The Difference a Day Makes
I have three distinct memories of my kindergarten experience. On the first day of school, after what seemed like hours of deliberation outside the washrooms, I chose the boys and was mortified that an older boy caught me. I guess none of my picture books had the words for ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.
One day while sitting at our little tables in our little chairs, a girl named Daphne (I usually spit when I say her name) leaned back on the two legs of her chair, falling directly into me, causing me to slam chin forward into my little table. There was a lot of blood. It took 2 nurses, my mom and the doctor to hold me down as they stitched me up. I still have the scar.
As an exercise in class, our teacher asked us what our favourite food was. One kid said perogies, I said potatoes (it must be the Irish in me) and every one else said pizza. We had to draw pictures and mine looked like a bunch of crap, literally. From an artistic point of view it became clear to me that I should have gone with pizza.
I never really understood why people loved pizza so much. It was always heavy, greasy and too doughy for me. Just give me a plate of mashed potatoes thank-you very much. Then I discovered thin crust. To actually taste the sauce, meats and veggies, now that is a whole other kind of pizza. In my opinion the dough should act as a vessel not be the whole kit and caboodle.
As I’ve just discovered, making your own is the path to pizza delight. It doesn’t get any simpler than this no-knead pizza dough recipe from master pizza maker Jim Lahey. One day you have flour and water, the next, a dough that will give you a crispy, chewy crust. My homemade marinara bakes into a lovely sweet, tangy sauce, and goes hand in hand with virtually any topping you can dream up.
This homemade pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had. My six year old self would have been happy to conform had my early childhood pizza experiences been similar.
Fennel Sausage, Leek, Bocconcini and Arugula Pizza with Sweet Marinara Sauce
For the No-Knead Pizza Dough:
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups water
In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Gradually add water and stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until all the ingredients are well incorporated. With your hands, mix the dough gently, bringing it together to form a rough ball. Transfer dough into a clean, large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature and let dough rise until it has more than doubled in size and is covered with small bubbles, about 18 hours.
Scrape the dough onto your floured work surface (bread or ap flour). Gently shape the dough into a rectangle and divide it into 6 equal-ish portions. One at a time, round each portion into a round ball. Dust the dough and set aside on a floured surface or baking sheet.
Let the dough rest, covered with plastic of a damp towel for about an hour. The dough will be soft and pliable.
*You can make this dough 3 days in advance. Simply wrap the individual balls of dough directly after you have rounded them up and keep in the fridge. Remove the dough 2-3 hours before shaping and baking.
**1/2 this recipe for 2-3 people.
For the Marinara Sauce:
2 med yellow onions
2 Tbls olive oil
7 cloves garlic
1 tin tomato paste 5.5 ounces
1 tin diced tomatoes 28 ounces ( you can substitute fresh for these)
14-16 campari tomatoes (you could use standard vine ripened)
2 bay leaves
2 Tbls sugar
2 Tbls honey
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 small bunch basil, roughly chopped
1 large bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Over medium-high heat in large heavy stalk pot, saute finely chopped onions in olive oil. Add the minced garlic once the onions are translucent, saute for an additional 2 -3 mins before adding the can of diced tomatoes, tin of tomato paste, roughly chopped, campari tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar, honey, salt & pepper. Drop the heat to a medium-low so as not to burn the sauce. Let it bubble and simmer for 20-25 mins.
Blend the sauce either in the pot with a hand blender, or pour it into a standing blender. Make sure you cover the top of the stand blender with a towel and not the fixed top as the heat needs to escape. Pour into a large clean bowl and stir in the fresh herbs. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
You’ll have left over marinara sauce for another meal. It freezes beautifully.
For the Fennel Sausage, Leeks and other toppings (enough for 3 pizzas):
450g hot ground sausage meat
1 tsp ground fennel seed
2 leeks, sliced thinly
2 Tbls olive oil
olive oil for drizzling
Heat oil in a medium pan, add ground sausage and ground fennel and brown. Add leeks for the last 2 mins in the pan. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. Keep in the fridge if you’re more than 20 mins away from baking your pizzas.
Prep your other ingredients so they are ready to go when your dough is.
Making the Pizzas:
40 minutes before you’re ready to bake the pizza, pre heat your oven to 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a pizza stone (highly recommend - $11 at Safeway), place a rack in the upper third of the oven and the stone on top. You want to pre heat the stone as well. If using a baking sheet (crust won’t be as crispy), place a rack in the middle of the oven. You do not need to pre heat the baking sheet.
Working with one ball of dough at a time, dust your work surface with flour and gently press or roll the dough out very thinly to about 10” or 12” round. If you have a pizza peel place the dough on it and generously cover it in sauce and fennel sausage, leeks and bocconcini. Remove hot stone from the oven and shimmy the pizza off onto the stone. If you do not have a pizza peel, remove hot pizza stone from oven, place the dough on top, sauce and top your pizza.
I baked mine at 500 degrees Celsius for 14 minutes, then switched my oven to broil and finished baking for another 3-4 minutes. It had the perfect balance of crispy and chewy.
Remove from the oven and transfer pizza to a serving plate. Sprinkle a bunch of fresh arugula and sea salt on the pizza. Drizzle in olive oil, slice and eat with a cold beer or glass of red for a lovely Friday evening in.
Full recipe serves 5-6 people.
No-Knead Pizza Dough Recipe from Jim Lahey @ Bon Appetit
Photos and all other recipes by Maggie Murphy