Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Stuffed pizza with spinach

For me, the perfect pizza is one Napoli-style - very thin, very crispy crust, with few, but well-chosen toppings. Ted likes this type of pizza too, but he's a pizza bigamist, because a corner of his heart is devoted to Chicago-style pizza. He's from Illinois, it's forgivable. We first cooked a Chicago-style pizza in Brisbane, from this recipe given to us by a friend of Ted's who'd worked at a pizza place in his university town, Champaign-Urbana. We've been experimenting with that recipe ever since (it was one of the first - or perhaps the very first - recipe on this webpage, so has come a long way since then). Then for Ted's birthday this year, I bought him The great Chicago-style pizza cookbook, which has reviews of famous Chicago pizza restaurants, colour photographs of the owners and patrons of these restaurants sporting sexy 80s moustaches, and most importantly, recipes for a range of pizzas and comprehensive descriptions of pizza-making techniques. We tried our first recipe from this book today: a pizza with the crust stuffed with spinach and mozzarella, with a simple tomato sauce on top. We added a few marinated aubergine slices to the top, but otherwise stuck to the original recipe.

3 teaspoons sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

150 g fresh baby spinach
200 g mozzarella cheese, grated

three 400 g cans of whole or chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water, and set aside for 5 minutes. Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, then make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and the oil. Mix together and knead thoroughly until a mass of dough is formed. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5-6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft. Place the dough in a lightly floured mixing bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.

Wash the spinach thoroughly and dry completely. Remove any tough stems, then chop the leaves very finely. Mix the chopped leaves with the grated mozzarella.

Drain all the liquid from the tinned tomatoes, and crush the tomatoes with your hands if you are using whole ones. Transfer the tomato flesh to a bowl. Add the olive oil, oregano, basil, salt, garlic and parmesan, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 210 C. Lightly grease a large pizza pan or springform pan, about 12 inches in diameter.

Punch down the dough, then turn it out onto a flat surface and knead gently for 1 minute. Divide it into two pieces, one slightly larger. Roll out the larger piece, until it is about 16-18 inches in diameter - enough to cover the base and sides of the pan. Place the dough in the pan, pressing it into the base and sides. Trim off any dough which hangs over the edge of the pan. Spoon the spinach and mozzarella filling over the dough, and spread evenly.

Roll out the second piece of dough until it is about the same size as the pan. Lay the second piece of dough over the spinach filling, then turn down the edges of the first piece of dough and crimp the two edges of dough together with your fingers to form a thick raised border. Cut a couple of slits in the top layer of dough to let the steam escape during cooking. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the top crust.

Bake in the preheated oven on the lowest rack for 10 minutes. Move the pizza to a high rack, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Check halfway through - if the pizza crust is getting too brown, cover it with alfoil for the remaining cooking time.

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11 April 2004

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