Pizza. The very word makes children (of all ages) smile. Americans reportedly eat 350 slices of pizza every second — well over a million and a quarter per hour — and in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday nights are traditionally pizza nights, with barely a seat to be found in eateries throughout the city.
It’s impossible to find the origins of the first pizza, but most sources claim it dates back to ancient Rome with the word “pizza” appearing around 1000 CE in the region between Naples and Rome. The meaning of pizza back then was a pie, and similar dishes were consumed by Mediterranean and Middle Eastern peoples.
The modern version of pizza is attributed to a baker named Raffaele Esposito who lived in Naples and purportedly made the first real pizza in 1889 to celebrate the visit of Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. It was called, not surprisingly, Pizza Margherita.
Today, pizza is a so common in Israel that one can find anything from trendy Mediterranean-style restaurants offering gourmet versions served with upscale toppings to less successful frozen versions, with chain store pizzerias somewhere in the middle (which often offer a particularly Israeli option, pizza topped with frozen corn). It’s even possible to buy imported Italian pizza and focaccia flour in high-end food stores.
But you can also make homemade pizza, and between you and me, it doesn’t have to be a major production. Here is a fun and different way to make pizza that is far fresher and ultimately healthier than anything that can be purchased in a pizza parlor or store.
Frying Pan Pizza with Double Tomatoes (Serves two as a meal, four as a starter)
Here I give the self-rising flour used a nutritional boost by adding wheat germ – a great source of B vitamins – to the crust. To make this even faster, use a bottled tomato sauce with no added sugar, or drain and season crushed tomatoes. If you don’t have a frying pan with an oven-proof handle, gently transfer it to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet before slipping under the grill.
Use a 22-24 cm frying pan
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 450-500 grams fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, like oregano, rosemary or za’atar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 5-6 tablespoons water (or more if necessary)
- Black pepper to taste
- 150 grams mozzarella or smoked mozzarella, cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup sun dried cherry tomatoes, drained and chopped (save 1 tablespoon oil)
- 12 black olives, pitted and chopped or sliced
- 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
- 1/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
- 2 tablespoons torn basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a 22-24 cm frying pan with an oven-proof handle and sauté the onion and garlic for one minute on medium-low heat, stirring often until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and basil or oregano, season with salt and pepper and cook 20-25 minutes until the liquids have almost evaporated and the sauce is thickened.
- Sift flour, salt and pepper into a bowl and add the wheat germ and herbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add two tablespoons of the olive oil and four tablespoons water. Mix with a wooden spoon until a smooth soft dough is obtained (add a little bit extra water if necessary to get to the right consistency).
- Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough on it briefly until smooth. Use a rolling pin or the palm of your hand to form a 22-24 cm circle that will fit the frying pan.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan and add the circle of dough. Cook over low heat for five minutes or until the bottom of the circle is lightly browned. Remove to a greased plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan and return the dough to pan with the uncooked side facing down. Cook five minutes.
- While the dough is cooking, heat the grill in the oven. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza, sprinkle mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, olives, mushrooms and capers if using. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle the one tablespoon of oil left from the drained sun dried tomatoes, and continue cooking the pizza in the pan until the bottom is ready (use a spatula to lift the edges to check if the bottom is crisp and golden).
- Slip under the broiler until the cheese is just melted and the topping is hot. Gently remove to a large round plate, sprinkle the torn basil leaves and let stand a few minutes before cutting the pizza with a serrated knife or scissors.
Adapted from “Healthy Cooking Made Easy,” by Phyllis Glazer, Modan Publishers.