Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Adventures in pizza making

Oh, pizza. How I love it, in all its forms. From the thick, gooey, doughy hunks that make the perfect post-pub takeaway (Domino’s I’m looking at you – and yes, I’ll probably be in touch soon) to the actual “proper” stuff that they eat in Italy, with a crisp crust stretched thin and an elegantly restrained amount of topping.

I’m a regular patron of the Pizza Express chain and I generally order the same thing – the Soho, which is essentially a margherita topped with rocket, Parmesan shavings and a drizzle of olive oil, and at 13 WW points it is workable as a dinner with a little bit of austerity earlier in the day. Pizza Express has recently challenged its diners to come up with a new pizza topping – and while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to improve on my beloved Soho, the prospect of a £5000 prize AND a place on the Pizza Express menu was enough to make me pause for thought.

I wanted to do something that had a recognisable culinary link to Italy and traditional Italian cooking. And, for some reason, my thoughts turned towards a pasta dish that D cooked about a year ago which consisted of ravioli filled with a roasted butternut squash puree, subtly flavoured with amaretti biscuits, and then tossed in a sage butter. Apparently this is a dish most famously found in the Cremona region of Italy, and is traditionally called tortelli di zucca.

I liked the idea of squash roasted with sage on top of a pizza. I thought that adding amaretti biscuits might be a step too weird alongside all the other flavours that I would need, but liked the idea of a bit of crunchy texture, so added a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds just before serving. I was a bit concerned that the sweet squash would fight with a sweet tomato base, so made this a pizza bianchi, flavouring ricotta with roasted garlic, a touch of lemon zest and a hint of Parmesan cheese before spreading it on the pizza base (shop bought, much to my chagrin – I must try and make my own dough at some point) and topping it with the roasted squash, some roasted red onion (to add another savoury note) and, of course, mozzarella.


It looks a bit of a mess but I'm still rather proud - it tasted yummy, although was quite rich.  I didn't actually calculate the points but I'm guessing it wouldn't be too terrible if you used half fat mozzarella (which I've found melts just as well as the normal stuff) and didn't roast the squash and onion with much oil.

D had a go too and his was far prettier than mine:

Behold the pizza puttanesca - also based on a classic pasta dish.  The sauce was absolutely delicious - baby plum tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and a touch of chilli all whizzed together and then topped with mozzarella (of course) and more anchovies and olives.  We decided it was a bit of a marmite pizza - if you love those strong, salty flavours then likely you would love this, but if not it would be a bit much.

Whether or not we win the £5000, it was fun to do and I must say I am rather inspired to do some more creating - although I've promised myself that I will actually make my own dough next time!

1 comment:

  1. ooooo i love pizza, one of the many reasons why i have to be on ww :D