My Ticket to Italy: Learning to Make (and Eat) Italian Pizza

The day has dawned.

The hour has slowly dwindled.

The time has finally come.

My plane ticket to Italy has finally been earned.

The culmination of my baking career is now…valid. According to my father, that is.

Today, I learned how to make pizza.

Homeade pizza.

Italian pizza.

It was kind of like a self-realization of what I am supposed to do with the rest of my life.

Which obiously is to eat pizza.

We started by mixing a very tough dough.

Then we made sauce.

Marco’s Succulent Pizza Sauce

What are specific measurements when you are making pizza? (Apparently not as important as I would like them to be) Here is my go at it.

  • 2 cans of whole Tomatoes
  • A few turns of Olive Oil
  • A handful of Capers, washed
  • A few sprinkles of Oregano
  • Several Anchovy fillets, if desired.


  1. Mix all together in a bowl.
  2. Add salt after the sauce is mixed together because of the salty capers.
  3. Blend with a hand blender. Add salt after testing sauce.
  4. If desired, also blend in de-boned anchovies for extra flavor.

Then we poured it on.

We threw on some toppings and watched as my peers mouthes started to open wider…

and wider…

and wider.

As we began to cut the thick style pizza squares, my mouth began salviating into a large salivation puddle that I attempted to wipe up with my shoe.

Marco’s Thick Crusted Pizza

For GREAT pizza in a home kitchen without a wood fire oven, prepare the dough in the morning. Let it rise in the (turned off) oven all morning and early afternoon. Use dough in late afternoon-evening. After you take it out of the rising location, put it on a table and hit out the air. Let rise again (1 hour), then make your pizza!


  • 1 Kg flour (500g All-purpose flour, 500g flour 120)
  • 300 grams sparkling water
  • 200 grams milk
  • 50 grams EVOO
  • 25 grams salt
  • 20 grams yeast


  • Homemade pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella, drained, and chopped into fine pieces
  • Garlic, minced
  • Basil, torn into pieces
  • Parmesan cheese, for topping
  • If desired, anchovy, mushrooms, capers, prosciutto (add  this ingredient only AFTER baking)


  1. Melt the yeast in the milk by swirling around with your fingers.
  2. Use the dough hook in a stand mixer for 10 minutes to combine all of the ingredients. (It will be a strong, tough dough)
  3. Olive oil the baking sheet (be generous).
  4. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Flour and flip. Roll out again so that it fits in a sheet pan, size of your choice. Press to even it out in the baking sheet.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, put in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour or more.
  6. Press down dough with fingers. Add pizza sauce Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit without toppings.
  7. Take the pizza out of the pan, place on a cooling rack. Top with mozzarella and toppings of choice ( I recommend garlic and basil). If using any type of cold cut, such as prosciutto or sliced ham, place on pizza only after baking.
  8. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  9. Top with shredded parmesan cheese

For Napoleon style pizza: For thin crusted pizza, you make the pizza dough directly, there is no rising needed. Just make the dough and after step 2 in the above recipe, refrigerate for 24 hours instead of preparing the rising. After dough has been refrigerated, roll out super thin, stretch with hands, throw like a pizza master, and cover with sauce, cheese, basil, olive oil, and garlic. Bake in a 425-450* Fahrenheit oven until your desired “done-ness” (7-9 minutes) I prefer using a pizza stone or a pizza pan with holes to allow the pizza to get super crispy on the bottom!

And Daddy, I made one for you.

That is…I burnt it to a crisp.

And as if our day couldn’t get any better, we made focaccia with toppings.

And this incredibly irresistable red onion compote.

Which we slathered on top of bread dough, next to rosemary infused potatoes.

It’s a good life I live.

And then we baked it.

And ate it.

And cried happy happy focaccia tears.

Marco’s Focaccia with Toppings


  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 500 grams 120 flour (a flour with low-gluten)
  • 60 grams lard
  • 600 grams water
  • 25 grams active fresh yeast
  • 30 grams salt
  • 10 grams sugar
  • 40 grams Extra Virgin Olive Oil (extra for topping)

Sweet Red Onion Topping:

  • 4 red onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 100grams red wine
  • 200 grams sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rosemary Potato Topping:

  • 4-6 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Fresh rosemary leaves
  • Salt, pepper, and EVOO


  1. Melt the yeast in the water and combine with flour, lard, salt, and sugar.
  2. Knead until the gluten develops (aka, it because smooth and stretchy), about 10 minutes.
  3. Form a bowl with your hands and allow to rest on a smooth surface for 10 minutes (covered very loosely with plastic wrap).
  4. Use your fingers to press the dough into an olive oil coated baking pan. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes; the elastic dough will tend to shrink, press and stretch again paying attention not to make any holes.
  5. Allow to rise for 30-40 minutes in a warm place.
  6. Top with sweet red onion topping or rosemary potato topping (or half and half!)
    1. For the sweet red onion topping: Sautee two chopped and peeled red onions with 2 cloves of garlic and olive oil. Add together the red wine and sugar, add to the onion mixer. Top with plastic wrap and cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Cool down (you can use the freezer). Top rolled out focaccia with the mixture.
    2. For the rosemary potato topping: To the focaccia dough with fresh rosemary pieces, thinly sliced potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
    3. Bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes at 425* Fahrenheit. (May need more or less time depending on the thickness of the focaccia dough.
    4. Cut into small squares and munch away!

And thanks to my many hours of interpreting my own notes from the lesson, I have included (above) each recipe for everything that you have seen. I hope you appreciate it! Word to the wise: BUY A SCALE! There are very inexpensive scales that transfer from grams to ounces and make your measuring experience 10x better than you would have ever expected. So, I apologize for the foreign measurement system, but its my encouragement to your to buy your new shiny kitchen scale at :)

You can thank me later…

With a piece of pizza.

Speaking of pizza, I was able to experience one of the most whole, natural, simple, yet irresistable pizza’s that I have had in Florence. I was recommed by a local that the Caffe Italiano  was the best pizza in town.

So, well, I went.

And I conquered a Margherita pizza, (one of three offered on the menu) with tomatoes, mozzerella cheese, olive oil, and basil.

So here is where I fess up to you and be completely honest.

Italian pizza is NOTHING like American pizza. It is usually cooked in a wood fire oven, the crust is SUPER thin, the sauce is made in house with fresh tomatoes, the mozzerella is fresh, and the basil is never from a seasoning jar.

And the olive oil…well I think that goes without saying…it’s legit.

So my first taste of Italian pizza wasn’t like, “OH MY GOSH MY LIFE IS CHANGED.”

It was more like, “wow, pizza can actually be a fresh whole food, not a greasy mess that causes heart disease.”

And while I can’t say that this is the best pizza I’ve had in my life (Because I think a greasy one that made me feel miserable might have been),  but I was completely impressed, and ate much more than I ever expected. And, I felt completely amazing afterwards.

And completely ignoring the cuteness that the man who baked my pizza initiated with this heart design, it actually WAS saving my heart.

No grease, no preservatives, this was complete and indescribably perfect.

As the pizzastarted to reach room temperature and everything seemed to keep its shape better, I realized just how much I wanted this pizza in my belly. The crunchy puffy crust was a perfectly compliment to the stringy mozzerella cheese that I piled on. When I hit a hint of EVOO, I smiled..and giggled.

And yes, I was by myself.

And I liked it.

I think the moral of the store is this:

Whether you eat pizza that you have made from fresh ingredients or you fly all the way to Florence to enjoy and incredibly fresh and delicious pizza the way it is SUPPOSED to be made, it doesn’t matter. Just experience not feeling like a fatty after you eat a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza from pizza hut.

This, my friends, is the real deal…and rightfully so.

Interested in the flying to Florence option? Check out the Caffe Italiano

Via Isola delle Stinche 11/13r – Florence

Ciao for now!