Recipe: You don’t need yeast for this easy pizza

PUBLISHED: 10:30 22 May 2020

rustic italian pizza with mozzarella, cheese and basil leaves

rustic italian pizza with mozzarella, cheese and basil leaves

loooby

Suffolk food writer and chef Ruth French shows you easy home-made pasta and scone based pizza the whole family can make.

Tasty italian classic spaghetti tagliatelle with tomato sauce served on plate. Dark background. View from above.Tasty italian classic spaghetti tagliatelle with tomato sauce served on plate. Dark background. View from above.

Mama mia! There’s nothing like a freshly baked pizza and fresh pasta to keep up morale on a Saturday night. Who would have thought creating these family favourites in true Italian style was so easy?

Just before lockdown, I caught up with Rachel, a technology consultant normally commuting to London, and her two youngest, Ottie and Josie. Like a lot of busy families, they look forward to their restaurant/takeaway weekend treats together and decided that they would re-create them in their own kitchen.

“I still have a full work schedule so cooking together has to be quick, easy and fun,” says Rachel. The girls set about making their own pizzas whilst Mum made some proper home-made egg pasta.

Coronavirus has by necessity brought out creativity in us all and our ‘Keep Calm and Carry on Cooking’ mentality has been at the forefront of the home guard. In a time when supermarket shelves are depleted and children are constantly in the kitchen scouting for food, getting them to cook teaches them the value of each little morsel.

fresh pasta manual productionfresh pasta manual production

As a chef, it was a delight to see the joint effort of the family cooking a meal from scratch with such passion. Ottie and Josie chose a sourdough base for their very own pizza but a simpler, scone base is just as successful and even quicker. Rachel’s pasta was made using an authentic ‘00’ Italian flour (specifically milled for pasta making) from Suffolk Food Hall and fresh eggs from her own hens.

Wendy, the buyer at Suffolk Food Hall, says they are trying their best to keep up with demand for ‘00’ flour which comes from Italy, where the virus hit hard and early. According to Wendy, all forms of flour have been in demand, as have varieties from local producers due to the surge in home cooking. Unlike supermarkets, however, The Food Hall has largely been able to satisfy this extra demand of local flour thanks to close relationships they have developed with local millers.

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Indeed the award-winning farm shop and deli, located alongside the River Orwell at Wherstead, just outside Ipswich, has experienced a rise in sales as people choose to stay clear of the larger shops, opting instead for smaller suppliers. They are currently running a contactless ‘order and collect’ shopping service as well as operating the usual social distancing protocol in-store.

Back to the family and watching them cook with flour-based products, it had soon became a fun and riotous affair. Once the base had been perfected by ten-year-old Ottie, eight-year-old Josie found that preparing the toppings was easy-pizzy. Her conservative palate opted for the ubiquitous tomato puree and grated cheese topping, but her older sister was happy to include ham, pineapple and mozzarella on hers.

Toppings can be as varied as your imagination and palate allow. The girls thought it fitting to also make a Pizza Pudding of Italian mascarpone cheese, chocolate spread and fresh fruit, the toppings for which must go on after the base has been cooked. An average-sized pizza, packed with toppings will bake in a pre-heated hot oven at 200°C for around 15 minutes, and slightly longer for a scone-based pizza (see recipe). All supervised by Mum or Dad, of course.

What is 00 flour?

00 flour, or ‘doppio zero’ is what most Italian households use to make fresh egg pasta. The white Italian flour is finely-milled, resulting in grains which are finer than semolina, but larger than cornflour. Italian 00 flour is highly-refined from the whitest part of the grain. Because it is extracted from such a small part of the wheat, the flour is normally used for specific recipes, unlike an all-purpose flour. If you can’t get 00 flour use high grade plain flour instead.

Perfect pasta

So, how easy is it exactly to make your own pasta? The answer is, very easy indeed. Just remember to use 100gm of 00 grade flour to one egg. I find a good family amount of pasta is 600gm of flour to six eggs.

Using a large mixing bowl, drop the eggs into the middle of the heap of flour. Now, using your fingertips in a whisk-like fashion, work the flour into the eggs, bit by bit, until very smooth. Then, using your hands, knead the dough. This stage is crucial to develop the gluten in your pasta dough to give the right texture when cooked. There is no secret formula for this stage, just keep kneading and stretching.

Once your pasta dough feels smooth and silky, wrap it in greaseproof paper and put it in the fridge for half an hour while you – and the pizza-making children – clear up.

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When it’s ready, roll out the dough as thinly as possible by hand or, if you’re lucky enough to come by one, in a pasta machine. I have found that, although they can be fantastically useful, machines are not essential. In fact, the best pasta I have ever tasted was made by hand in a tiny restaurant in Northern Sardinia and stretched ultra thinly with an extra long rolling pin. It was then topped with seafood and fresh anchovies and I have never forgotten it.

TIP: only roll a piece the size of an orange each time whilst keeping the bulk of the dough covered with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out between each rolling.

It really is that simple. Cut into strips of just under a centimetre wide for tagliatelle. If you don’t have a machine this is the easiest pasta type to achieve. Cook in plenty of slightly salted boiling water for between two and four minutes only. Serve with your favourite sauce.

Rachel’s easy pasta sauce

8-10 medium-large tomatoes

2 fat garlic cloves, crushed

Two tablespoons olive oil

Tablespoon fresh pesto

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Sea salt to taste

Method

Scald the tomatoes in boiling water or simmer them for a few minutes in a pan (either method depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes). Drain and score with a sharp knife until the skins peel and shrink all over. Remove all of the skins and roughly chop the tomatoes on a board. Transfer back to the pan with all the juices and add all of the rest of the ingredients. Cook gently for 20-30 minutes until the mixture is a thick, rich sauce.

Simple scone pizza base

Here’s one kids can easily make all by themselves. It has no yeast and requires no proving.

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan). Mix 180gm of self-raising flour with half a teaspoon of baking powder. Add 50gm of butter and rub in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Now stir in 50gm of grated cheese. Pour in roughly four tablespoon of milk and then gather it all up into a ball. Now knead the dough lightly using floured hands and tip it onto a floured work surface. You only need to work the dough for a minute or two until it is soft and reasonably smooth. Now roll it into a 25 centimetre circle and put it onto a greased oven/pizza tray. Spread with tomato paste using the back of a wooden spoon in circular movements and finish with your favourite topping and grated cheese. It’s important to do the topping after you’ve placed the pizza base on the baking sheet, otherwise you’ll have to lift it covered in the topping and, in all eventuality, this will result in a dreadful mess. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes (slightly more or less depending on the depth and type of filling). Serve with a fresh salad.

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