Pizza 101

Martha Stewart Living Television

Making pizza is an ideal activity for those who like to live the Italian way vicariously. And for the lucky ones, it is a ritualistic way to return to their roots. Start by making your dough (pasta). Let it rise (falla lievitare), punch it down (sgonfiala), and toss it into the air (gettala in aria). After enough pulling and stretching, the dough should surrender into a thin elastic circle.

Brush a rich tomato sauce onto the dough, swishing back and forth as if painting a vast fresco. Imported canned tomatoes make a fine sauce. Scatter cheese (il formaggio), basil (il basilico), and one or two other carefully selected ingredients over the sauce. Be discerning; your pizza and toppings need to get along. Classic combinations exist for a reason. Some are so loved, they are ordered by name: pizza margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) and pizza quattro stagioni (ham, mushrooms, artichokes, and anchovies), for example. Pizza prosciutto is also a favorite, with prosciutto, artichokes, and mozzarella.

When you finish scattering the mozzarella, clap your hands together right above the pizza (this is essential). Half blessing and half suggestion, it is a hint that the pizza should behave. Place it in a very hot oven (il forno), using a pizza peel sprinkled with flour. Then close the door, and wait for it to emerge -- thin, golden, hot, and bubbly. Perfetto.

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