The Accidental Locavore’s father was making fun of the crust on the pizza bianco with ramps, reminding me that it was clear I had missed the pizza tossing class with our friend Moe. Moe is famous at Madison’s Pizza not only for his tossing skills, but more importantly (for the Locavore anyway) for his “Moe’s Classico” a thin crust pizza with four cheeses, fresh tomato sauce, garlic and basil — a delicious combination.
My husband (who is much more obedient with my father) promptly arranged for me to meet with Moe and learn how to properly toss pizza dough. At our appointed time, the Locavore donned an apron and got to work. The first thing he taught me, was that the dough needs to be cool, if not cold. You dust it with flour on both sides, and start to work it into a bigger disc with your fingertips. After you have dotted the whole thing with the tips of your fingers, flip it over and start to push it out into a bigger circle using the side of one hand, while the other one rotates the dough. When it’s about 30-40% bigger, dust the back of your hands with flour and slide one hand under the dough. Pick it up and start rotating it, using the other hand to guide you and pinch the edges to form the crust. Then, if you’re brave enough, toss away! As a Locavore I’m OK tossing the pizza, it’s the catching part that wasn’t terribly graceful. Needs practice! Moe coached me through the steps involved in a Classico, we made one and popped it in the oven. Delicious, if maybe a little heavy on the cheese.
Back at home, the locavore tested out her new found skills. Made a new batch of dough, pulled out the Italian sausage from the Charcutepalooza challenge and went off to the local market for the rest of the the ingredients. Then, back to the kitchen. When you get the dough to the desired thickness and diameter, it gets moved to a pizza peel, an important piece of equipment (they say you can use the back of a cookie sheet, but it’s tricky to negotiate the pizza off of it, trust me), lightly dusted with flour or cornmeal. Now it’s time to start “decorating,” as the locavore’s husband calls it.
A Moe’s Classico starts with a layer of ricotta which has been thinned down with heavy cream, some minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. The next cheese layer is thinly sliced provolone, followed by some sliced fresh mozzarella. That gets topped with grated Parmesan, minced garlic, a “Grandmother’s” sauce (whole canned plum tomatoes, crushed by hand, with more minced garlic, chopped fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix together, but don’t cook it). We like to add Italian sausage and this time I used the ones I made for the Charcutepalooza challenge, but you don’t have to.
Slide the pizza off the peel onto the preheated (in a 450-500 degree oven for 30 minutes) pizza stone using a side to side, short shake. Give it a couple of trial shakes before you’re dealing with 500 degree heat. If you think there’s going to be a problem shifting it, lift the leading edge of the pie and dust the peel with a little flour or cornmeal, to give it a bit of a runway.
Cook for about 10 minutes until it’s golden brown. You may want to rotate it halfway through cooking if it looks like it’s not getting cooked evenly. When the pizza is done, remove it from the oven, sprinkle with more Parmesan, oregano (fresh or dried) and chopped fresh basil. Serve and enjoy.
Many thanks to Moe and the crew at Madison’s Pizza Café for the lesson!