Pizza Sauce

Time saver: whip up a fresh-tasting pizza sauce in no time.

I’ve been making a lot of pizza recently, and as a result I’ve been running out of the tomato paste I’d normally use for the pizza sauce. So, to save a trip to the supermarket I figured I’d make my own. It takes a little longer (not too much longer once you know what you’re doing), but tastes great and is definitely worth it.

This works really well on the New York Style Pepperoni and Mushroom, Blue Cheese and Pesto pizzas. I make this in a large saucepan since the bigger surface area leads to faster reduction.

Pizza Sauce (makes enough for two 12-14″ pizzas)

  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove or ½ tsp crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • (optional) freshly cracked black pepper to taste (crack over sauce once it’s spread on the pizza base)
  • (optional) 1 small onion, peeled, cut in half along equator OR 2 celery stalks cut in half lengthwise, chopped into 10cm lengths – these are used to imbue a bit of flavour, but are removed from the sauce before it’s used
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan, then add garlic and onion/celery if using. Saute briefly, then add tomatoes, sugar, oregano and salt.
  2. Stir frequently to prevent the sauce from catching, and keeping on a high heat, reduce down to about a quarter of the starting volume.
  3. Remove saucepand from heat, and then remove onion/celery from sauce and discard.
  4. The sauce may still have a few bigger chunks of tomato in it – I like these, but you could mash/blend/stick-mix them out.
  5. Spread 3-4 Tbsp over each pizza base, then season evenly with freshly cracked black pepper.
  6. If you’re only making one pizza you can freeze the leftover sauce, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days.
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Five minute artisan bread

Time saver: the bread takes five minutes to make, and you want to save time?? OK, OK, Phil reveals a simple bread recipe that also doubles as a great pizza dough (and keeps for two weeks in the fridge!).

Sliced Artisan LoafWhen Mum last came to visit she raved enthusiastically about a new bread recipe she’d come across and encouraged me to make it. Actually, she’d started raving about it a couple of weeks (months?) before she arrived, so when she did she brought the ingredients with her and whipped up a batch in no time. And just as she’d claimed, the results were pretty impressive.

Mum didn’t invent the recipe, and neither did I – it “originates” here – but this is the version that Mum dictated to me from memory, with some minor edits by me. (I put originates in quotes because it’s a pretty simple bread recipe involving just four ingredients, and people have been eating bread for thousands of years. The odds of these guys having uniquely stumbled across this particular combination are pretty slim. There’s a separate discussion here that we’ll have to get into sometime – who owns/invents a recipe? At what point have you made enough changes to a recipe to call it your own? Most recipe books really just contain versions of existing recipes, and a pretty big part of cooking is reproducing things people can recognise, so there’s an awful lot of copying and duplication going on.)

The basic idea with this bread is that you mix up a dough, leave it to rise for a couple of hours, then stick it in the fridge where it will keep for up to two weeks. Whenever you want a loaf of bread you grab a lump of dough, let it rise for a bit then bake it. Voila, fresh bread. And as I’ve mentioned previously – the dough can also be used for pizza bases on demand. (Don’t underestimate the brilliance of this feature. Stuck for dinner ideas? Bust out some dough and whip up a pizza or calzone in no time.)

The loaves it makes aren’t huge, but enough to feed two people comfortably for lunch. They’re best eaten the day they’re made, but will keep for a couple of days. Towards the end of their life they’re probably best sliced and toasted – I find a bit of avocado on some toasted artisan bread pretty irresistible. The loaves are supposed to be round, but for some reason mine always turn out oval shaped – something to do with how I’m cutting the slashes into the top.

And did I mention that there’s no kneading involved?

Small Artisan LoafFive Minute Artisan Bread – makes 4 small loaves (or 5 12″ pizza bases)

  • 6½ c plain unbleached flour (not “high grade” – you want 10.5g -12g gluten per 100g, also, all flour in NZ is unbleached)
  • 1½ Tbsp lightly-textured salt (e.g. fine rock salt, salt flakes etc, fine table salt too fine, rock salt too rocky – roughly 25g salt) (UPDATE: I decided to experiment with iodised table salt to see what difference it made. It didn’t really make any, so feel free to use it. I used a little less, around 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp with no ill effect. If you’re worried about iodine deficiency, then it’s a good option.)
  • 1½ Tbsp dried yeast (any yeast will work including Surebake, you can reduce the amount of yeast if left to sit longer during the initial rise. I’ve been using about 2 tsp of dried active yeast.)
  • 3 c warm water
  1. In a large bowl, put warm water and yeast and stir.
  2. Add salt and flour and mix with a large wooden spoon. Should be a wet dough mixture, mix till combined – it should look rough and wet (for bread).
  3. Cover it with a non-airtight lid (e.g. lid or Gladwrap) until it rises up and then starts to flatten off and fall. This should take around two hours, but depends on the amount of yeast/ambient temperature etc. (It’s also fine if you forget about it and leave it overnight.) Then put it in the fridge.
  4. After 2 hours in the fridge (approx) it’s firm enough to handle. Sprinkle part of the top with a little flour. Grab a handful of the floured dough, pull it up then cut it off with scissors, for a lump of dough about the size of a large grapefruit.
  5. Have a bowl/baking sheet ready with some flour and drop the lump of dough into it, then “cloak”, forming into a rounded boule shape by stretching the top layer and tucking the dough underneath. It’s fine to use a bit of flour to do this.Dough Shaped Into Boule
  6. Put it on a sheet of baking paper and leave it uncovered for 40-90 mins. Flour the top, then cut six or so slashes across the top of it with a sharp knife – about 1-2cm deep.Artisan Dough With Slashed Top
  7. Place bread on a pre-heated tray (if you have a pizza stone, use it) in the middle of a hot oven (e.g. around 250°C with fan bake), with an empty oven tray beneath it (on a lower rack). As you put the bread in, add 1 cup of water to the empty oven tray. (This will cause steam resulting in a glossier finish.) Bake for around 25-30 minutes – you can check after 17 mins or so to see if the bread is cooking evenly, and turn it if not. The longer you cook it, the thicker and crispier the crust – you get a really good crust after baking for 30 minutes and after you take it out of the oven the bread will make a faint crackling sound as it cools. Smaller roll-sized loaves will still take about 20-25 minutes to bake.
  8. Allow to cool before eating.

Artisan Loaf Out of the OvenFive Minute Pizza Dough

Pizza baseDo everything exactly the same as for the artisan bread up to (and including) step 5. Then, after forming the dough into a round lump, just spread it out into a pizza base. (If you leave it on the bench for 30-60 minutes to warm up it will be much easier to roll out.) You can use a rolling pin, or just use your hands and stretch it like a real Italian. You’ll probably need to apply a bit of flour as you go to stop it from sticking. Once you’ve got the base spread out, smother it in your favourite toppings. Then bake in a hot oven (230°C) for around 14 minutes. You don’t need to wait for it to rise, just use it straight away. For a thin crust, use a bit less dough and stretch it thin. For a thicker crust do the opposite. Forget that bit about allowing to cool before eating too.

New York Style Pepperoni Pizza

Time saver: Phil saves you a trip to Manhattan (well, Sal’s at least).

New York Style Pizza SliceIf you haven’t had Sal’s authentic New York pizza, and you live in Auckland, you should go and have some. It’s $5 for the first slice, and $4 thereafter, and unless you’re some kind of insane eating machine that means it’ll cost you $9 to feel satisfyingly bloated and full. Once you’ve done that, you can cut out the middle-man, and make this instead (but at least you’ll know what you’re aiming for). A couple of years ago I probably would have turned my nose down at this pizza – thinking it’s not-very-complicated topping lacked interest. Now that I’ve tasted it, I’ve seen the light.

Unlike my last pizza, I’m going to go ahead and say that home-made pizza dough is a must. Bought bases save time, but since there’s really not much to this pizza you have to make sure everything is premium, and I’ve never seen a pre-made base that would do it justice. Likewise, with my last pizza I was happy to use cheddar cheese, with this one I’m saying mozarella all the way.

New York Style Pepperoni Pizza

  • 12″ pizza base (home-made, medium-thin with slightly higher edges)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove or ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt
  • 1-2 c grated mozarella (125g is roughly 1 cup when grated)
  • 100g good quality pepperoni, sliced
  1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C (about 450°F). If you’ve got a pizza stone, use it, otherwise just put one of your trays in to heat.
  2. Roll out/manhandle pizza base to a 12″ circle, then place on a sheet of baking paper. The base should be thin in the centre, and slightly raised around the edges.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, olive oil and garlic, mix well.
  4. Spread tomato paste over pizza base, going right to the edges.
  5. Crack some black pepper and salt over the base, then sprinkle with cheese. Leave a centimetre or two clear around the edges. For a real New York pizza, use about 150g of grated mozarella to get that mottled, not-quite-cheese-covered look.
  6. Spread pepperoni slices over the cheese – they’ll shrink a bit when cooked.
  7. Put the pizza in the oven (with baking paper) on your pre-heated tray/pizza stone. Cook for 14 minutes or so, until the base is cooked and the cheese is melted and golden.

Whole New York Style Pizza