Pizza is, without a doubt, the most famous Italian food in the world.
Although flatbread topped with various ingredients can be found all over the world, it is in Naples that the pizza has been elevated to the internationally loved dish we know today. It's hard to recreate the thin, soft and slightly charred dough that makes the pizza so recognizable: you will need a wood-fired oven and a lot of skill.
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
But Neapolitans are inventive people, and together with the classic pizzas, they have created all sort of fried pizzas. Filled or flat, these pizzas are the ultimate comfort food, and can be found all over Naples in the “fast food” section of the pizzerias.
The recipe I propose this week is how to make mini fried pizzas or pizzette montanare, which are very commonly prepared at home and especially as party food. They are relatively easy and quick to prepare, and super tasty.
Ingredients for around 30 pizzette
For the dough:
600 ml lukewarm water
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 or 2 tsp salt, according to taste
25 g fresh yeast (if using dried, refer to instructions on the packet)
1 kg plain flour, plus some extra
Vegetable oil to fry
For the sauce:
125 g mozzarella, finely chopped
100 g grated parmesan
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
400 g chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of basil leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fried pizza is a popular street food in Naples. Photo: Ruthven/Wikimedia Commons
1. Pour the flour on a wooden table or in a large container and form a well. In a small bowl, crumble the fresh yeast, add 2 tsp of sugar and half a glass of lukewarm water. Mix it well until everything is dissolved, wait ten minutes and pour it in the middle of the well.
2. In another half glass of water, dissolve the salt and pour it on the flour together with the oil. With one hand, start mixing the flour and the water, adding more water until all the flour has been absorbed.
3. Keep the flour and the rest of the lukewarm water next to you and add them gradually to the dough as needed, until the dough becomes smooth, elastic and won’t stick to the fingers anymore.
4. Keep kneading vigorously until the dough becomes firm: the dough is ready when it 'bounces back' after poking it with a finger. It usually requires around 15-20 minutes of vigorous kneading. Once ready, form a ball with the dough and put it in a large bowl, covering it with a clean tea towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about one hour: it needs to double its volume.
5. To prepare the tomato sauce, on a low heat, warm 2 tbsp of oil, then add the garlic. When the garlic starts to become golden, add the chopped tomatoes, the salt and the pepper. Let it cook for about 20 minutes on a medium heat. Cover and keep the sauce bubbling on a very low heat.
6. Take the raised dough from the bowl, put it on a table and “punch” it back, and knead for another five minutes. Divide the dough into small balls, about the size of a golf ball, put them on a tray, and cover them with the tea towel. Let them rest for another ten minutes.
7. In a large pan, heat abundant vegetable oil on high heat. Take the dough balls and flatten them up into circular shapes. Once the oil is very hot, fry the pizzas for a few minutes, flipping to cook both sides. Place them on a tray lined with paper towels, to absorb the excess oil.
8. As you take them from the pan, spread about a spoonful of hot tomato sauce on each of them, sprinkle with a little chopped mozzarella and some torn basil leaves, and then dust with the grated parmesan. Wait a few minutes for the mozzarella to melt.
9. Serve the pizzette warm, accompanied by a cold beer.
Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private
Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.