Healthy Stove top Pizza + oven’s grill: best Neapolitan taste
Time: prep. & prove 1-30 hrs
cook. approx 30 mins
Difficulty: easy (if you buy the base)
Yields: 4 round pizzas
Pizza Napoletana is unique and far be it from me to offend the masters of the white art. However, I could not fail to mention this particular cooking: stove top pizza in a skillet pan produces a very faithful reminder of the real Neapolitan pizza, complete with cornicione (the puffy, raised edge).
That I like to self-produce food for healthy, low-budget nutrition is no mystery: yogurt, vegetable milks, jams and marmalades; fermented vegetables, tofu, sprouts, tahini, sourdough bread and many others. To be honest, many of these foods are definitely better when prepared at home: such as yoghurt, jams, sauerkraut and so on; some things, on the other hand, require a good deal of compromise: take tahini for example; and others, with a bit of invention, manage to surprise very pleasantly: such is the case with bread baked in a pan and stove top pizza cooked in a skillet and then in the oven’s grill that I will discuss today.
The oven is the key
Yes, the oven! It is well known that one of the factors that makes pizza wonderful and Neapolitan is the wood-fired oven; with its 430°C/810°F degrees (and over) it guarantees perfect baking in less than 2 minutes: crispy and soft just where required.
However, very few have it in their backyard / garden; and those who do have it must wait for a special event to gather friends and relatives; one that justifies firing it up several hours in advance, keeping it hot without deforesting an entire woodland.
Specific pizza ovens are sometimes effective, sometimes disappointing, as well as demanding a considerable amount of space in the kitchen.
The traditional home oven is never up to the task, unless it can reach 300°C/570°F degrees (like mine); but between turning it on in advance and baking all the pizzas, it takes about an hour and a half at maximum power: and how much does this pizza cost us and to environment!
It follows that most people have to go to a pizzeria to enjoy a real pizza cooked properly. But how often? Nowadays, even what was once a simple and affordable dish is becoming semi-prohibitive. Even here in Portugal (where, apart from very rare occasions, the pizza is really bad) with minimum wages of around 600 euros per month, a take away margherita costs no less than 7-8 euros.
These considerations, combined with the need to please my very Italiano hubby – who, if he doesn’t eat it every so often, I risk a mutiny – prompted me to try cooking this stove top pizza; well, I must say, agreed, it will never pass the test of a Neapolitan pizzaiolo doc, but it defends itself more than admirably; indeed, 10 times better than what you can eat in a mediocre pizzeria out of Naples.
Now you understand why stove top pizza is a very smart idea; in fact, by adding the two decisive ingredients, saving energy and money, believe me, the result becomes assai (means very, in the Neapolitan dialect) tasty!
My (healthy) pizza recipe
My recipe calls for sourdough and wholemeal flour; but don’t worry, you don’t have to follow it, stove top pizza is good for all pizza recipes.
Nevertheless, since we cannot offer truly traditional ingredients and wood fired baking, at least stick to the percentages of ingredients:
The holy book of Neapolitan pizza provides for 1 litre of water 1600-1800g flour and about 5-20% sourdough starter.
The hydration should be between 56 and 65%.
Fortunately, my recipe does not deviate much from this magical formulation: for approx. half a kilo of flour (275g of wholemeal flour and 200g of type 0 flour), I use 90g of sourdough starter and add 320g of water (the hydration of my dough is around 67%, as wholemeal flour absorbs more water. I would like to emphasize that if you want a crispy pizza, you should only use 00 type flour with high gluten value, known as pizza flour, but I said mine is a healthy pizza recipe!
Basically I use the same recipe as for no-knead bread, but with the addition of 1 tablespoon of evo oil.
Ingredients for 4 healthy stove top pizzas
475g organic flour (275g wholemeal and 200g type 0 flour, stone-ground, if possible from ancient grains)
50g extra flour for the preparation steps
90g of sourdough starter
1 tablespoon of evo oil
Condiment to taste (all optional)
mozzarella or other cheese (even vegan)
vegetables (mushrooms, courgettes, peppers, potatoes, previously cooked onions)
thyme or basil
1 tablespoon of evo oil to garnish the pizzas just before serving
I start by activating my sourdough around 10 a.m. (10 a.m. is ideal between spring and autumn, 11 a.m. in summer and 8-9 a.m. in winter in the case of a cold house).
When the sourdough has doubled in volume (approx. at 12 a.m.), I am ready to knead (without kneading).
Once the ingredients are combined, I mix vigorously with a spoon or if you have, with a planetary mixer.
Then rest for 20 minutes and let’s go on with the folds: 3 sets of 3 folds each, they are cadenced every 15-20 minutes of rest; at the end we will have a much less sticky and more homogeneous dough.
After that the dough goes into the fridge for about 24 hours, or until doubled.
Later I leave the dough outside the fridge for 1-4 hours, so that it reaches room temperature.
I then proceed with the last 2-3 sets of folds.
And finally I weigh and divide the dough (technically called staglio), thus making the little balls that will form the round pizzas: the Neapolitan pizza should be no wider than 33 cm and no smaller than 22 cm, so le pallette (small balls of dough) must weigh between 200 and 280g.
Then I cover the dough balls with a damp cloth, after sprinkling them with flour and leave them to rise until they double in volume; or 2-4 hours.
Once this last step is over, I give the dough balls a round shape. Experts say that the thickness of the centre should not be more than 0,25cm. Frankly, I have never been able to measure it with a caliper, but I make sure I have an even thickness, neither too thin nor too thick, while the edges remain thicker. In short, do everything you can to respect the above-mentioned diameters (22-33cm); otherwise, you will receive a solemn rejection from the Italian pizza association!
With the traditional oven, I would have had to turn it on 40 minutes before baking, setting it to maximum temperature.
Now instead, adopting the stove top pizza technique, I will eliminate the pre-heating: considering that a single round pizza would have to be baked in the oven for about 13 to 14 minutes (4 pizzas: 52 to 56 mins), in total the oven would have to stay on for more than an hour and a half; against 35 minutes with the new technique.
Let’s see how.
Stove top pizza technique
I take a frying pan of a size suitable for a round pizza, better if you have a cast iron pan.
I put it on the stove to heat it well and at the same time I turn on the oven grill at maximum temperature.
I then transfer the round pizza onto the now hot pan.
You can already see that the pizza base begins to harden and the edges (crust) to puff due to the heat.
Now quickly season the naked pizza with the tomato sauce and/or other desired ingredients: garlic, oregano, mozzarella, or mushrooms, courgettes, onion and provolone cheese, etc.
In about 3-4 minutes the base is perfectly cooked (it may take a few more minutes, but if the spatula slides well underneath, it means that the stove top pizza is ready to be transferred to the oven, in grill function).
I put the oven rack on the penultimate rail from above and place the round pizza on it, which is cooked underneath, but still raw and soft on top.
I cook the pizza under the grill for about 5 minutes, which is the time needed for the mozzarella to melt; or even to create a crust on the chosen vegetables, trying not to burn the pizza and condiment.
If you do not have a grill, try cooking the pizza with the lid on, extending the cooking time by at least 5 minutes; you may need to flip the unseasoned pizza after the first 3-4 minutes to get the upper part of the pizza to cook properly.
I repeat the same operation for all the pizzas, (as soon as I put one under the grill, I transfer the other to the frying pan and so on).
Finally, I season the pizzas with a drizzle of oil, basil leaves or oregano twigs and bring them to the table to receive the applause!
Enjoy your healthy and low carbon print, stove top pizza and have a good revolution