Pizza 44

I started this post on Saturday evening, after we’d just finished some surprisingly transcendent homemade pizza. To tell the truth, we hadn’t even bothered to make our own dough, because this was meant to be a quick, if a little locavore-romantic, hunger stopgap meal served up after a busy day. We had, however, used a jar of the tomatoes we’d canned in August, along with the best, freshest mozzarella we could find, and some shiitakes browned in a bit of fabulous pasture butter. With the first bite, I knew that this was going to be one of those seemingly casual meals that comes out of nowhere and blindsides you with its delicious brilliance, ensuring you won’t soon forget it. One of those meals that makes the recession seem almost okay – a pizza that charms all your friends with its integrity, cultural diversity and oratorial skills. Maybe plays hoops a little as international currency. It was going to be – yup, you’ve got it – the Obama of pizzas. Pizza 44.

So, on Saturday, this post started with “Sometimes everything just comes together.”

Well, karma took that statement as bait, apparently. In three days, we’ve had: (a) four grueling cases of the flu; (b) three meals of canned soup, and not the fancy organic kind; (c) two sleepless nights; (d) one trip to the ER, for the baby, no less; and (e) zero properly functioning furnaces. If this song had a refrain about a bird in a tree, it wouldn’t so much be a partridge in a pear tree as a BirdSmack in that dead tree on our front lawn posing “grave danger to pedestrians” which, for reasons (a) through (e) above, we have not yet had the chance to remove.

So I hope you’ll excuse the short post with the craptacular picture taken on my phone and go on to enjoy what’s left of this incredible day. Go 44!

Pizza 44

Preheat the oven as high as she’ll go. (Cooking time here is based on 500 degrees F, but if you have the luxury of going higher, do so for the sake of your crust.) Lightly oil a pizza pan or baking sheet.

Make a quick sauce: Heat two Tablespoons olive oil in a medium dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Dice one medium red onion, roughly chop four cloves of garlic, and cook them in the oil until softened, about five minutes. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent browning. Add 1 quart canned tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram and 1 teaspoon salt (if the tomatoes are not already salted). Simmer rapidly, stirring frequently, until the sauce is very thick.

Spread out onto the pizza pan, whichever way you know how (or slowly and gently if you know no way), 1 ball good-quality pizza dough. You can make your own surprisingly easily if you have a few hours and enjoy a slightly stronger tasting dough – more on this someday. Otherwise, two good options are the frozen white or whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods or asking your favorite pizza guy if you can buy a few balls of dough, and freezing the extras. They are usually happy to accommodate.

Top the dough with half the sauce, spreading the sauce evenly over all but the outermost edges of the dough. Save the other half of the sauce for another use.

Top the sauce with 3/4 pound of the best, freshest whole milk mozzarella you can find, quartered and sliced.

Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a pinch of salt.

Bake for about 17 minutes, or until done to your liking. Slice after a minute’s cooling and serve.