Regular visitors to the blog might recall Wendi, my wife and founder of this blog, took me to 3 Palms Pizzeria & Bakery (read about it here) in Hudson, Ohio, for my birthday. At the restaurant, I was treated to a wonderful Neapolitan-style pizza, much like the kind I grew up eating in the Boston area. The pizza was so good, it inspired me to make my own.
Now, Wendi and I are no strangers to making pizza at home. If I were a betting man, I would say we make pizza more often than we call in for delivery. The problem with pizza chains, in my opinion, is the quality has suffered as the corporations try to find ways to keep the prices the same while operating costs increase. Also, there is a reason why pizza and Chinese food are better in the restaurants than at home: The food steams in the to-go boxes and containers and they lose their crispiness.
Well, the pizza at 3 Palms was great. Pizzeria Regina in Boston is still my favorite, but it was real good. (You can read about Pizzeria Regina/Polcari’s here.) At 3 Palms, I saw the letters D.O.P. after the Margherita pizza. I recalled the letters had something to do with authenticity, but I didn’t realize the designation existed outside Italy. It caused me to do further research, and D.O.P. designates the San Marzano tomatoes were grown in a particular region of Italy. These are the true tomatoes of the Neapolitan pizza. I never knew this, so I was happy when I went into our local grocery store, Buehler’s, and discovered they carried them.
As I read about San Marzano tomatoes, I learned there are some sold as San Marzano-style tomatoes, which are not authentic. You can take the seeds and grow this variety elsewhere, but they will be different than the ones grown in a particular valley with volcanic ash. I also discovered true San Marzano tomatoes are canned and either sold as whole or halved; they are not crushed or pureed. So, I pulsed a couple whole tomatoes with some of the juice in my Ninja blender, a gift from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Randi and Shaun Vahl.
I am a big fan of not cooking my “pizza sauce.” The thinking is you put the crushed/pureed tomatoes on the dough and add seasonings because the sauce will cook as the pizza cooks. It provides a much different and more vibrant flavor profile. If you have never tried it, I encourage you to do so. I added a little salt, pepper, a parmesan cheese/garlic seasoning, and dried parsley, basil and oregano (the tomatoes had fresh basil in the can). If you like a sweet sauce, add a little sugar.
Also, when making pizza, I prefer to use cheese slices. LaRosa’s, a Cincinnati-based pizza chain that seems to be expanding into new territories, uses provolone cheese. I like to use provolone, and I often will alternate the cheese slices on a single pizza so there is a mix of cheeses. However, with my desire for this to be a Neapolitan pizza, I only used mozzarella. It wasn’t the true water buffalo mozzarella, it was local (fortunately, we live in the midst of cheese country: Holmes County). After I made the pizza, I regretted that I used so much cheese. It took away, slightly, from the tomatoes.
However, the pizza turned out great. The tomatoes did make a difference. The sauce had a nice, bright flavor. I will be making another one of these pizzas soon, with less cheese. What kind of pizza do you like? Discuss in the comment section below.