Bocconcini, Cherry Tomato and Pesto Pizza

pizza - trust in kim

Time again for making pizza in the brick oven up at the cabin.  My Opa built it over 30 years ago, in the same style as the one they used when they lived in Paraguay.  Of course, those of you without a Paraguayan brick oven are welcome to use a regular oven, and this is the process I will describe here.

The dough, which needs to be started the day before, and the sauce recipes are from A16 Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren. This is my favourite pizza crust and I believe it is worth the extra effort, but I hear there is also some really good ready-made pizza dough out there, like the one at Trader Joe’s.

This recipe makes enough for 3-4 medium-sized pizzas with a thin crust.  Of course you can make yours with any toppings you like, but I recommend that more is less. I’ve only included toppings for one pizza here, so you can come up with a few other ideas for toppings for the other ones. Our favourite combination of toppings this time around was the prosciutto and mushroom one, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of that one.

What you need for the crust:

  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 & 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups “oo” flour or all-purpose (I used all-purpose)

What you need for the tomato sauce and toppings for one pizza:

  • one 28-ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 7-8 baby bocconcini, sliced
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
  • a few tablespoons of pesto, store-bought or this recipe
  • about 1/2 cup grated smoked gruyere, or cheese of your choice

What you do:

1. Begin preparing the dough a day before you want to make the pizza. You can do this by hand, but it’s just a bit more work. Pour the warm (not hot – just body temperature) water into a mixer fitted with a dough hook and then sprinkle the yeast on top.  Leave it for about 10 minutes and it should become foamy – if it doesn’t your water was the wrong temperature, or the yeast is dead.  Stir in the olive oil and salt.  Add the flour and mix on low for 2 minutes.  Knead on medium-low for about 10 minutes – it will pull away from the bowl and begin to look smoother.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead once more on medium-low for 10 minutes – it will be smooth and quite soft.  If it seems much too sticky you can add a little more flour.  Coat a bowl with a little olive oil and then coat both sides of the dough with olive oil, placing the dough in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night.

2. In the morning remove the  dough from the fridge and punch it down.  Fold the sides of the dough under and put it back in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit in a warm (not hot) place until about 2 hours before you are going to use it.

3. Punch the dough down and divide it into 4 pieces.  Form them into balls and cover them with a damp towel for about 2 hours.  By this time the dough should have doubled in volume.  If it starts to get a skin on it you can spray it with a little water.

4. To prepare the sauce, just put the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and squish them into little bits with your hands.  Add the salt.

5. Preheat the oven to 500-550 F.

6. To form the crusts, shape the dough into a disk with your hands.  Push down in the center with your palm and pull the dough out gently with your other hand, rotating slightly until you have a crust that is about 10-12 inches/25-30 cm in diameter with a slightly raised edge. (or you can use a rolling-pin) Dust your baking pan generously with flour and place the crust on it.  I don’t have a proper pizza stone or pan, and the baking tray I used worked just fine.

7. Spread some tomato sauce onto the crust, then the tomatoes, dollops of pesto, bocconcini slices, and the gruyere on top. 

8. Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden, and the top is bubbling.

Paraguayan brick oen - trust in kim

Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Meatballs

Looking for an appetizer and wanting to make something for the meat-lovers coming to visit, I decided meatballs were the perfect thing.  I thought about what I would love in a meatball, and decided to improve on what I’ve done in the past.  I combined some favourites that I thought would work well together – the spice of the hot Italian sausages, the lightness of the turkey, a punch of flavour from the sun-dried tomatoes, and then some pistachios for a twist.  I put it all into a homemade tomato sauce, which is so easy, and I cooked them for a long time to make the sauce really thick and to give the flavours time to mingle.

I served them on skewers for appetizers, and the leftovers made a great topping for spaghetti squash.  Of course you could always go with the standby comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs.

What you need for the meatballs:

400 grams ground turkey thigh

400 grams hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (or chorizo)

1 egg

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or oven-roasted)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios,  finely chopped

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you need for the sauce:

1 small onion

1 large can pureed tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter

a little red wine (optional)

a rind from parmesan cheese (optional but amazing! save your rinds for this purpose!)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil, optional

What you do:

The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you need it.  The whole recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated.  I think it`s even better the second time around.

1. Start the sauce first by simply emptying the can of tomatoes into a pot, then adding the butter and the cheese rind.  Put the whole onion into the pot – it will simmer to add flavour, and you will remove it at the end.

2. Bring the sauce to a low boil, and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour.  Add a little red wine or water if it`s getting too thick.

3.  Remove the rind and the onion, and add salt, pepper, and the optional basil to taste.  If you think it needs it, you can add a little brown sugar to the tomato sauce.

4.  If you made the sauce ahead of time, heat it up in a large pot.

5.  Combine all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. I mix it with my hands because I’m going to use my hands to make the meatballs anyways.  Don’t mix the meatball mixture too much, just until it is combined.

6. Drop the meatballs directly into the sauce, on a low simmer.  Try not to stir them until they’ve had some cooking time, so they solidify and won’t break as easily.  Spoon some sauce over the tops of the meatballs, so they are all covered.  Cook for at least half an hour, but preferably longer, until the sauce is nice and thick.

Serve on pasta, spaghetti squash, or on toothpicks as an appetizer.