I’ve been meaning to write this since my family left Italy nearly a year ago. My delay has its roots in a bit a fear that I wouldn’t do this experience justice with my words. I wanted to describe our experience in such a way that you could relive it with us – the sights, smells, the tastes – a sharing of passion for food with new friends in the beautiful Chianti region of Tuscany.
Before we eat, a little background…
We planned a vacation at what we thought was a beautiful, rustic home, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, nestled in the heart of Tuscany. As fate would have it, we hit a culinary jackpot! Our hosts at Montrogoli, Alessio and Arianna, shared a passion for clean eating, or ‘slow food’ as they call it. Alessio and Arianna embrace this style of eating. It’s truly a way of life for them. So much so that they are slowing growing a business that highlights this lifestyle in Italy – KM ZeroTours.
Alessio is a trained pastry chef, organic gardner, sommelier, and pizzialo. “What is a Pizzaiolo?” In short, it is extensive and intense culinary training for creating true Neapolitan style pizza that ensures ancient methods and ingredients are maintained. Arianna is all things Tuscany. She knows the land, the people, the culture. This is her home and her heart. Alessio and Arianna are the masterminds behind KM Zero Tours. With Alessio and Arianna, you will experience Tuscany from a local’s perspective. You can experience organic wine tastings, visit local dairy farms for cheese-making lessons, visit local markets to see their handicrafts, and/or get in an Italian kitchen for slow-food cooking classes.
When we discovered they offered a hands-on, pizza making experience in our very own Tuscan holiday home, we jumped at the opportunity. Making pizzas with a pizzaiolo in an outdoor brick/stone pizza oven in the heart of Tuscany?? We’ll take three, please!! I even got permission to share the recipe!!
Let’s Get Cooking
First, let’s start with 4 simple, but critical dough ingredients:
- 1 liter water (lukewarm)
- 1 kilo (700 grams) flour (ancient grain Farina, ground super fine)
- 15-20 grams yeast (fresh, NOT dry)
- 30 grams salt (fine, not coarse)
Note: This recipe makes approximately 8-9 pizzas. This is essentially a recipe for a pizza party!
- Add fresh yeast to the water and stir.
- Add the flour to the yeast water and stir by hand until dough begins to form.
- With well floured hands, turn out the dough on a floured board.
- To begin working the dough, continuously pull the outside of the dough into the center to form a ball. Repeat this process for 3-4 minutes.
- Next, stretch the dough to an oblong shape to expose the inner portion of the dough to the air so it begins to dry. Then fold the back unto itself. Repeat this process until the interior portion of the dough, when exposed while stretched, is no longer humid.
(The interior portion will begin to look like the exterior because it is beginning to dry a bit.)
- Place the dough in a slightly floured large bowl. Cover it with a towel. Allow to rest at room temperature on an Italian summer day for 3-4 hours.
While resting, the dough will double in size.
Note: this is NOT the time to make pizzas. Some do now, but Alessio says “absolutely not.” The crust will be all wrong! It will not digest easily, nor will it have a light and slightly crunchy texture. [Don’t you just love the passion!?!]
- After the dough has risen and doubled in size, with floured hands, flour the top of the dough and a board. In one piece, carefully move the dough to the floured board. Gently roll the dough into a large log.
- Cut the dough into 300 gram sections. Each section will be enough dough for one pizza. Each portion is gently rolled into a small ball.
- Place each dough ball at least 5” from each other on a lightly floured pan. Cover the dough balls with towels. Allow to rest again for 3 hours.
However, if you’re really getting in touch with your inner Italian, you can try your hand at schiacciata too. Schiacciata is a flattened bread that is lightly seasoned with a mixture of olive oil, water, fine salt, and sometimes, fresh rosemary.
Schiacciata is made by pressing the dough with your fingers into flat bread. The olive oil, water, and salt mixture is then pressed into the bread with the hands as well. Then, it’s baked. Alessio finishes his hot schiacciata with a bit more olive oil, salt, and fresh rosemary. This is so simple, but oh so [lose your mind] good!!
But, getting back to pizzas…
While the dough is resting a second time, Alessio and the hubs heat the outdoor brick and stone oven. When the oven is ready, it’s time to prepare the pizzas.
If you do this with Alessio and Arianna at Montrogoli, the pizza prep surface is truly “rustic Italian” – a lightly floured, huge slab of aged Carrera marble set atop a homemade wooden frame.
By hand [no rolling pin permitted!!] press the dough into a rounded shape. At this point, we made so many different pizzas my head was spinning!
When making pizzas, order of ingredients is important as is having the freshest of ingredients. Pizza making is a labor of love [more like passion] and there is no room for poor quality ingredients. The passion along with fresh and simple ingredients is what makes Italian food well…Italian!
Creating Pizzas (in order of ingredients)
- Tomato sauce (if using), salt, and then olive oil.
- Hearty ingredients than can stand up to flames are added next (e.g., mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, gorgonzola, eggplant, zucchini)
- Baking time. (In a fiery hot outdoor oven, one pizza takes about 5 minutes)
- Delicate toppings not suited for a kiss by the flames are added now (e.g., soft cheeses, arugula, prosciutto, speck – cured Northern Italian pork, etc.)
- Regardless of ingredients, all pizzas are finished with a drizzling of .. you guessed it, a bit more olive oil.
That evening, under the Tuscan stars, we stuffed ourselves silly with delicious pizza, schiacciata, and local wines. We believed ourselves to be Tuscan (if only for a little while). I can still smell and taste the pizzas every time I think about that evening. Those memories will last a lifetime!!
If you ever have the chance to visit Tuscany, you absolutely must check out KM Zero Tours and let Arianna and Alessio show you how it’s done. Better yet, stay with them at Montrogoli like we did and experience their world with them. But please, check with us first – we don’t want you booking our holiday home on the week we plan to be there!!!
Thanks again Alessio and Arianna for sharing your fantastic home and recipes with us. We miss you and can’t wait to return…Ciao!