Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Capturing that elusive taste of pizza in Italy


OliverB
 Share

Recommended Posts

I don't know what it is, but pizza almost always tastes different in Italy than anywhere else, and I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it the crust? can't be, I have tried so many different variations, not that they're all that different.

The sauce? Probably

The cheese? Quite likely

The toppings? Depends I guess.

Then I had a pizza from Whole Foods this week, a simple peperoni (meaning pizza with red sauce, cheese and salami, not sure why they're called peperoni when there's no pepperoni in the meat?) and it was there, that elusive taste or almost feeling of some sort, that taste from Italy. I can't even describe it, it's a taste, a mouth feel, and also a feeling just going down my chest when I inhale the smell.

I do have a suspicion, maybe there is a bit of anchovy in the sauce? Not enough to stand out, but to add that certain touch that you can't define? Of course the cheese and toppings were top quality, but I've used similar and it's still not the right taste. Whole Foods has a fake wood fired oven, it's probably gas heated and in the back is a gas flame flickering away, so it's not the wood fired thing either.

Any ideas? I'm sorry I can't really describe the taste/feel I'm after, I know it was there in that pizza and I will try to add a bit anchovies to my sauce next time. But I'm also curious what others might think?

Nothing beast a pizza eaten in some side ally or on a nice ancient plazza in Italy, but it would be nice to come closer to The Taste.

Oliver

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most pizzerias in Italy (and the best ones here) don't use a cooked sauce at all -- just a coarse puree of high-quality canned plum tomatoes and a little salt. I can immediately taste it when a pizzeria is using a cooked sauce.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm...the lovely weather, the stunning landscapes, the gorgeous people?! Ok, on a food related basis, I think the dough is much nicer than what you get here in the UK, although the situation has improved a lot in some restaurants (I am NOT talking about pizza hut!). The tomato is also always so wonderfully flavoursome. Good quality mozzerella too. I dunno, I am tempted to think that it's because they take such pride in their pizzas and keep the toppings nice and simple. A simple tomato and mozzerella topping with maybe just a sprig of basil tastes so good when done with care and attention. Sure, I like making home-made pizzas and shoving as much on top as possible, but I don't really regard those kind of pizzas as "proper".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

one of these days I'll make my own mozarella to put on top, use tomatoes from my inlaw's garden. I really can't put a finger on it, there's a something to pizza in Italy, even at touristy places, and I can't recreate it. Maybe you're right and it's the secret ingredient of _being_ in Italy?

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I worked a whole shift in a pizza joint in Romagna, so that makes me an expert.

Right?

Ok, maybe not - I was basically a runner.

There weren't really any secrets to the dough (I have the recipe somewhere), the sauce (tomatoes and salt), the toppings. We had a wood fired oven that got freakishly hot - the pizzas were done in a minute or minute and a half. Really, really fast. The crust was really, really thin. Other than that, I don't know. I've never ventured south of Rome, so the pizza mecca of Naples is not in my experience. I will say that the place where I was made some of the best pizza I've ever had, and that Ive also had pretty mediocre pizza in Italy.

One other comment I know from a guy who grew up on a farm in Canada, was chef in Canada, and also cooked in Italy. He felt the ingredients there tasted "old" (his word). Not that they were stale or past their best before date or something, but that they came from lands that had been worked not for a few decades, but hundreds of years. They had a mature, lived in quality to them. Terroir if you will, to an extent that newly farmed lands on this side of the pond may not have.I actually think he may have something there.

Then, there is the just being in Italy element. That can't hurt.

Cheers,

Geoff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There weren't really any secrets to the dough (I have the recipe somewhere)

Geoff, please find the recipe and post Per favore

Edited by Aloha Steve (log)

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There weren't really any secrets to the dough (I have the recipe somewhere)

Geoff, please find the recipe and post Per favore

I'll see if I can find it. I've actually been meaning to post it on here for eons because it'll actually be easier for me to find!

It was a bulk recipe though - for about 50 pizzas if I recall correctly. And it used italian flour.

But it really wasn't anything earth shaking. I've said this here before - I don't think it's the flour, the recipe, even the tomatoes, the cheese or the ovens. it might be all those things, in the right circumstances.

I do remember the recipe for the sauce though - tomatoes and salt. We didn't even use San Marzano and the mozza or whatever it was came pre-shredded out of a plastic bag. But damn the pizzas were good.

I'll look for the recipe and post it.Library - 0330.jpg

That's Demis, the pizza man.

Cheers,

Geoff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most pizzerias in Italy (and the best ones here) don't use a cooked sauce at all -- just a coarse puree of high-quality canned plum tomatoes and a little salt. I can immediately taste it when a pizzeria is using a cooked sauce.

I wasn't aware of this. You're saying that (some, most?) American pizzerias cook a sauce first in a pot, then spread it on the pizza, and bake it (cooking the sauce a second time)?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that's all very interesting, thanks! I'll look for some good canned Italian tomatoes and will just use salt. I often added other things, oregano, garlic etc. I'll leave that for the topping.

the super hot oven probably plays a role too. I'm almost proud owner of a Big Green Egg, which supposedly can heat up to 650+ degree and can be used as pizza oven. I might one day build a real one, but the BGE seems to fit the purpose for now, and it's a great BBQ and smoker too. Building a real one is not that hard either, you can buy prefab pieces that go together like lego, but it's expensive and once it's there, it's there. You can't move it, so you better be sure where you want to have it :)

I'd love to see that dough recipe too, if you can find it!

The "oldness" of Italy is also an interesting point. I can see where that makes sense, it does with wine it seems.

Thanks all!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that's all very interesting, thanks! I'll look for some good canned Italian tomatoes and will just use salt. I often added other things, oregano, garlic etc. I'll leave that for the topping.

I think you will not find in Italy the use of copious toppings that are ubiquitous in the United States. Obviously the overall amount of toppings is less, of course. But certainly nowhere near the prevalence of oregano (especially dry) and garlic. If you want an Italian-tasting pizza at home, I suggest a thin slick of roughly milled (by you!) San Marzano tomatoes, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a few blobs of the best fresh mozzarella you can find (preferably never having been cold refrigerated). Out of the oven, toss on a few leafs of fresh basil.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One other comment I know from a guy who grew up on a farm in Canada, was chef in Canada, and also cooked in Italy. He felt the ingredients there tasted "old" (his word). Not that they were stale or past their best before date or something, but that they came from lands that had been worked not for a few decades, but hundreds of years. They had a mature, lived in quality to them. Terroir if you will, to an extent that newly farmed lands on this side of the pond may not have.I actually think he may have something there.

Then, there is the just being in Italy element. That can't hurt.

Cheers,

Geoff

I was thinking along the same lines. Your attempt may be all in vain. What makes the pizza in Italy so different from your homemade pizza? It may be something ethereal in their water, their produce (and soil), their olive oil and other ingredients, even something in their air.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll make some mozarella myself next time I make a pizza. I can mill the tomatoes and will keep things simple. Good to mention to add the basil after cooking, as it turns a rather dull brown/green if cooked. Even if put on too quickly after the thing comes out of the oven.

This is making me hungry!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd love to see that dough recipe too, if you can find it!

I had a quick look in the spots I thought it'd be. Alas, I did not find my little green notebook that has that (and a bunch of other) recipes I brought back with me.

If/when I find it, I'll post. But it's not gonna change your world I don't think. It's just a pretty standard dough recipe.

Cheers,

Geoff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is an authentic dough recipe from the Caputo website- http://www.molinocaputo.it/eng/homeEng.htm click "recipes" at the bottom. More than likely when you were in Italy you tasted crust made with Caputo Pizzeria flour. While it is available in the States it doesn't perform well in home ovens (too cool).

I would sub the Caputo with high quality unbleached AP flour, or bread flour if you want more chew. After the dough is made put it in the fridge for 48 hours to develop some flavor. Bake it on a stone pre heated in your oven for 30-45 min as high as it will go. Slkinsey's topping are the way to go too. I prefer the basil before baking, as is tradition in Naples but that is a personal preference.

Good Luck,

Jeff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Ok, found my little notepad.

Here's the recipe as I wrote it at the time from Demis the pizzaman. (For @50 pizzas of @200g)

10 kg of farina O

4.5 L of cold water

1 L of sunflower oil

300g salt

3 packets (like you'd add to coffee) of sugar

100g brewers yeast

Mix everything except flour, then add 1kg at a time.

When mixed, let sit covered at room temp for 20 mins

Then put in a plastic bag in the fridge to rise

Well, that's it. Looks like it could easily be scaled down. Not sure if you need the sugar. Seems like quite a bit of oil? But I do know Demis made really good pizza with very thin crusts that still had a bit of chew to them.

Cheers,

Geoff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I ve been doing pizza for a while and this current recipe is good, as good as Italian ones i ve had

00 soft Italian Flour 100 %

46% of cold water not chilled not hot tap water if its not hard and soapy will do just fine, some use bottled water in such cases

3 g of instant dry yeast per kg of flour

10 g salt per kg of flour

100 ml olive oil per Kg of flour

Add everything into the dough mixer, just keep the salt and yeast separate(!), run on speed 1 till a dough is formed and then speed 2 for 8 min till the dough when rolled into the palm of your hand dont " split " at the surface

Prove it for 1 hr, knock down and cut into portions 180 g for a 12 inch pizza

The sauce is the best if its the canned San Marzano variety in Pulp just make sure not too big chunks are floating in there

A combination of buffalo mozza and commercial pizza cheese works best

THE MAIN TRICK : Take the oven as fast or as high you can 400 deg C is good

It should cook the pizza in tops 2 minutes with the charred edges !!

also spin the pizza around once and keep the door slightly ajar, found it makes the pizza crispier

Link to comment
Share on other sites

evilchef: I'm a novice home pizza/bread maker at best, and maybe this is where I'm falling down, but should that recipe contain more than 3g of dried yeast per kg of flour?

Sounds like it would be ok. A sachet of yeast is 7 or 8 grams and a nice slow rise dough uses as little as half a tsp (about 2.5 grams) for that much or more flour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Evilchef's recipe is completely dependent on a blazing hot oven ... he says 400C, but I bet that's pushing it on the low side. 46% hydration will give you a crust like shoe leather in a home oven, where baking times are more like 6 to 8 minutes. And 00 Italian flour works especially poorly at low temps / long times.

Here's a tip on the tomato sauce: Use good quality canned tomatoes (the genuine Italian ones are often good but not always) ... remember any brand that you like, and TASTE the tomatoes, every time. I don't think any brand is consistent.

Unless you're very lucky, most canned tomatoes have a bit of bitter / metallic taste to them that needs to be handled.

Here's a method that I find works with a range of tomatoes (provided they're basically good):

- pass tomatoes through a food mill using the fine disk. this should remove any stray skins and most of the seeds.

- pour into a very fine strainer or chinois that's set over a bowl. do not force through the strainer. allow liquid to drip through for 10 minutes or so. Pour this strained liquid back into the strainer, and allow to drip for another 10 or 15 minutes. The liquid that drips through the strainer this time should be mostly clear.

-taste the liquid that has dripped through. if it's not bitter, you're done. If it IS bitter, discard the liquid. add a few ounces of water to the puree in the strainer, and wait 10 or 15 minutes for liquid to drip through. Repeat until liquid that drips through has lost its bitterness.

-pour puree from strainer into a bowl. Taste and carefully season.

The traditional seasoning is salt and nothing but. However, canned tomatoes are often presalted and may not need any added.

Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, they MAY need a bit of added acid (like red wine vinnegar) and in rare cases a bit of sugar or honey.

I'm also partial to black pepper.

Add herbs at your peril; the neopolitan police may kick down your door.

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the dough recipe that I've been working on. It's intended for a home oven; I bake at 550F, but people get good results at 500.

Results are a bit crisper and chewier than traditional Neapolitan. I don't think the flavor is as good as the best doughs made with starter, but it's the best I've had from commercial yeast.

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...