Yes, I’m about to divulge a family secret… my Nonna’s pizza dough recipe.
This recipe is very special in that it required some persistence to acquire. Nonna didn’t use recipes. When asked how to make something, her instructions invariably included such things as “it tells you when it’s done” and “add some water until it feels right”. For a novice in the kitchen, these instructions are baffling. Nonna used a teacup, a certain bowl, a regular teaspoon and her experience to make her dough. I can’t remember the occasion but I was determined to write down her pizza recipe so I chased her around the kitchen with measuring cups and spoons trying to document her proportions.
Nonna’s Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups (or so) of warm milk
4 teaspoons of yeast (or 2 packets)
1 teaspoon of sugar
Stir sugar and yeast into warm milk and let stand until the yeast melts
In a large bowl mix together:
5 cups of flour
1 tbs of salt
1/2 cup of oil or shortning
Add yeast mixture and mix with your hands. Depending on how dry your flour is you’ll need to mix in a bit of warm water. It’s usually a couple tablespoons worth. The dough will be very sticky. Don’t worry if the dough is ugly; trust me it will be fine. Cover the dough and let it stand in a warm place until it doubles in size. This will likely take a couple hours.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and work it into a nice ball. My Nonna would make her pizzas on large sheet pans. She would make a simple tomato sauce and top the pizzas with very thin slices of salami and sliced mushrooms.
This recipe is enough to make 2 cookie sheet pizzas.
I like to make pizzas on a pizza stone so I cut the dough into 2 or 3 parts depending on my mood and roll out the dough with a sprinkling of flour to keep it from sticking to the board.
I cook my pizza in a very hot oven (500 degrees) for 10 -12 minutes. Keep an eye on it, when the bottom of the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melty it’s done. Let it rest for a couple minutes before slicing – if you can wait that long. This is the one I made last Friday night. It has 3 cheeses, olive, salami, mushroom and green pepper and was very yummy.
Every time I pull out the raggedy paper to make dough I think about my Nonna; of days when her hands were strong and her memory sharp and for a brief moment I can hear her voice explaining what it should feel like and how it tells you when it’s done.