Almanac Food: KD’s Kitchen – The Napoletana Pizza

 

KD’s Napoletana Pizza. (Photo by KD.)

 

I don’t call myself a chef.

 

I’m a cook.

 

Actually, I’m not a cook, either.

 

Really, if truth be told, I’m a person who gets obsessed by a particular food item and tries to reproduce it at home to a very high standard. In such a mood, I can usually come up with the goods, if I do say so myself.

 

Here’s an example: Napoletana Pizza.

 

I’m talking about the one called by this name in Australian pizza shops. (So I’m not pretending to reproduce any kind of traditional Italian Napoli pizza here.) As many would know, it has the following ingredients: tomato base, cheese, olives, anchovies and oregano.

 

I think my obsession with the Napoletana started around the time of the Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria. To amuse myself back then, I decided to try to reproduce at home some of my favourite take-away foods. This is one.

 

I like so many different types of pizza, and generally these have more complex flavour profiles (if that’s not a real cooking term, then I just made it up) than the Napoletana, but the challenge here is to make a simple type with a wonderful balance of flavours very well, rather than one with ten different toppings that have the potential to compete with each other. Doing this is like being in accord with those in the orchestral music realm who believe that writing a string quartet is more of an ultimate test in skill than composing a symphony, as everything is exposed in the simple four-part strings piece and can’t be in some sense hidden or ‘doubled up’, as can be the case in the larger scale work.

 

So, what is important is making a superb Napoletana Pizza?

 

The short answer: everything.

 

I spent months working to achieve the desired result in relation to this pizza, experimenting with different types of bought bases (yes, a small compromise here, as one could make one’s own) until I found the one that best suited my preference. I tried out a range of pizza sauces and invented a few of my own, until I found an organic pizza/pasta sauce at a nearby gourmet supermarket that was just right, and made use of various brands of sliced black olives and tinned anchovies, as well as numerous melty pizza-style cheeses. Even choosing a favourite brand of oregano makes a little but important difference. In the end, though, the thing is to trust your own palate and settle upon the continued use of certain items once you’ve found they work particularly well. (Regarding quality ingredients: buying fresh is not always possible, of course, and paying the highest price doesn’t always result in the best.) Often with supermarket goods, the price level above the basic home brand price is as good as anything in the range for that item. Sometimes even the home brand option can work very well in a recipe.

 

In terms of the amount of each ingredient that makes up the Napoletana Pizza – and pizzas generally, of course – it’s very much a matter of personal preference, though fundamentally it’s a balance between the ingredients involved, so that each one plays a notable role in the overall taste.

 

Of course, cooking the pizza properly is equally as important as the ingredients on it. Again, some trial and error is part of the process of achieving the optimum result. One major point here, I reckon, is to know the characteristics of your own oven, how long it takes to heat up; whether it has slighter hotter or cooler areas within it etc. For the small electric oven I use for my pizzas, I turn my pizza around 180 degrees half way through the cooking process (once you establish how long that is), so that both halves are equally well cooked, and put it onto a higher shelf to brown the top of it about five minutes before removal. Also, I check the pizza a couple of times as it is cooking, just to be sure of how it’s going.

 

Soon, with regard to the ingredients and the cooking of the pizza, you’ll work out what works best for you. Then you’ll be able to repeat it without stuffing around unduly. Of course, the door is still open to experiment a little as you go along; for example, in the instance of the Napoletana, you may discover a cheese you haven’t used before that’s an improvement on your current choice.

 

Happy cooking and, more importantly, happy eating!

 

Culinarily yours,
KD

 

To read more from Kevin Densley CLICK HERE.

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for educational films made for tertiary students.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Looks good KD! I made my first pizza for quite a while last night and I was pleasantly surprised. I used some pizza specific flour (Lauke) which I think made all the difference. Making them again to have watching the GF.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Great, Col!

    I really like the sound of the base you made.

  3. Something about the lockdown being conducive to the homemade pizza. It’s turned into a weekend ritual. Have been using the Souva wrap or Lebanese pockets as a base as they are thin and not too heavy. Last night version was a homemade base by my youngest, made in the morning so it had much time to rise. Perfect base! ( i don’t use flavoured tomato paste, find the flavour unnatural and a little overpowering)

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Good one, Kate!

    And you’re certainly on the money about those thin bases you mention – they work really well, and I’ve used them myself; in general, thin bases are preferable to the thicker varieties, as far I’m concerned.

    The type of tomato sauce I favour for my Napoletana is an organic one, as I noted. I agree that some widely available brands can taste unnatural and a bit over-the-top.

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