see above)
- 600g mozzarella cheese, grated
- 2 tins of anchovies, drained
- 100g capers, rinsed
- 100g pine nuts
- 12 slices of prosciutto
- 24 thin slices of chorizo
- 12 asparagus spears
- 6 artichoke hearts
- 250g spinach
- A few eggs
To make the dough, put the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in a cup with the warm water, oil and sugar, and leave to froth. It's worth doing this, rather than just adding the yeast straight into the flour, so that you know that the yeast is working. If it is active, you'll see bubbles starting to form within a couple of minutes.
Mix the yeast with the flour. If your mix is too dry, add a little more water. A moist, sticky dough makes a light pizza base with a crisp crust, so don't be put off by the mess.
Once the dough is well mixed, there's no need to knead if you don't have time. Leave it to rest under a damp tea towel for a couple of hours. It should at least double in size, but even if it hasn't, it will still make fine dough. This is not a precise science.
To make your bases, break off a ball of dough about 3cm in diameter – depending on the base size required – and roll it out as thinly as you can on a lightly floured surface, then transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
To make the topping, you need to spread only a thin coating of tomato sauce – really ladling it on makes for a soggy base. Top the sauce with a light, even covering of grated cheese. Let people construct their own toppings. As well as cheese and tomato – the straight Margherita – I put out a couple of nuts, a plate of prosciutto and thinly sliced chorizo, and maybe some asparagus spears or artichoke hearts. My husband, Adam, loves the classic Fiorentina with wilted spinach and an egg broken over the top.
The temperature of the oven should be at least 250C/gas mark 9 (the maximum on conventional ovens) – in which case 5 minutes is all a pizza will take.
This recipe features on p281 of Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook.