Monday, August 04, 2008

Sugo Crudo Pizza

Even though it's been quite a while now, I crave my lunchtime trips to the Sullivan Street Bakery, where I would get a huge slice of pizza bianca for only $1 or the pizza pomodoro. Thin crust, with a gorgeous topping of just tomatoes. Room temperature. Perfect.

Although I love pizzeria-style pizza, I can't seem to fall out of love with the Italian pizza I experienced a few years ago, very similar to the bakery's pizza. Thin and delicious.

At home, I try to recreate this pizza - one that exists in memory, perhaps not in reality. Like many things, don't we imagine things a lot sweeter than they actually were? In my mind, I still see the 20 year old sitting in Piazza Navona watching the beautiful people drinking the most beautiful cappucinos I have ever seen. I clearly remember ordering a pie with my friend in Rome. The pizza was not like anything I had tasted before or since, except for my all too brief rendezvous with Sullivan Street.

Being a bit of a perfectionist, I have tried and tried again with pizza. I refuse to give in and buy a pizza stone or do any of the 'tricks' to make pizzeria pizza. I know that it will never be the same. But it is not the pizza I am after anymore. I want the simple base, the simple topping. The tomato, gorgeous and naked, with the faintest sheen of olive oil.

So I went raw this past weekend. Raw tomatoes as my base. The base was already something I have been perfecting for a while now. It's the one from the NY Time's 'fried pizza experiment'. It's perfect, though it needs more water, so that the dough is almost meltingly smooth, a touch away from being sticky.

The base was about as simple as you get. A tomato, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, some salt, some chilli flakes, and a touch of the pasta seasoning my friend, Maria, from Norway gave to me -- but a mix of basil, oregano or parsley could work just as well. All whizzed together for a few seconds - the olive oil emulsifying the tomato sauce a bit to give it a glorious gazpacho-terracotta hue.

The base is stretched out into a circle with the hands -- eagerly, patiently. The tomato base goes on top. Then just a few gratings of pecorino romano and mozzarella finish this pizza off.

It doesn't need more than 15 minutes in a hot oven, as the base is so thin. It comes out crispy, delicious, heady with spice and garlic. Food of the gods, or at least, a Roman holiday.


Anna's kitchen table said...

Ilana, what a lovely post! Your pizza looks splendid, just like a 'real' Italian one :-)

Aspiring Mom2three said...

Love your blog! We love to make homemade pizza at our home. Since we frequently have it when friends or family come over, we make mini-pizza personalized for each person. A lot of work, but everyone loves making their own or putting in their request. For personal pans, we use cake pans, sprayed with olive oil to keep the dough from sticking. I've found that when I really started baking bread, I love the feel of the dough and kneeding. I don't really measure the flour anymore, but go by touch and how it looks. Happy baking!