by Katie Lee
A friend of mine, Melanie Dunea, wrote a book called My Last Supper in which she asks chefs what they would want to eat for their last supper. I’ve often thought about what would be on my plate. I love fried chicken, Thanksgiving dinner, spaghetti and meatballs, my Grandma’s baked steak and gravy, and roast chicken and potatoes from this great little restaurant in Paris.
Gosh, my mouth is watering just thinking of all of those choices.
But ultimately, I think I’d go with the humble pizza pie. Not just any pizza, though. I’m not talking the run-of-the-mill, call up the delivery guy and it’s at my door in 30 minutes or less pizza. I’m talking true Neapolitan-style pie: thin, blistery crust that’s both chewy and crispy, just the right amount of fresh mozzarella, dotted like little islands in a sea of bright red tomato sauce, a sprinkle of salty Parmesan, a touch of fresh basil and a drizzle of the finest extra virgin olive oil.
As you might gather, I’m pretty passionate about pizza. I even installed an outdoor pizza oven in my backyard. I thought I was pretty darn good at making homemade pizza — then I went to pizza school. (Yes, pizza school. When I heard about it, I was like: “What?! Sign me up!”) I heard about the Verace Pizza Napoletana program through a friend and enrolled in a course at their Los Angeles campus (they also have schools in Naples, Italy, Brazil and Japan). For three days, I made pizza after pizza after pizza. We learned to make the dough, the right ratio of sauce, how to stretch the dough, how to make fresh ricotta and mozzarella, the correct technique for drizzling olive oil (make a backward “6”) and more. I discovered that I had been making pizza all wrong according to my professors. But by the end of my three days, they had set me straight and I was on my way to being a pizzaiola.
I wanted to bring my new pizza-making skills back to my co-hosts on The Kitchen and share what I’d learned with the viewers watching from home. At pizza school, we used a wood-fired oven, but it’s pretty safe to say that most people don’t have one of those, so I needed to figure out how to achieve a similar result without one. I spent a day testing pizza at home (my friends just hate when I ask them to be taste testers when I’m recipe-developing). I found that using a pizza stone that’s been in a preheated oven at 500 degrees F was ideal and setting the oven to “convection” helped to get the same effect of the air moving around the oven.
Once I got the recipe right, it was time to take it to The Kitchen. Our day making pizza was one of the most fun I’ve had so far. I got to the set early and started making dough with our behind-the-scenes culinary team. After the dough had plenty of time to rise, we got to making pizza on the set.
To be totally honest, I was a little nervous about making the pizza on camera: What if it wouldn’t stretch? What if it stuck to the peel as I was moving it into the oven? I had anxiety all morning. But when the little red light lit up on the camera and action was called, everything went according to plan and the pizza was a success! That’s the thing about this recipe — it’s been around for hundreds of years. Talk about tried-and-true. It works.
For a food that is really quite simple, it brings everyone such pleasure. We were all so happy eating it. Making pizza is a great thing to do with family and friends. It’s interactive, it brings everyone together and it is so much fun. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.
Try making: Katie’s Neapolitan Margherita Pizza