Rebecca’s Recipe Review

You Don’t Need to Visit Italy to Eat Italian


Rebecca Christensen, Cactus Staff Writer

Growing up in a town that only claims two foreign cuisines, Mexican food and Chinese food, it makes sense that foreign food would interest me. As it so happens, this seems to be a common state of mind in our relatively small town, which got me thinking: if I can’t eat out at a Greek or Indian restaurant, then I might as well try to make the food in my own kitchen. This led me, of course, on a direct path to the members of the Culinary Arts Program, right here on Signal Peak Campus.

The first person I talked to is Chef Jasun Zakro. I asked him about his favorite cuisine, to which he replied Italian. He suggested that I look into Margherita pizza, and I did. I was surprised at its background; after all it’s only a pizza, isn’t it?

Apparently, it’s not just a pizza, though it is a delicious one. Margherita Pizza was named after the first queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. It’s quintessentially Italian, what with modeling the three colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red. Traditionally, the pizza is made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves.

Though a recipe very similar was found in a recipe tome from 1866, the pizza got its name from Queen Margherita, in 1889. Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get to the pizza.

It’s relatively simple, but it’s delicious. The recipes I used were all Lidia Bastianich’s recipes, pulled from her website, Lidia’s Italy.

Lidia’s Pizza Margherita

1 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes, drained*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper, or more to taste

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, and more as needed
1½ teaspoons salt
olive oil

The Pizza
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
coarse cornmeal
1 cup pizza sauce
½ pound fresh mozzarella, grated or sliced thinly
10-20 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips

For the dough, the water should be warm to touch, but not hot. Add yeast to the water and let it sit for 5 minutes, till it’s foamy. Combine the flour and salt. Add dissolved yeast to flour and mix until it forms a ball. Lightly flour your countertop, and tip the dough onto the counter. Knead until smooth and elastic, or until you can pull a piece of dough off the ball, and gently stretch it with your fingers until it is somewhat see-through. Lightly oil a bowl and put the ball of dough into the bowl, cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap, then set it somewhere warm until it rises to doubled its size in volume (about 1-1½ hours).

For the sauce, first, drain your can of tomatoes. Lidia then advises that you slice the tomatoes open and rinse out the juice and seeds. Lightly squeeze the rinsed tomato to rid it of excess water. Once all the tomatoes in the can are rinsed, put them into a food processor and pulse it a few times, or until you reach your preferred consistency. After, mix in the olive oil, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper. Set aside.

To assemble and bake the pizza, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your pizza stone into the oven to preheat as well.* Take your dough and tip it onto your floured surface from earlier. If necessary, cut the dough into pieces to store for later. Roll or stretch the dough out into a circle, whichever size you wish. If you have a pizza peel, or a cutting board that won’t melt at high heats, lightly oil it so the dough won’t stick and roll your dough out onto it. Brush the edges of the crust with the olive oil, and spread your sauce over the dough. Top it with your mozzarella cheese, and then your basil leaves.

Before you put the pizza on the stone or pan (whichever you use) generously sprinkle it with cornmeal. To get the pizza on the pizza stone, pull the rack partway out of the oven, and then slide the pizza onto the stone. You may want to get someone to help you, or find a video that shows how to do it without burning yourself or dumping your pizza on the floor.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, but keep your eye on it so that it doesn’t burn.

*If you don’t have a pizza stone, they’re relatively inexpensive at Walmart. If you don’t want to use one, just use a large pan, or one with a perforated bottom, so that the bottom of the crust will cook. If you use a normal cookie sheet or likewise, there’s a fair chance that the bottom of the crust, especially in the middle, will be soggy, bordering on uncooked.} else {