Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recreating Europe #1: Pizza the Wrong Way

If you are a reader of my blog, you may remember that I vowed to the world that I would try to recreate some of my memorable meals from Europe. My beau adored the pizza in Italy, so for the first entry in my "Recreating Europe" series, I wanted to try my hand at making Italian-style pizza.

Although I have regularly made homemade pizza, my pizza has never, ever come out tasting like Italian pizza. My dough is dense, heavy, and bready, rather than the light, chewy, tense, and elastic pizza dough of Italy. Therefore, for my first "Italian pizza," I was going to use semolina flour, instead of using all-purpose flour and plain ole' yeast from the supermarket. I went to the specialty food purveyor in the mall and bought a tiny $6.00 box of semolina pizza flour. After my purchase, I had completed step one in my "Italian pizza" mission.

Following the instructions on the box, I added water and kneaded the flour and water mixture until smooth. I immediately noticed the difference in the "feel" of the dough. The semolina dough was much moister and far more pliable than pizza doughs I had made in the past. Based on the silky and stretchy texture, it seemed like everything was going well.

Next, after using a rolling pin to roll out a wide crust, I judiciously spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the face of the exposed dough surface and nestled a few slices of mozzarella cheese into the sauce. I didn't shred the cheese or blanket the entire pizza in a snowstorm of mozzarella, like how I usually do. Just a few slices, here and there. I then excitedly slid the picture-perfect pizza into the preheated oven, and victoriously wiped my soiled hands on my apron.

When the pizza came out of the oven after 10 short minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, I picked off verdant leaves of basil, and placed them decoratively on the pizza. Also, I grabbed a bottle of olive oil and drizzled a bit over the basil leaves. I was ready for the taste!

Unfortunately, as I bit into the pizza slice, I instantly felt a huge letdown (in my stomach and my mind).

The pizza was far too sugary to taste anything like authentic Italian pizza. In Italy, the only sweetness in marinara sauce is from the natural sugars in the tomatoes. In fact, Italian pizza sauce tastes saltier, than it does sweet. For my pizza sauce, I lazily used a glass jar of Chunky Ragu, "Tomato, Garlic, and Onion" flavor. I knew in advance that Ragu, Prego, and other American brands of marinara and spaghetti sauce are loaded with corn syrup and other cloying sweeteners, and yet I used Ragu on the pizza anyway. Mistake number one.

Also, the dough from my pizza even tasted sweet, and straight-up generic. In fact, it tasted like Costco pizza crust, which was a disconcerting reality for me, given that I paid $6.00 for a box of the pizza flour, and a whole, cooked Costco pizza only costs $10.00. Man. Mistake number two.

Finally, the instructions on the box of pizza flour didn't say anything about oiling the baking sheet before placing the pizza on the sheet. I read the instructions twice, but thought maybe the olive oil inside the dough would prevent the crust from sticking on the baking sheet. Trusting the instructions without question, was my mistake number three.

Well, my pizza night wasn't a complete failure. The pizza was decent, though it still tasted Americanized, and therefore would have been substantially benefited by extra toppings, such as pepperoni, sausage, artichokes, pineapple, peppers, mushrooms, anchovies, onions, zucchini, and more cheese. Also, I learned several valuable lessons for the next time. For instance, for my next Italian pizza, I will make my own dough with semolina flour and salt, and make my own marinara sauce, without any help from the American spaghetti sauce makers.


  1. we get better through practice and learning from our mistakes. i'm sure the next time will be great.

    on the other hand being a blog reader on the other coast has its benefits. you know why? the pizza looked beautiful, and in my mind it tasted just perfect ;)

  2. Thanks so much RLo, it didn't taste bad, it just didn't taste at all authentic. :( Hopefully I will have better luck next time!

  3. When I make pizza at home, I just open up a can of tomato sauce (preferably w/ San Marzano tomatoes) rather than a prepared marina. It has the natural sweet flavor to it that way.

  4. PE, We've been experimenting with pizza dough too (and the results have been unspectacularly blah so these remain in the kitchen closet so to speak), but had a recent success using a pizza stone. It crisped up the bottom really well. In fact we are doing it again tonight!

  5. Hmm, I will definitely look for a can of tomato sauce with San Marzano tomatoes at Trader Joe's this weekend Charise, thanks for the advice!

    Ooo, I can't wait to see the results tonight, if you post them on your blog! I will save up to buy a pizza stone, on your excellent recommendation Foodhoe!

  6. Yum.. I love Italian style pizza. Have you tried Pizzeria Delfina? Just went last night, and I forget how amazing it is.

  7. The beau has tried it, and he says that it is "not all that." But I have to try it myself Generika. There are lots of places to visit with Dine About Town this month, so I'll be busy!


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