Baking Puglia Pizza

Baking Puglia pizza is quite simple. I invented my recipe for this homemade pizza to capture the tastes and aromas of southern Italy which I visited last July. I also needed a quick vegan dish to feed a friend who was in town.

If you have 60-90 minutes, you can make this pizza from scratch. But you will need to make a trip to your farmer’s market or supermarket to pick up fresh veggies—eggplant, onion, peppers, and zucchini. Your spice closet should include crushed red pepper flakes (essential), basil, oregano, sea salt, and the combo garlic powder + parsley. This recipe succeeds because of the spicy red sauce. I do not buy marinara sauce in a jar. It must be homemade. And despite all your friends (or family) who say it isn’t worth the effort, IGNORE THEM. Homemade red sauce that you simmer on the stove for 30-45 minutes will be a revelation to you. It tastes like summer bottled in a jar.

Ok. Let’s get started. To make your red sauce, you need a 28-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes. You need a mini food processor to mince (but not crush the tomatoes). The “processing” takes less than 30 seconds; this will leave chunks of tomatoes which gives the red sauce its heft.

You combine one tablespoon of olive oil with the minced tomatoes in the pan. I also add one teaspoon each of crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, basil, oregano, and ground pepper. Cook sauce on medium heat to reduce the liquid for about 30-45 minutes. You can easily burn the sauce so watch carefully. This produces a thick sauce.

Next grab a bowl and add flour, water, oil and yeast to make a quick pizza dough. You will need 2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and one packet of quick yeast. You mix one cup of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt, then stir in the olive oil and water and gradually add the second cup of flour. You must keep mixing the dough until it turns into an elastic ball. You set it aside to raise in a warm place for 30 minutes, then knead it for 15 minutes. It is ready to be rolled out on your greased pizza pan.

Now turn on the oven to 450 degrees to roast the Pugliese vegetables. You need to thinly slice the eggplant and zucchini so they look like pepperoni slices. (Remember this is vegan pizza!) I also took the seeds out of the jalapeno pepper and sliced them in long tendrils. Finally, I like an onion on my pizza. (I think roasted onion rings are pretty!)

After the oven is heated, roast all the vegetables together on a cookie sheet. So they don’t burn or stick, you need to spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the pan. Sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes and ground pepper on top. After baking for 15-20 minutes, you will turn each of the vegetable slices over so they can brown on both sides.

The final step baking Puglia pizza is to roll out your pizza dough on a cast iron pizza pan. I bought mine from Amazon (about $26) and it really produces a thin crisp pizza on a budget. I also use a pizza roller because it is a lot easier than pressing the dough into the pan.

I then spread my homemade red sauce so it covers the dough, layer on the roasted vegetables, and drizzle olive oil on top. My vegan Puglia Pizza takes about 12 minutes to bake in the oven. I highly recommend an Italian wine to serve with your pizza and a salad of arugula with tomatoes and imported pepperoncini tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. Baking Puglia pizza is so simple.

Lonely Planet declares Puglia “now takes its place in the first rank of Italy’s famous regions.” Certainly, its vegetarian-forward cuisine will turn you into a fan.

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