I’ve never been to New York. My sister lived there for a while, but back then, I was too broke to visit, and she was too broke to rent an apartment big enough to do a jumping jack in. So, I have yet to experience the miracle of a real-deal New York pizza.
That’s why, when I saw this recipe for Grandma Pizza in “Cook’s Country,” I had to try it.
Grandma Pizza is a Long Island specialty. A local secret. A square, thin-crust pizza topped with a little mozzarella, crushed canned tomatoes and fresh basil. According to an article by Erica Marcus, it was something simple that Umberto and Carlo Corteo, of Umberto’s Pizzeria, would make just for themselves and their friends. Something like their mama had made in Italy. But the brothers didn’t want to add another pizza to their menu, so Grandma Pizza didn’t really catch on until two of their former employees opened a shop and actually started selling it.
I assume the brothers were cool with that.
So, what makes this pizza so different?
For one thing, making the dough is so easy, you might worry you’ve done something wrong. The yeast goes directly into the mixing bowl with the rest of the dough ingredients – no proofing required – and then you let the dough hook on your mixer work its magic for about 10 minutes. Boom, a nice, smooth dough that you set on an oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap for an hour or so.
When I first saw the dough, I didn’t think there was any way it would eventually stretch to cover the whole baking sheet. I double-checked the recipe and still thought about grabbing a smaller pan. But it really did double in size and turn super-spongy and pliable, stretching from corner to corner like that was its job.
It was impressive.
The other strange thing about this pizza is that the toppings are used pretty sparingly. You look at the two cups of mozzarella and 28 ounces of canned tomato and think Grandma must have been pretty chintzy, but she knew what she was doing. The thin, crisp crust topped with just the right amount of melted mozzarella, herbed tomatoes and chopped fresh basil makes this pizza feel light, like you could grab a big square slice and feel like getting back to work instead of sinking into a food coma.
New York, what else have you been holding back?
Adapted from “Cook’s Country”(March 2012)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- For the Dough: Measure 2 tablespoons olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet (18″ by 13″), and use your fingers to coat the sheet with oil.
- Measure water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil into a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt on low speed. With the mixer running, slowly add water mixture, and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.
- Increase speed to medium-low, and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.
- Place the dough on the oiled baking sheet, and turn to coat. Stretch dough to 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stretch dough to corners of pan, cover loosely with plastic, and let rise in warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position, and heat oven to 500 degrees F.
- For the Topping: Place tomatoes in colander, and drain really well.
- In a medium bowl, combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano, and salt. Set aside.
- In a second bowl, combine mozzarella and Parmesan. Set aside.
- Sprinkle cheese mixture over the dough, leaving 1/2-inch border on all sides.
- Top with tomato mixture, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until well browned and bubbling, about 12 minutes. (If the oven starts to smoke, lower the temperature or move your pizza up a rack.)
- Slide pizza onto a wire rack, sprinkle with basil, and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve.