Grandma gets pizza right


By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com



Mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil make the Grandma Pizza equivalent of Pizza Margherita.


Bill Colvard | The News

Despite the joys and general deliciousness of homemade pizza as often discussed in this space, the fact remains that a home oven is simply not capable of the 800-degree temperature that a wood-fired brick oven can produce.

Without that high temperature, it’s really hard to get a thin, crispy crust on a pizza. There are hacks and workarounds. Precooking the pizza on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet before baking is a good one, but that works better for thick crusts. A gas or charcoal grill can work up some pretty high temperatures and with some practice, it’s possible to produce some excellent pizza on the grill. But there is a learning curve. There are even little fake ovens that are placed over the gas jet on a gas range which will reach 600 degrees but they cost $130. and only make small, single-serving pizzas. Not an ideal solution.

But while everyone else has been spinning their wheels with special equipment, Italian grandmas in Long Island addressed the problem head-on and figured out a way to get a great pizza at home that is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal.

In the early aughts, this pizza made its way out of Nonna’s kitchen and into commercial pizzerias on Long Island and was affectionately referred to as “Grandma Pizza.” It has since made its way through the New York metropolitan area, with a few pizzerias in Manhattan claiming to have originated the concept, but is still hard to find outside New York.

So what exactly is “Grandma Pizza?”

It is similar to a Sicilian pie in that it is square. (Both Sicilian and Grandma pizza are actually rectangular instead of square, but a pizza with four corners is always called a square pie and that’s that.) The dough for a Grandma pizza is also pulled into the shape of the pan after a first rise, like a Sicilian pizza. But the similarity ends there.

The Sicilian pie is given time to rise to a pillowy fluffiness before baking. The end result is not unlike focaccia. The Grandma pizza only gets a brief second rise, 30-40 minutes, so that the finished pizza is light and crisp. If baked too soon without that short second rise, the dough would be firm and too chewy.

To keep things quick and easy, make up the dough the night before. Leave it to rise in the refrigerator overnight. The slow, cold rise will allow a little time for fermentation and yield a more complex flavor. Then when you get home from work the next day, pull out the dough, stretch it into the pan and let it rest while you make the sauce or get some other stuff done.

The sauce for Grandma pizza is also quick and easy. You don’t even have to turn on the stove. Whip it up in a blender or food processor and you’re ready to go. Grandma’s have been known to simmer a pot of sauce all day long but on a weeknight, different measures are called for. And don’t be tempted to skip the anchovies in the sauce. They’ll add depth of flavor that more than makes up for the lack of cooking. If you have anchovy haters in the family, just don’t tell them. And hide the tin.

Grandma pizza breaks with tradition in another way. The cheese goes first on this pizza. Then the sauce is dotted over the cheese. Don’t completely cover the cheese. This way some bites will have sauce and some will not. It’s counterintuitive but that gives the sauce a more important role than usual. The bites without sauce make you notice the sauce in the bites that do have it.

Also, when building your Grandma pizza, resist the temptation to add extra cheese. A light hand is the way to go. This is not the time to go all “Garbage Pizza.” It’s all about the interplay between the dough, sauce, cheese and other toppings you may choose.

So next time you’re hankering for a little homemade pizza, remember Grandma knows best.

All recipes are based on an 18”x13” sheet pan and make 1 pie (about 6 servings.)

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough

1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)

2 tbsp. plus ½ cup olive oil, plus more for bowl

2 tsp. kosher salt

4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

Combine yeast and 1½ cups warm water (105–110°) in a large bowl; let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 10 minutes. Mix in 2 Tbsp. oil, then salt and 2 cups flour. Add another 2 cups flour, a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated and a shaggy dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth, and elastic, 10–12 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill 24 hours. Coat an 18×13” rimmed baking sheet with remaining ½ cup oil. Gently and gradually stretch dough until it reaches the edges of baking sheet. (If dough springs back or is stiff to work with, let it rest 10 minutes before continuing. You may need to let it rest more than once.) Cover dough on baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (but not too warm!—about 70° is ideal for yeast to grow) until it is puffed and full of air bubbles, 30–40 minutes.

Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce

Makes about 5 cups. This recipe doesn’t use the liquid from the can of tomatoes. Save it for a braise or stock.

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained

2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained

2 garlic cloves

6 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay); season with salt and pepper.

Classic Mozzarella Grandma Pie

This is the pizza margherita of square-shaped pie.

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2½ cups)

1½ cups Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce (recipe above)

Flaky sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving, optional)

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525°F. or as high as oven will go. Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes.

Black Olive And Provolone Grandma Pie

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2½ cups)

4 ounces sharp provolone cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

1½ cups Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce (recipe above)

¼ red onion, very thinly sliced

½ cup black olives, pitted, coarsely chopped

Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving, optional)

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525°F. or as high as oven will go. Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella and provolone, dot pie with tomato sauce, and top with onion and olives. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes.

Hot And Sweet Soppressata And Fennel Grandma Pie

If you prefer a spicy pie, use twice as much hot soppressata and none of the sweet type.

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2½ cups)

1 cup Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce (recipe above)

2 ounces thinly sliced hot soppressata

2 ounces thinly sliced sweet soppressata

½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2–3 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced

2 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated (about ½ cup)

¼ cup olive oil

Coarsely chopped fennel fronds, flaky sea salt, and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving, optional)

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525°F. or as high as oven will go. Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella, dot pie with tomato sauce, and top with hot and sweet soppressata, fennel, chiles, then Pecorino; drizzle with oil. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes. Serve topped with fennel fronds, sea salt, and red pepper flakes, if using.

Roasted Cauliflower And Ricotta Grandma Pie

Precooking the cauliflower and breadcrumbs means they will get toasty and crisp as the pie bakes. An extra step but well worth it.

For cauliflower:

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

1 lemon, cut into quarters, seeded

4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained

4 garlic cloves

¼ cup chopped drained capers

¼ cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For breadcrumbs:

1 cup finely ground breadcrumbs

¼ cup olive oil

2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)

To assemble:

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 1½ cups)

1 cup fresh ricotta

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To prepare cauliflower: Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss cauliflower, lemon, anchovies, garlic, and capers with oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice over cauliflower and toss to coat. Discard lemon and garlic, if desired.

To prepare breadcrumbs: Meanwhile, toss breadcrumbs and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; toss with Parmesan.

The cauliflower mixture and breadcrumbs can be prepared ahead of time if it is more convenient but it can be easily done while dough is getting its second rise.

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525°F. or as high as oven will go. Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella, dot with ricotta, and top with cauliflower mixture. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes. Top pie with toasted breadcrumbs and bake 1 minute longer. Serve topped with parsley.

Spicy Tuscan Kale And Ricotta Grandma Pie

Feel free to substitute other types of kale, such as curly or Red Russian, but make sure to pre-dress and massage the leaves as noted in the recipe.

1 bunch medium Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into 1” strips

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 1½ cups)

1 cup fresh ricotta

2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)

Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)

Toss kale with oil and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Massage dressing into kale with your fingers and let sit at room temperature 2 hours to soften (this will keep kale from getting too crispy when baked). Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525°F. or as high as oven will go. Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella, dot with ricotta, and top with kale and Parmesan. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes. Serve topped with red pepper flakes.

Mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil make the Grandma Pizza equivalent of Pizza Margherita.
http://pilotmountainnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/web1_Classic-Grandma.jpgMozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil make the Grandma Pizza equivalent of Pizza Margherita. Bill Colvard | The News

By Bill Colvard

bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

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