As part of our Pizza Pilgrims collaboration, we’ve collected some insightful tips from the pizza masters and founders at Pizza Pilgrims, Thom & James Elliot, as well as from our ever-brilliant head chef at Pasta Evangelists, Roberta d’Elia.
For pasta dishes, Roberta suggests: “If you can, always choose fresh and seasonal products. If you have a traditional sauce in mind, think about the best pasta shape to pair it! Italians are serious about pasta shape and sauces, for example if I have Orecchiette available in my kitchen, I will never choose to make Carbonara sauce!”
James and Thom’s pizza advice: “A key facet of Neapolitan people is the ‘less is more’ mantra’. Don’t load your pizzas with piles of toppings, but pick fewer, higher quality ingredients and let them really sing."
Tools & Equipment
Roberta's advice: “Be resourceful! Sometimes you don’t need tools or specific equipment to be able to make pasta. For example, if I want to make ravioli and I do not have ravioli stamp or cutter, I will use a glass or if I have to shape long pasta like spaghetti/tagliatelle/pappardelle will simply use the rolling pin to roll out the dough and the knife to cut them.”
James and Thom's proposition: “There are some fantastic home pizza ovens on the market nowadays - Ooni or Roccbox to name just a couple that we rate. But you can get such a great finish with our frying pan & grill method (see www.pizzainthepost.co.uk) that you really can make great Neapolitan pizza at home using only a couple of things you’ll find in anyone and everyone’s kitchen, so don’t feel you need all the top notch equipment to give it a go. Frying pan + hob + hot grill = great pizza in five minutes!"
Tips for Pasta: “Always start by creating a "fountain" with flour, a kind of donut with a central space to hold your eggs. Then the eggs should be beaten and mixed with the flour slowly, so only adding a little egg at a time. When the eggs have been absorbed by the flour, you can begin to knead by hand for 10/15 min. In the end, you want a ball that is homogeneous, elastic, firm and smooth. The dough must be left to rest for 20/30 mins - and never in the fridge.”
Tips for Pizza: “48-hour proofing is key, as is starting with good flour (we use ‘00’ flour from the famous Caputo Mill in Naples). Our 3 tips for handling dough, after proofing and just before cooking, are:
1) Lift the dough out of the fridge a couple of hours before cooking, to let it come to room temperature and get a final rise.
2) Don’t overwork it - at this late stage you aren’t looking to knead the dough as this tightens the glutens and makes chewy, tough pizza: handle it as little as you can just before cooking - be quick and efficient when sculpting and stretching your base.
3) If it doesn’t start round, it won’t finish round! Make sure the initial disc shape you press out with your fingers (leaving an inch ring around the edge for your crust) stays pretty circular. Watching one of our videos can really help you get the hang of stretching a base like a true pizzaiola - it helps to see the motion in action.
Dressing it Up
Roberta says: “I always add fresh herbs. It is a simple way to add vibrancy and freshness to your dish. Don’t forget the traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano: it goes with everything (bar seafood!)”
James & Thom’s suggestion: “Think about colours that will pop: fresh herbs or dollops of pesto can bring a nice touch of green; red, yellow and even green whole cherry tomatoes add some interest; or a handful of bright red fresh chilli works too.”
Tips for Pasta: “Salt should be only added once the water begins to boil. Adding salt from cold water not only delays the water to boil but could leave a metallic aftertaste to the pasta. The general recommended dose of salt is 7g per 100g of pasta. However, it is good to know that the longer you have to cook the pasta, the less salt you should use. If the pasta is to cook for 10 minutes, the dose of salt is between 7 and 10 g; for a longer cooking (eg 15 minutes), 5 g of salt will be enough.”
Tips for Pizza: “It is really important to keep a close eye on your pizza. Unlike with oven pizzas from the supermarket which may sit in the oven for 20 minutes, Neapolitan pizza in a 400 degree pizza oven - or under a screaming hot grill if you’re using our frying pan technique - can go from perfectly cooked to burned in 30 seconds, so you can’t walk off to do the ironing! Some good indicators to look for are the crust puffing up and just starting to get blackened char marks - and the mozzarella melting but not browning too much.”
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At Pasta Evangelists, we bring a taste of Italy to your kitchen. Prepared using the freshest ingredients, our gourmet pasta dishes are perfect for those looking to enjoy restaurant-quality meals, delivered to your door, and ready in under five minutes. Order from our weekly menu today, and we’ll offer you 25% off your first delivery - simply enter the code BLOG25 at checkout.