When American G.I.s returned home at the end of WWII, the ones stationed in Italy brought with them a hunger for the Italian national treasure—pizza. Now, all these years later, pizza seems as American as baseball and apple pie. Of course, over time, "American" pizza has evolved bigger and grown more complex than its humble Italian namesake. My recipe is more about how the Italians do it—less cheese, fewer toppings and a crunchy crust. Using local pizzeria or store-bought raw dough, or prepared crusts, makes any night a pizza night! Buon appetito~
*1 pound raw pizza dough, purchased from your local pizzeria or grocery store (if not available, use your favorite store-bought pizza crust)
1 cup strained tomatoes (tomato puree may be substituted)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 8-ounce ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Parmesan cheese may be substituted)
Topping Combinations (for 3 pizzas, if using 1 pound raw dough):
For a Pizza Margherita:
3 tomatoes, cored, deseeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
9 to 12 fresh basil leaves, whole
For a zucchini & onion:
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-rounds
For a potato & sausage:
3 red potatoes, washed but not peeled, thinly sliced
1 pound of prepared sausage, sliced and precooked (use your favorite smoked sausage: Italian, Cajun, Chorizo, Kielbasa, etc.)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary
Added to the Pizza Margherita, after it comes out of the oven:
4-ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 5-ounce package of arugula
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. I recommend using a pizza stone. If you don't have a pizza stone, you may use a baking sheet or pizza pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, oregano, salt and oil. Set aside.
Divide the pizza dough into 3 equal parts. Roll the dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface, forming the dough into a freeform shape, until the dough is about 1/4-inch-thick.
Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of the sauce across the surface of the dough stopping about a 1/2-inch before the edge. Randomly place 3 slices of mozzarella on the sauce and add one-third of the your favorite topping combination from above. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano across the toppings and an additional drizzle of olive oil.
Cook in the oven on either a pizza stone or baking sheet until the cheese is melted and bubbly with the crust nicely browned, about 8 to 12 minutes.
Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut into slices or, as the Italians would do, eat whole with a knife and fork.
Mark Leslie Recently seen on NBC's Today Show, Mark Leslie loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone ofMore >>
Mark Leslie, recently seen on NBC's Today Show, loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placedMore >>