Eat To Compete: Prosciutto & Funghi Pizza
If you give commercial America enough time with anything, no matter how delicate and Italian it once was, it will probably turn it into something like, oh I don’t know, Pizza Hut’s newest monstrosity, the PANormous pizza. But since we at CulinaryCompetitor.com are in the business of shattering expectations of what healthy (or unhealthy) food can and should be, creations like that are exactly why pizza is one of our absolute favorite foods to make.
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Ѕ cup warm water
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 Ѕ t salt
1 t active dry yeast
4 ripe, fresh tomatoes (such as Roma), diced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
ј t salt
pinch of sugar
black pepper to taste
6 cups sliced crimini mushrooms, rinsed
3 oz (usually one normal package size) prosciutto, fat trimmed and sliced into 2 by ј inch strips
Pecorino Romano cheese
Unfortunately pizza’s reputation here in the states has been a bit tainted by Friday pizza nights, late-night drunken binges, and youth-sport pizza parties (no need to disclose which have played a significant role in my life…), but the fact of the matter is, pizza, when made at home with fresh ingredients, can and should be a healthy and complete meal unto itself. From my experience and talking to friends it seems the biggest stumbling block preventing folks from taking the leap and making a pizza at home is the dough, so let’s get that out of the way straight off the bat.
A good dough is the cornerstone of pizza, and with a little practice is not that hard to make. When made at home you will have the confidence of knowing your dough is devoid of any artificial ingredients and/or preservatives, just as it was in those little Italian villages during the days of old (and new). Making your own dough is surprisingly satisfying and is actually quite fun in the right company, too. Not to mention, if you really want to impress that someone special this is how to do it. Nothing says “I love you honey” like some pizza dough (You really want to impress? If I get some time I’ll put together a video demonstration of my one-handed knead …).
For the Dough
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
This dough recipe is actually enough for three medium pies. Why? Well, if you are hungry you can eat all three. If not, toss the two extra in the freezer to be used at a later date (just make sure they are done rising before you contain them. A rising dough in a sealed container in your fridge is like a ticking time bomb…). In this case I chose to use equal parts whole-wheat and all-purpose flour. I find this creates both a nice consistency and a flavor not too wheaty for those who remain skeptical of things like whole-wheat pizza crusts. For a heartier, higher-fiber dough you can use all whole-wheat flour.
The water you use to activate your yeast should be comfortably warm when it comes out of the faucet, but not hot. Combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let it sit for about three to five minutes (Note: Compared to most pizza dough recipes, this recipe calls for significantly less yeast and does not have you add sugar or honey to the warm water when activating the yeast. I find that when making a thin-crust pizza this helps ensure a not-too-bready pizza.). After the yeast has activated, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Mix well with your hands, then knead for about five or so minutes.
At this point most recipes will advise you to roll your dough out onto a floured surface. This is completely unnecessary and does little more than create a bigger mess. There should be enough moisture in the dough to knead it within the same bowl used to mix without it sticking. This way you ensure all the flour gets used and the mess stays (mostly) contained in one place.
Once the dough is kneaded, separate it into three equal parts. Place them in a lightly oiled clean bowl covered with a dishtowel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for about one-half hour to allow the dough to rise.
For the Sauce
Because tomatoes are just starting to come into season, I prefer to use fresh ones for the sauce. It is relatively easy to forget that canned tomatoes actually were at one time fresh, but if the option to use ripe, in-season tomatoes is there, a flavor comparison to a canned-tomato sauce is not even fair.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, and bring to a simmer. Cook the tomatoes over medium-low heat for about ten minutes, stirring often. Once they are very soft and have darkened in color transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse to your desired consistency (I prefer to leave the sauce slightly chunky). Return the blended sauce to the pan.
For the toppings
Crimini mushrooms are a great choice for this pie because they are readily available and reasonably priced. You could doctor the thing up with all sorts of fancy mushrooms, but most of the flavor subtleties will be lost in the cooking, and let’s be honest, who wants to pay upwards of around eight dollars a pound for oyster mushrooms?
Before you do anything, make sure to WASH your mushrooms thoroughly. If you know a thing or two about mushrooms you probably know what they are grown in. Let’s just say on the poo-to-dirt spectrum, it is a lot more fertile than plain ol’ dirt. After rinsing them off, pat away as much moisture as you can. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook about ten minutes, stirring often. The mushrooms will release a lot of water when sautйing, so once they have cooked down, drain then return them to the skillet. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
Roll or press out your dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet or pizza stone. Spread with sauce all the way to the sides and top with mushrooms, a combination of Fontina and Pecorino Romano cheese, and the sliced prosciutto. Undoubtedly the best place to save unnecessary calories from fat when making a pizza is in the cheese. How much cheese you use is up to you. Place in the preheated oven for about fifteen minutes, until the crust is just starting to brown.
Pizza is often best with a light beer, like a lager, but the earthy flavor from the mushrooms on this pie make something a little more substantial, like Moretti Rossa, a great choice.
Pez Sez: I also enjoy a nice red wine with my pizza – and that is the beauty of this dish – it goes with pretty much everything…
About The Author:
Casey grew up in the kitchen inspired by his mom and grandmother, who ran the catering and cooking instruction company, Cooking in the Canyon, in Brentwood, Ca. He is the creator of the website CulinaryCompetitor.com a recipe resource for athletes who love good food. He received his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from UCLA, currently races for the NOW-MS elite amateur cycling team, and coaches endurance athletes with Velo-Fit, llc.