Pizzeria Mozza’s Margherita Pizza


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The Next Best Thing to Pizzeria Mozza’s Pizza

Now that I’m off for the summer, Raj has been on my back to up my pizza game. After ten years of our traditional ‘Friday Night Pizza,’ (red sauce, mozzarella ,and pepperoni) he’s been craving something different—a nicer way of saying he wants something better.

At Christmas time, we had the pleasure of stopping by Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach to get our Mozza fix, and since then Mozza has been on the mind—so much so that my dad’s father’s day gift was a gift card to eat there. (Never mind the fact that my dad liked the pizza, but thought it was overpriced!)

My last venture with anything related to Nancy Silverton’s bread making was years ago when I purchased her Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur. The fact that the title uses the word connoisseur should have been reason enough not to buy the book, but I did. And I was scared of every recipe in it because it requires a ‘starter,’ which takes 14 days to grow, not to mention you need to feed the starter three times a day for the rest of your baking life. Or it dies!

Anyway, despite my trepidation to any recipe related to bread baking and Nancy Silverton, I recently bought the Mozza Cookbook with the lofty goal of making a better pizza to get out of our pizza rut.

I decided to make the traditional Margherita: mozzarella, tomato, and basil, using the Passata di Pompodoro recipe for the tomato sauce, as the test pizza. Nothing fancy or exotic, just the basics.

The pizza was awesome, but this is not a recipe every Friday night. Making this pizza took most of my afternoon (getting in the way of SUP’ing, yoga, and relaxing), but it was worth the effort. The dough makes six individual pizzas, but I cut it in half and made one large pizza and froze the rest. Next time, I’ll make the dough thinner because just letting it sit for ten minutes before cooking while the oven was heating caused the dough to ‘proof’ a little bit more causing it to be kind of thick crusted, which was not what I was going for. Anyway, here’s the recipe for the dough, the sauce, and the Margherita pizza.

Stay tuned for this weekend’s pizza, squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata.

Mozza Pizza Dough

Makes enough dough for 6 pizzas; each pizza serves 1

Ingredients

•22 ounces warm tap water (2 cups, 6 ounces)

•1⁄2 ounce (1 Tbsp) compressed yeast or 1 tsp active dry yeast

•26 ounces unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed

•1⁄2 ounce (1 Tbsp) dark rye flour or medium rye flour

•1 1⁄2 tsp wheat germ

•1 1⁄2 tsp barley malt or mild-flavored honey, such as clover or wildflower

•1⁄2 ounce (1 Tbsp) kosher salt

•Olive oil, grape seed oil, or another neutral flavored oil, such as canola oil, for greasing the bowl

Directions

1. To make the sponge, put 15 ounces of the water and the yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add 13 ounces of the bread flour, the rye flour, and the wheat germ. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Wrap the bowl tightly in plastic wrap and tightly wrap the perimeter of the bowl with kitchen twine or another piece of plastic wrap to further seal the bowl. Set the dough aside at room temperature (ideally 68 to 70 degrees) for 1 1⁄2 hours.

2. Uncover the bowl and add the remaining 7 ounces of water, the remaining 13 ounces of bread flour, and the barley malt. Fit the mixer with a dough hook, place the bowl on the mixer stand, and mix the dough on low-speed for 2 minutes. Add the salt and mix on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Note that the dough will not pull so much that it completely cleans the bowl, but if the dough is too sticky and is not pulling away from the sides at all, throw a small handful of flour into the bowl to make it less sticky. While the dough is mixing, lightly grease with olive oil a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. Turn the dough out of the mixer into the oiled bowl. Wrap the bowl as before. Set the dough aside at room temperature for 45 minutes. Dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Acting as if the round has four sides, fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Turn the dough over and return it, folded side down, to the bowl. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and set it aside for 45 minutes.

3. Dust your work surface again lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal segments, each weighing approximately 7 ounces. Gently tuck the edges of each round of dough under itself. Cover the dough rounds with a clean dishtowel and let them rest for 5 minutes.

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4. Lightly flour your hands and use both hands to gather each round of dough into a taut ball. Dust a baking sheet generously with flour and place the dough rounds on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with the dishtowel and set them again at room temperature for 1 hour to proof the dough. (Or leave the dough on the counter to proof instead.)

 

Passata di Pomodoro

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Ingredients

•2 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, including their juices (such as San Marzano)

•1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

•1 tablespoon sugar, plus more as desired

• 1 scant tablespoon kosher salt

• 1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Pass the tomatoes, including their juices, through a food mill into a large bowl.

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2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato purée slowly as it will splatter when it hits the oil. Stir in the sugar, salt, and pepper, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.

3. Use the passata or set it aside to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to several days or freeze for up to several months.

Margherita: Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil

Ingredients

•1 round of pizza dough

•1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

•Kosher salt

•1/4 cup Passata di Pompodoro

•3 ounces low moisture mozzarella, cut into 6 clumps

•Finishing quality extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon

•fresh basil leaves

Directions

1. Prepare and stretch the dough and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush the rim of the dough with olive oil and season the entire surface with salt. Ladle the sauce onto the center of the dough, spreading out sauce leaving 1-inch rim without any sauce. Scatter pieces of cheese over the pizza, slide into the oven, and bake until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown and crispy, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and cut into quarters. Drizzle the pizza with the finishing qua lit olive oil, snip the basil leaves over the top, and serve.

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Way Too Much Work Veal Meatball Pie


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In my recent quest to make Friday Night Pizza more interesting than the usual “Raj’s Pizza,” comprised of red sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella (for the past six years!), I’m continually seeking out pies that will sway Raj towards variety. The latest, a Veal Meatball Pie, was amazing, but WAY too much work for anyone who works, has a life, hobbies, a dog that needs walking… The recipe is comprised of FIVE separate recipes (which I had to break down between two days) if you count making the pizza dough, sauce, meatballs, caramelizing the onions, and compiling the pizza…but for those of you with lots of time and motivation, knock yourselves out. Raj says this is a keeper–but then it would have to be relegated to Saturday Night Pizza–he won’t be seeing the likes of this pie anytime soon.

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Veal Meatball Pie

  • 1 ball of dough–I used is the same one I always use–my whole wheat standard (see Raj’s Friday Night Pizza)
  • 1/4 cup Basic Tomato Sauce (see below)
  • About 2 ounces fresh Mozzarella, pulled into 5 clumps
  • Scant 1 tbl Caramelized onions (Oh my God–all that work–1 HOUR of pure devotion for 1 tablespoon of them?! See below)
  • About 5 pitted Alfonso olives–good luck finding these at any other place than Whole Foods (Did I mention shopping for the ingredients took lots of time too?)
  • About 3 tbl Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 4 or 5 Veal Meatballs, broken in half
  1. Put pizza stone in oven about 8″ from broiler. Preheat oven on bake at 5oo degrees for 30 minutes. Switch to broil for 10 minutes.
  2. Place dough on pizza stone (you can also assemble the pie on a peel and then slide it onto the stone, but I’ve never had luck doing this), spoon tomato sauce over surface and spread evenly, leaving about an inch of the rim untouched. Distribute mozzarella over the sauce. Space meatballs evenly over the pie. Distribute the onions evenly on top, then the olives. Sprinkle the Parmagiano.
  3. Broil for 4 1/2 minutes under gas until the top is bubbling and the crust is nicely charred but not burnt.
  4. Using the peel (yes, I use it here with the help of a spatula), transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Sprinkle additional Parmagiano over the pie. Slice and serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce (SO SIMPLE that it really shouldn’t be called sauce)

  • 28 ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Using your hands, squish the tomatoes in a bowl. 
  2. Stir in olive oil and salt. (I only used about half of the sauce and froze the rest for next week’s pizza)

Veal Meatballs

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  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1/2 medium Idaho potato, peeled
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbl whole milk
  • 1 tbl canola oil
  1. Bring salted water to gentle boil in medium saucepan and cook the potato until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and then pass through food mill (which I don’t have so I grated it).
  2. Add the veal, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme leaves, and milk and blend thoroughly, but gently, with your hands. With moistened hands, roll into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. You should have about 35 to 40.
  3. Coat a saute pan with the oil and brown the meatballs for about 7 or 8 minutes over medium heat, until they medium (just a bit pink in the center). Set aside until you are ready to use them, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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Caramelized Onions

  • 3 medium onions
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Cut the onions in half and then into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. With your fingers, separate the slices into strips and put them in a medium bowl. Toss with the vinegar, oil, and thyme leaves.
  2. Transfer the onions to a 10-inch saute pan. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Do not burn. Uncover the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and soft, about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with the salt, transfer to a platter, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

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Not Raj’s Regular Friday Night Pizza–Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza


So the traditional Friday night routine of Raj’s favorite pizza has kind of come to a slow death. With our multi-step progression of moves, our lack of a working kitchen up until recently, and my boredom of the same pizza every Friday for the last several years, I finally took a stand a switched it up a little. Here’s my first attempt at a deviation:
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Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza
  • 1 whole wheat pizza dough (see Raj’s Friday night pizza post for the recipe)
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 1 half red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • parmesan cheese, to taste
  • 10 ounces, mozzarella di buffalo
  • about 10 slices of prosciutto

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and brown sugar and toss/stir for several minutes, or until onions are brown and cooked. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle on a little salt, followed by a little parmesan.

Lay slices of mozzarella evenly over the top of the crust. Arrange caramelized onions over the top of the mozzarella. Randomly lay slices of prosciutto over the onions.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the lower half of the oven, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and cut into squares. Serve immediately.

I’m happy to report that despite Raj’s reluctance, he happily enjoyed the switch and he is looking forward to a next Friday night’s “Surprise Friday Night Pizza.” Stay tuned.

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The accompaniment, a sparkling Vouvray.

 

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Channeling My Inner Domestic Goddess with Friday Night Pizza


Getting used to doing NOTHING is difficult. There’s only so much running (in a not so nice gym and on a treadmill to boot) and lonely yoga one can do before insanity sets in. I’ve organized the home as much as possible, I have nothing to buy (and have shopping issues–see post 1 number 9 on the list), and no friends. What’s a girl to do? Cook.

Friday night pizza has been a tradition of Raj and mine for years. I’ve been sick of it for years because there’s no deviation from the type of pizza that is served. It’s always the same: whole wheat crust, tomato sauce, pepperoni on his side, and mozzarella (barely any on my side). I’ve occasionally and unsuccessfully tried to slip in a fig and prosciutto pizza with arugula, or even a white pizza, but Raj always insists on what he considers the gold standard–pepperoni. [If you’ve ever been invited to our home for dinner, you’ve most likely had THIS pizza. It would seem to most that this is my ONLY recipe. I only make pizza. Not true. I love to cook, but this is the dish Raj wants to share with EVERYONE.] If you’d like to see an homage to Raj and HIS pizza, here’s a link to Penzey’s catalog. The recipe was featured last fall: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/recipes/JenniferPalumboMaan.html

Similar to the eggplant caponata of the previous post, there’s always a Middle Eastern snag. Here in Jordan (as you might have guessed) pork products are nearly impossible to find (and I’ve scoured three grocery stores thus far).  What we’re left with is  “beef” pepperoni and it’s not pretty. In fact, it reminds me of bologna. Yum.

Despite my trepidation to return to the kitchen with the lack of ventilation and the propane burning oven (you can see the blue flame burning brightly inside the oven where the heating element is usually housed), I gathered up my strength and courage and mightily slew the culinary dragons lurking in the open cabinets to prepare a feast like none other.  Here’s the menu (keeping in mind that everything is made from SCRATCH):

  • Focaccia with rosemary and sea salt served with caponata
  • Breadsticks and marinara sauce
  • Raj’s Pepperoni (bologna) Pizza
  • Pine nut and rosemary biscotti
It was a beautiful spread and I congratulated myself mightily. Raj commented that the crust on the pizza wasn’t as good as it was back home. I pushed. “What?” He claimed it must be the oven or the water. He still LOVED it, but it’s different, like everything else here. A taste of home, but with a Middle Eastern slant.