Pizza, food of the poor? No, the luxurious way!

Pizza was invented as food of poor people in Italy. Today it is everywhere and I give you a basic recipe and some suggestions on how to prepare your personal favorite. It is food for low budget which can be pimped luxurious very easy! Be creative, lots of ingredients are there to be tested – and enjoy!

It’s time for some cuisine again. And since I love to do my own stuff, have no big budget, food shall be saturating, easy to prepare, and of course enjoyable, I present you my basic recipe for Pizza. I taught it to many people on my travels and Pizza is awesome! By Pizza I am referring to thin, crusty pizza, not to the American way of doing it, I will never be able to appreciate the thick dough which is still kind of raw inside.

It will cost you maybe $10 or EUR 8 for 3 pizzas, so a meal for 3 people, which is a steal. Of course it can become more expensive, when you use luxurious ingredients for the topping. The topping of a Pizza is the most expensive part.

The Pizza Dough

The dough it the reallyinexpensive part about a pizza and prepared right, very enjoyable! You need the following ingredients:

  • Water, which should be warm at the time you put in the dry yeast
  • Dry yeast for baking, half a package
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt
  • Flour, regular type 405
  • 3 spoons of olive oil

This basic recipe is the basis for every great pizza! What you put on there is totally up to you. First of all you take a glas of warm water, about 300 mL and put it into a big bowl. You add salt and sugar and assure everything is in solution. The sugar is necessary, that the yeast you add (half package) is activated properly. Wait 10 min if you have the time, since the yeast will start to foam and add the flour by that time and the oil immediately afterwards. For 300 mL of water you will probably need 500 g of flour. Best is to try it and work the flour in. The dough forms immediately and is ready, when it is not clammy anymore. Add flour as much as necessary to assure that and work in everything that is sticky to the side of the bowl. When you are done with that let it rest for 30 min to make sure, the yeast can start to work – you will see that due to increase of size of the doughball.

The Sugo

In the meanwhile you can prepare the sugo. I always take binned tomatoes in a piece and puree them, equally to the sauce of the Lasagna.

  • Binned tomatoes, a small bin is sufficient for 3 Pizzas
  • A small bin of concentrated tomato paste
  • An onion and a garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • Italian herbs, pepper, salt as much as you wish, but you don’t need much

You slice one little onion very fine and grate one clove of garlic. You heat both together in a deep pan with some olive oil, until the very fine slices of onion are starting to get brown. Then you add the self made puree of the tomatoes and a small bin of concentrated tomato paste, if you wish you can add about 100 mL water at this point which you use to rinse the empty bins completely into the sauce. In addition put some Italian herbs, salt and pepper and let this mixture cook on low heat for 5 min. Afterwards it is ready for use!

For some ingredients as topping, I suggest you to put mascarpone on the pizza as well. It is very nice, when you have mushrooms or strong tasting ingredients, like a good proscuitto, which is the dried ham, not the cooked one.

The Preparation & Topping

Once you have dough and sauce prepared you can actually start to prepare the pizza itself. You have to put some flour on a clean and dry table and put a handful orb of dough on the flour and press it into a flat form. Then you roll the dough into a round and thin form (about 2.5 – 5 mm thin), a tad bigger than a big plate. You transfer this processed dough on a metal or bolus pad you want to bake the pizza on – it becomes best if you bake it at maximum heat on a specific pizza pad. Roll in the frame a little bit, not much but like the frame is a tad thicker than the rest. Put the sauce all over the pizza but just a thin layer as well.

Now to the topping in general:

  • Cheese is a topping that should not miss on any pizza – mozarella works best here, but for some variations I use additional gorgonzola or parmigiano reggiano
  • Various ingredients given in the pictures

You put cheese, and here it’s best to take mozarella either grated or if you get it in your region, take the mozarella block and cut down very thin slices to obtain quadratic pieces which you can distribute all over the tomato sauce. I prefer to put the cheese under the toppings, since it builds a connective layer with the dough and the ingredients will not fall off afterwards – Don’t use too much cheese either!

Topping suggestions on top of the tomato sauce and mozarella:

  • Gorgonzola, and freshly collected mushrooms. You can use chanterelle or all kinds of boletus or the brown champignons from the supermarket
  • Salami piccante (get the European one from Tader Joe’s if you are from the US), the thin and hot bell peppers, referred to as Pizza Diavolo
  • King prawns and garlic, without cheese
  • Proscuitto di parma – baked – and when out of oven, rucola and parmigiano reggiano added
  • Thuna, a freshly sliced onion in rings, some chili

A new creation of mine is Pizza with mozarella, gorgonzola with mascarpone, fresh figs and proscuitto from Alto Adige, better known in the German language as Tyrolean Speck. You find the picture on instagram:

Another creation of mine is Pizza with a cheese from the mountains, strong in taste, called Andreas Hofer cheese – but any stronger cheese will do – prawns which have been fried for one minute with garlic, and thin sliced zucchini. You find the picture on instagram:

Put the toppings but don’t overload your pizza, the above showed pictures are good examples and in the description is given, what I used. After 10 to 15 min in the preheated oven enjoy your pizza! There will be constantly new entries, since I love to experiment with my pizzas and always try new compositions. For the moment please be patient, I have to take new pictures, when I do pizza the next time 🙂

Italian Lasagna my way

Homemade food is great for several reasons: It’s cheaper to eat at home than outside, YOU choose the ingredients, you can control what you use and how fresh your ingredients are, and it’s a prove of your love for the people you are going to eat with. Today I present you my recipe for Italian lasagna al ragu. A very tasty recipe, which I cooked for several times, always revising the composition. It was the winning recipe from my voting two weeks ago. Enjoy!

Recently I asked you to select a recipe for my next cuisine entry by voting for it. The participation in this vote was sadly not very high. The Italian Lasagna in my modified version made the race and the poll remains open, so you can still chose and I can estimate tendencies.

First of all, what do we need for a proper lasagna? Here you got all the ingredients on a glance. It’s quite a lot isn’t it…

All ingredients for lasagna al ragu, missing in this picture: garlic, an onion and parsley

A tasty sugo al ragu, prepared with red wine, which is better known as bolognaise sauce, but the Italian distincts on this used term bolognaise, if you know what you are talking about or not – For veggies you can use all kinds of vegetables as replacement for the meat, I could imagine mushrooms are great as well, just try it, be creative!

Sugo al ragu
The ingredients for a sugo al ragu. I prefer to prepare it with red wine, it becomes much more tasty!

A sugo béchamela, which you probably better know as béchamel sauce. This is the white sauce, which is responsible for the creaminess of good lasagna.

Sugo bechamela is the white sauce inside of the lasagna and some like to use it stand-alone with stewed veggies, I don’t though.

Plates for lasagna, 2 kinds of cheese, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano, and some spices, italian herbs, salt, pepper, a chili, garlic and fresh parsley.

The plates and the needed casserole. Put a cup of water under the first layer of plates, it assures everything will be soft after the needed cooking time – don’t forget that, it is important!

Sugo al ragu

Since I offered the recipe for sugo al ragu as a stand-alone recipe for all kinds of use, for example as sauce for your pasta, I will get more into detail here.

  • basic ingredients for nearly every European recipe of mine: olive oil, salt, pepper
  • ground beef, 500 g for a big casserole which will yield six portions of lasagna
  • fine sliced onions, take two small ones or a big one
  • tomatoes, around 5 – 6 for about 1 L of sugo and 2 spoons of tomato paste – you can take the binned tomatoes in one piece, they are great as well
  • 2 – 3 grated carrots
  • all the spices and red wine

OK, it’s quite easy. Put the sliced tomatoes in a high jar, add about 125 mL of water – you need it for getting the plates cooked, add the tomato paste,  some garlic in fine slices, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the italian herbs, 1 spoon of salt, pepper and a crushed chili. You purée everything to a homogenous sauce and put it aside.

In a pan you heat some olive oil, glaze the onions, then add the meat and roast it with the onions until it becomes slightly dark and you can smell the roasted aroma – in America until all the water is gone which is in the meat (we don’t have those issues in Europe), otherwise it won’t darken. When the meat turns dark, put the grated carrots and roast everything for another 5 min. under continuous stirring.

Then you quench with red vine, take a good glass, like 250 mL and leave it cook, until the liquid is gone again, before you put the tomato purée, which you prepared like described above. You leave this preparation cook for at least 30 min. at low heat and stirr from time to time. The obtained sauce is perfect for individual pasta sauce when you leave it stand over-night, for the lasagna you can use it right away.

Sugo bechamela

This one might be a little tricky without the knowledge about the behaviour of the ingredients.

  • 500 mL of milk and 250 mL of water
  • a good small bowl of flour
  • about 100 – 150 g of butter (I prefer if it is not too greasy)
  • salt and pepper

First of all put about 500 mL and 250 mL of water in a pot and add a good bowl – one of the smaller ones for breakfast – of flour. Don’t take too much, it is better to take less in the beginning and add some later, since you can’t undo “too much”. Important: The milk & water mixture has to be cold, while you add the flour, otherwise the flour starts gelling immediately due to its content of starch. If you make this mistake, you have big chunks of flour which do not desintegrate anymore! Add it while everything is cold and stirr strong to obtain a homogenous suspension which will be quite liquid by that time. Then start to heat and observe the increase of viscosity – in the end it has to be quite viscose, like a waffle or pancake dough. If you have to add flour later to obtain this consistency, add it through a sieve under permanent stirring. Add the butter in fine slices when you observe the increase of viscosity and stirr as long as the whole preparation needs to cook for a short moment and until all the butter is gone. You have the bechamela – spices can be added during the whole time.

Prepare the lasagna layer by layer

Since you got all the different ingredients now, start putting the plates into the casserole. A first layer, with some water, as bottom (see above). Then in equal portions bechamela and sugo as a layer.

The readily prepared main ingredients you layer up to the actual lasagna
Lasagna 05
Nice, isn’t it. Could have done the Austrian flag as well with those colors… 🙂
Lasagna 04
There you go, layer by layer – don’t forget to push the new layer tight for consistency!
Besides bechamela and ragu, put parmigiano and parsley into every layer

Add parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano as much as you want, before you put the next layer of plates. The next layer of plates has to be pushed quite strong onto the last one, this makes sure the consistency of the lasagna is good. And if you are done with layering, put the mozarella on top and the readily prepared lasagna into the oven for about 45 min. at 180°C, while you can increase the heat after 30 min. for the last 15 min. to 250°C for roasting the cheese. Done, enjoy it best with a glass of red wine!

The ready-to-eat lasagna, yields 6 portions in a big casserole and is all homemade – impress your future girlfriend boys, feed your family mums, enjoy a 3 – 4 day ratio of food singles!

The next recipe is due next month, if your input is big enough maybe in twoo weeks. Just make a selection by voting from the older entry you find here.