Pizza Pilgrims’ new cookbook is filled with recipes to inspire a DIY pizza night in

Posted by for Food and Drink

Always fancied making pizza but never mastered the knack? With these easy-as-you-like recipes from the experts at Pizza Pilgrims, you’ll emerge from lockdown a certified pizzaiolo. 

There’s something about pizza that always makes us smile. Maybe it’s the fact that you eat it with your hands, or the reliably delicious mixture of cheese and tomato. Or perhaps it’s that you can share it with everyone from your mum to your best friend, and end up grinning at each other with full bellies afterwards.

Whichever way you look at it, pizza is undoubtedly one of the world’s best comfort foods. Under normal circumstances, we’d rarely contemplate making our own dough from scratch, instead sating pizza cravings by heading out for dinner or ordering a takeaway. But lockdown 2.0 has made ambitious foodies of us all, and these days, we’re itching for creative and tasty projects that will soothe our worried minds and keep us entertained at home. 

With the release of the new cookbook by cult Neapolitan-inspired restaurant chain Pizza Pilgrims, a DIY pizza night might well become a regular fixture on your stay-at-home calendar. Inspired by founding duo Thom and James Elliot’s pilgrimages around Italy and the US, Pizza: History, Recipes, Stories, People, Places, Love (£20, Quadrille) is a comprehensive tribute to the art of pizza-making, filled with over 30 delicious recipes from the classic NY slice to the Pilgrims’ very own Nutella pizza ring.

Ready to channel your inner pizzaiolo? Below, the Elliot brothers share three recipes that are the definition of happiness sliced. 

For a seasonal twist, the Tuscan-inspired pumpkin, sausage, sage and chilli pizza captures the flavours of autumn beautifully. Those with a taste for creative combinations, meanwhile, will appreciate the kale, anchovy and chilli pizza: the earthy kale balances the saltiness of the anchovies perfectly, and the warming chilli oil is welcome on cold days. 

Of course, great pizza doesn’t always come with a red base. So if you’re a true cheese lover, scroll straight to the ‘Gianfranco GorgonZola’, which melds a creamy, salty trio of cheeses with a sprinkling of courgette ribbons. 

And because the secret to a great homemade pizza begins with mastering the base, we’ve included a recipe for the Pizza Pilgrims’ Neapolitan-inspired dough to start you off. Roll up your sleeves and dust your hands with flour: it’s pizza time. 

Neapolitan pizza dough

Ingredients

Tip: Weigh out all your ingredients before you start

  • 1000g ‘00’ flour (we recommend Caputo ‘blue’)
  • 2g (2/3 tsp) fresh yeast
  • 620ml tepid water
  • 30g fine sea salt

Method

Make a mountain of flour in the middle of the table. Using your fist, make a deep well in the middle of the flour, exposing the surface of the table (turning your mountain into a moon crater).

Crumble the yeast into the tepid water. Use your good hand to mash up the yeast in the water until it has dissolved. (Keep the other hand dry for taking Instagram photos to show off to your friends.) Fill your crater of flour with a third of the yeast/water mix. Using your fingertips, start making very small circular motions to combine the flour and water.

Start dragging in some more flour to the mix, by ‘undercutting’ the walls of the crater with your fingertips. As you do this the mixture in the middle will become thicker. Once it reaches the consistency of porridge you need to add a bit more water. Don’t let it get too thick; if it starts to form a dough too soon it becomes difficult to incorporate the rest of the water. Keep dragging in a little flour to thicken the mix, then pouring a little bit more water in to loosen it, until you have used up all the water.

Sprinkle the sea salt over the mixture while it’s still very wet to ensure it dissolves and disperses evenly throughout the dough. Now use both hands to push the remaining flour from the outside into the middle. Fold and press the mix until all the flour is absorbed and a dough comes together. If you have a dough scraper it really helps get everything off the table, but you can improvise with a paint scraper, spatula or knife.

Work the gluten by kneading the dough. Use the heel of your hand to stretch out the dough and roll it back up, while the other hand acts like an anchor. You’ll be able to see the strands of gluten stretching, breaking, being put back together and becoming stronger. Continue this for about 8 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and glossy. It should also feel tighter and elastic.

Let the dough have a 10-minute rest to relax the gluten. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or some cling film to keep the air from drying it out. Then divide your bulk of dough into individual portions. We recommend 230g dough balls for 10 inch pizzas. Ensure your dough balls are neatly shaped – pinched at the bottom and tight on the top – then place them in a tray or container 3cm apart. Cover with a tight lid or cling film.

Now you can relax. The yeast will take over from here. Leave the dough at room temperature for approximately 6 hours until it expands to almost double its size, then store in the fridge overnight. The next day remove the dough from the fridge for 1-2 hours and bring it back to room temperature before making your pizzas.

Stretching your pizza base

Thom and James say: “Want to look like a boss when making pizza at home? That’s what we thought. This is the traditional Neapolitan technique, in which you have to use your hands (a rolling pin is an absolute no-no). So, roll up your sleeves, dust your hands with flour like a gymnast stepping up to the parallel bars and channel your inner pizzaiolo.”

Method

Place your dough ball on a lightly floured surface then generously dust with more ‘00’ flour. The dough ball should be completely covered in flour, as you don’t want any sticky spots.

Using your fingertips, press out the dough ball firmly, starting at the centre and working your way out to the edges.

It’s important that this motion is a ‘push down’ and not a ‘stretch out’. As you push out to the edges, leave the last inch of the dough untouched. This will become your crust.

Turn the dough over and repeat the process. The aim is to end up with a circle of dough about half the size of the final pizza, with a thin middle and a raised crust.

Transfer the pizza base to the back of your hands. The edge of the crust should rest on your knuckles, with the rest of the base hanging down. (It’s a good idea to ‘de-bling’ just before this stage, as jewellery will poke a hole in the delicate dough.)

Now start stretching the dough between your hands. Try to stretch the outside edge, rather than the centre, as it will become too thin. Keep rotating the pizza base until you have arrived back where you started. Now you should have a 10 inch (ish) pizza base with a raised crust and a beautifully thin middle. If you hold it up to a light you should almost be able to see through it.

Fixing holes

If you over-stretch your dough and it gets too thin, you can end up with little holes in your pizza base. Just squeeze these back together before you put any toppings on. Easy.

Stuck pizzas

Try to move quickly with the dough, as it can stick to the work surface if left too long. If you’re generous with the flour and add more during the process, you shouldn’t end up in a sticky situation.

Pumpkin, sausage, sage and chilli pizza

pumpkin pizza recipe

Thom and James say: “This pizza was inspired by the first man to teach us how to make pizza – Gianluca. He was our cooking teacher when we were in Tuscany and he made a pumpkin and sausage pasta dish that we will remember for ever. We took this recipe as gospel and just transported it onto a pizza, which in our opinion sums up the taste of autumn perfectly.”

Ingredients

  • 1 ball of Neapolitan pizza dough
  • Parmesan, for grating
  • 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 80g fior di latte mozzarella, torn or sliced
  • 60g roasted fennel sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4-5 sage leaves
  • sliced fresh chilli, to taste
  • chilli oil, to serve

For the pumpkin mixture (makes enough for 4 pizzas):

  • 40g butter
  • 50ml good-quality olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 500g diced pumpkin (prepared weight)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

For the pumpkin, heat the butter, oil and garlic in a large saucepan until the garlic is golden brown. Tip in the pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally, on a medium heat until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the grill to its absolute highest setting, and place a large, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and let it get screaming hot.

Meanwhile, flatten and stretch the dough ball to make a 10-inch pizza base.

Lay the pizza base flat in the hot, dry frying pan, then spread with 80g of the pumpkin mixture. Grate over some parmesan and drizzle with the olive oil, then top with the mozzarella, sausage, sage leaves and fresh chilli.

Once the base of the pizza has browned, about 1-2 minutes, place the frying pan under the grill on the highest shelf.

Once the crust has taken on some colour, about 1-2 minutes, drizzle with chilli oil.

’Gianfranco GorgonZola’ pizza

white pizza recipe

Thom and James say: “This was a rare opportunity to celebrate two things that we love: creamy gorgonzola blue cheese from Milan and the Italian football legend and 1990s star of London’s Chelsea Football Club, Gianfranco Zola. Much like its namesake, this pizza has an explosive energy, great strength and an understanding of the outside rule that is unrivalled (hang on – this analogy is beginning to fall over…). Truth be told, it’s just a great pun but is nonetheless a delicious pizza. We pair this with an Italian wheat beer, and it’s a hell of a combo.”

Ingredients

  • 1 small courgette
  • 1 ball of Neapolitan pizza dough
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 60g sweet gorgonzola, in small pieces
  • parmesan, for grating
  • 1 tbsp good-quality olive oil
  • 80g fior di latte mozzarella, torn or sliced
  • a good pinch of dried oregano

Method

Using a speed/swivel peeler, create courgette ribbons by running the peeler lengthways down the courgette. You need about 50g.

Preheat the grill to its absolute highest setting, and place a large, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and let it get screaming hot.

Meanwhile, flatten and stretch the dough ball to make a 10 inch pizza base.

Lay the pizza base flat in the hot, dry frying pan, then scatter over the basil leaves and courgette ribbons. Top with the gorgonzola, a grating of parmesan and the olive oil.

Once the base of the pizza has browned, about 1-2 minutes, add the mozzarella, then place the frying pan under the grill on the highest shelf.

Once the crust has taken on some colour, about 1-2 minutes, scatter with some dried oregano and eat.

Kale, anchovy and chilli pizza

kale pizza recipe by pizza pilgrims

Thom and James say: “We decided to create a pizza choice on our menu called ‘Heaven or Hell’. Two pizzas you could choose from that would send you to heaven or hell. The Americano played the part of hell and this pizza was the virtuous heaven. Kale’s superfood status aside, this is a great combo of earthy anchovy and kale flavours with buffalo mozzarella and a kick of heat from the chilli. We promise it won’t disappoint, and it’s good for you (ish…), so happy days!”

Ingredients

  • 1 ball of Neapolitan pizza dough
  • 80g buffalo mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • parmesan, for grating
  • sliced fresh chilli, to taste
  • 1 tbsp good-quality olive oil
  • chilli oil, to serve

For the kale and anchovy (makes enough for 1 pizza):

  • 30g kale leaves, roughly sliced
  • 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil

Method

Blanch the kale leaves in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes until tender, then drain and plunge the leaves into ice-cold water (to retain the colour).

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a frying pan until the garlic begins to turn golden. Add the anchovy fillets and cook until they melt into the oil. Add in the drained kale and cook on a medium heat until the kale has taken on all the oil. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the grill to its absolute highest setting, and place a large, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and let it get screaming hot.

Meanwhile, flatten and stretch the dough ball to make a 10 inch pizza base.

Lay the pizza base flat in the hot, dry frying pan then top with 100g of the kale mix, the mozzarella, parmesan, fresh chilli and olive oil.

Once the base of the pizza has browned, about 1-2 minutes, place the frying pan under the grill on the highest shelf.

Once the crust has taken on some colour, about 1-2 minutes, drizzle with chilli oil.

Pizza: History, Recipes, Stories, People, Places, Love by Thom and James Elliott (£20, Quadrille) is out now

Photography: Dave Brown

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.