Earlier this month I took my first pizza making class with Pizza a Casa run by New York chef Mark Bello. Literally, Pizza a Casa means "pizza at home." And it was a particularly appropriate name for this class for two reasons. First -- the class places an emphasis on how to make pizza in a tiny New York City kitchen like mine. For example, we talked about different types of home ovens and how to utilize a tiny space. And second -- the class actually took place in Mark's apartment. So the delicious pies we made were proof that you don't need a fancy kitchen and expensive equipment to make a good pie. Perhaps the class might have been more appropriately titled Pizza a Apartamento, but we'll leave it at that!
The group -- six of us -- met Mark at Alleva Dairy in Little Italy. It was established in 1892 and is considered the oldest Italian cheese shop in America. We tasted some different cheeses and Mark showed us different products in the store and explained why particular flours and sauces were better for making high quality pizza.
After a little of oil and some grated pecorino... it's oven time! The main tip I learned regarding heat is that opening your oven for even a second can drop the temperature 50 degrees, so when opening the oven door, do it as quickly as possible. And in general, generating enough heat to cook a pizza is probably the most difficult part about turning the oven in your kitchen into a pizza making machine. At a pizzeria it's not uncommon for ovens to get as hot as 1,000 degrees. A home oven typically tops out around 500 degrees. Using pizza stones -- the thicker, the better -- enables you to maximize the amount of heat that reaches the pie.
When Mark's first pie was finished, we added some basil and olive oil... and just like that we had a delicious margarita pizza.
Step 2: Red onions and mushrooms
Step 3: Grated pecornio
Step 4: A dab of sauce (La Bella San Marzano)
Step 5: Oven time!
Step 6: Final product (with basil and a bit more olive oil)