The margherita pizza, queen of pizzas with its tomatoes, cheese and basil that recalls the green white red tricolor of Italy. It is the simplest of pizzas but also the definitive proof that demonstrates all the know-how of a pizza maker. Because that’s where the quality of the dough and that of the oven are made, the two most delicate points in the art of pizza. If Giuseppe “Peppe” Cutraro, former chef of Big Mamma, won nothing less than the world pizza championship in 2019 thanks to a creation now marketed in each of his three Parisian addresses (one of which is considered the best in Europe) with the name of World Champion (yellow cherry tomatoes, raw ham, provolone cheese, buffalo mozzarella, toasted toasted almonds and organic fig jam), it returns with pleasure to its basics. And he shares his secrets with you.
In the beginning was fire
There is no pizza without fire, that’s for sure. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a pizza oven at home capable of reaching 400 or 500°C. Not bad for “Peppe” Cutraro. He just raises the temperature of his oven to 375°C. And for those who have an oven that does not exceed 250°C? “Just place a baking stone in the center of the heat-storing grate, place your pizza on it, then double or even triple the cooking time. »
Peppe recommends first cooking the tomato-covered pasta in a convection oven for five minutes. Then cover with cheese and basil for another five minutes on the grill. The operation will have lasted ten minutes instead of the two sufficient in a professional oven. But that’s how the amateur could have gotten away with it. And you can still bring back a pizza bought at the supermarket and enjoy it at home, “provided you reheat it in a preheated oven at 250°C”, insists “Peppe”. There’s nothing worse for him than a lukewarm, even cold, pizza that tastes like cardboard.
The dough from which pizzas are made
Most of the pizza is in the dough and “Peppe” takes care to hydrate it a lot “so that its water level remains at 70%,” he points out. That is, she constantly moistens it throughout the manufacturing process. “I do and never answer the phone during that time. This is what gives it its freshness and lightness. “Peppe” says he uses a blend of three flours, without specifying exactly which ones except that they are “as low in protein or gluten as possible”.
In his book Neapolitan pizzas, published in full confinement by Marabout, the world champion details two recipes, even the simplest of which is quite complicated: for eight 300g doughs, pour 1kg of flour into a large bowl and crumble 2g of fresh yeast ( or 0 0.8 g of dry yeast) in it. Add 435ml of water and start kneading. After 10 minutes, add 27 g of fine salt, then 7 g of sugar and gradually 235 ml of water. Finally add 10 g of olive oil. Knead more and more energetically until you get a smooth and homogeneous dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Place the ball of dough on the work surface and make slight folds. Leave to rest for another 30 minutes under a damp cloth. Divide the dough into 300 g balls and roll each ball on itself. Let them rest for 6 to 8 hours, at room temperature, in a container tightly closed with transparent film. “After that, your pizzas will be ready to garnish and bake,” he wrote.
The quality of the ingredients
However, it’s the ingredients that make the difference. And it is, of course, appropriate to choose them in season. Except the tomato, which can come out of a can. If “Peppe” prefers San Marzano, he recommends pressing it by hand, in order to keep the fibers intact and not let it oxidize. For the cheese, the former chef of Big Mamma recommends a first mixture of pecorino and Parmesan, before adding strips of previously drained “fior di latte” mozzarella “to avoid the risk of wetting the pizza during cooking”.
Another drizzle of oil adds dynamite to all of this and finally a little basil, of which the world champion lays a few leaves before cooking, and others as soon as they come out of the oven. The first for the fragrance, the second for the taste. Cut the pizza like him with scissors, take the parts between your fingers. And bon appetit!