Pienza, Tuscany, Italy
Podere il Casale Pizza Perfection!
Flatbread cooked in an oven has its roots dating back to ancient times but it was the Italians who took it to the next level. Raffaele Esposito, a baker, made the first “pizza” by topping flatbread with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil to honor the visit of King Umberto and Queen Margherita’s visit to Naples in 1889. To this day, the Margherita continues to be the world’s most popular pizza.
Being in the heart of Italy, we could not resist the opportunity to learn the art of pizza making. Podere il Casale offers cooking classes using fresh organic ingredients harvested and produced at their farm. Our class was taught by Sandra, the owner. We were immediately smitten by her enthusiasm and reverence for the land beneath our feet. The class was a labor of love after which we lunched on our own creations set out on the beautiful terrace with a spectacular view of the Val d’Orcia and the hilltop town of Pienza. Lunch included a salad of organic greens, a cheese and charcuterie board of the farm’s pecorino cheeses and cured meats paired with Podere il Casale’s rosé wine. A true farm to table experience!
HOW TO MAKE PIZZA DOUGH
In pizza, we crust!
It all starts with creating the dough made with Italian “OO” flour. High in protein and finely ground, this flour lends itself to making the best thin crust. Aprons on and ready to bury our hands into the flour, Sandra guided us through the simple steps. First, how to mix together the flour and activated yeast followed by kneading the dough to make it smooth and elastic to form a ball. While the dough was rising, we took the tour of the grounds, making friends with goats and sheep and then on to the milking facility and the cheese production center. Under the direction of Sandra and her family, everything happens on site to ensure the highest of quality.
COOK AND DRESS PIZZA
Returning from the tour, it was time to roll out our dough and dress it with our favorite toppings. Sandra instructed us how to roll out the dough using our hands to create a thin crust. Tomato sauce was ladled on top and dotted with cubes of pecorino cheese. Using a wooden peel, the pizza was slipped into the wood burning oven to cook for 60-90 seconds allowing the crust to crisp to perfection. Once cooked, we created our own signature pizza using a choice of cured meats, artichokes, olives and fresh basil. We gave a finishing touch to the pizza with a drizzle of the farm’s extra virgin olive oil. It was love at first bite!