When my husband was scouting out the Columbus area for our move 12 years ago, he would call me and tell me what he found that was familiar to us. While he was busy researching the best school districts, I asked things like, do they have a Lord & Taylor there. Is there a Bloomingdales? And, oh, make sure you try the pizza I can’t move anywhere that doesn’t have good pizza! I have to be honest, the reports weren’t so promising.* That was coming from my husband who can eat almost anything. The best he came up with was California Pizza Kitchen. While I do enjoy their pizza, and sometimes crave their tricolore** salad pizza, it’s not New York Pizza!
How could this happen? A Brooklyn girl living someplace without good pizza, unheard of, unthinkable! Then I thought, if I learned to make it myself, I wouldn’t have to go without. So this began my journey on learning how to make the best tasting pizza I could! Pizza that would rival some of the best I’ve had in NY.
While still living in NY I purchased dough from my local pizza place just to get the hang of it. I bought a pizza stone and pizza wheel to cut the pizza. I was ready! From there, I researched cookbooks, cooking shows and asked an Italian neighbor of mine who made pizza regularly to help me. While this isn’t the first pizza I learned how to make, I wanted to share it first because it’s the easiest, absolutely delicious, and is made in a standard sheet pan. The ingredients are very simple and rustic. Most people are familiar with the round pizza, and square Sicilian, but the grandma pie is a whole different ballgame. Some people think it’s a thin Sicilian pie, but it’s not. The crust is almost like a thin focaccia and crispy on the bottom. It’s not so easy to find outside of Long Island where it originated. That is unless you go to Italy where someone’s grandmother makes it for you, hence the title Grandma Pizza.
So what exactly is a grandma pie? According to a Newsday article (Long Island newspaper) written by Erica Marcus…
“Variations abound, but the basic outlines are as follows: a thin layer of dough is stretched into an oiled, square “Sicilian” pan, topped sparingly with shredded mozzarella, crushed uncooked canned tomatoes, chopped garlic and olive oil, and baked until the top bubbles and the bottom is crisp.
[Michele] Scicolone [Manhattan resident, Italian food expert, and co-author of Pizza: Any Way You Slice It] observed that grandma pie sounded a lot like “pizza alla casalinga” (housewife-style pizza), “the kind of pizzas you’d get in Italy if you were invited to someone’s home.”
New Yorkers take their pizza seriously. If you would like to read the whole story, you can find it at this link:
So here it is, my version of Grandma Pizza adapted from Cooks Country…
1 1/2 cups bread flour (plus more for kneading)
3/4 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Recipe for the topping follows at the end.
For the dough: Coat a rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan 18 x 13) with 2 tablespoons of good olive oil and set aside.
In a measuring cup add the warm water, sugar and yeast. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has activated and is foamy on top.
In a large bowl add the flour and salt. When the yeast is proofed, add the tablespoon of olive and stir into the flour mixture. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth and elastic about 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the dough to greased sheet pan and turn it to coat. Stretch dough to about a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to one hour. While the dough is rising, put the topping together.
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced fine (or more if you like garlic as much as I do!)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (use a good quality mozzarella)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Place tomatoes in a colander and drain well. I leave it draining about 30 minutes. Then combine tomatoes, oil and garlic in a bowl and stir well. That’s it for the sauce!
After it has doubled in size, stretch dough to the corners of the pan and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and the heat oven to 500 degrees. Now it’s time to assemble the pizza. Sprinkle the cheese over the dough leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Top with tomato mixture and then place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and when you lift a corner of the crust you see it’s well browned underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to yield a crispy crust. Enjoy!
* 11 years later we have several really good pizza places here. Tomorrow I’m planning on doing a food crawl at a couple of them. One we love, the other we can’t wait to try. I’ve been told it’s the best pizza in Columbus. I’ll be the judge of that!
**tricolore is the name and spelling of the salad at CPK, this is not a misspelling on my behalf. It’s a caramelized Parmesan pizza crust (I get whole wheat) topped with spring salad mix, diced tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese with their homemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I highly recommend it, salad and a pizza all in one! Yum!