Giuseppe “Peppe” Cutraro’s Secrets to Success at Home

The Margherita pizza, the queen of pizzas with its tomatoes, cheese and basil, reminiscent of Italy’s green white red tricolor. It is the simplest of pizzas, but also the ultimate test that demonstrates all the know-how of the pizza maker. Because it is there that we realize the quality of the dough and the quality of the oven, the two most delicate points in the art of pizza. If Giuseppe “Peppe” Cutraro, former chef at Big Mamma, won nothing less than the World Pizza Championship in 2019 thanks to a creation now marketed in each of his three Parisian addresses (one of which is considered the best in Europe) under the name of Campione del Mondo (yellow tomatoes, raw ham, provolone cheese, mozzarella di buffala, toasted grilled almonds and organic fig jam), he returns with pleasure to his basics. And shares its secrets with you.

In the beginning there was fire

No pizza without fire, that’s for sure. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a pizza oven that can reach 400 or 500°C at home. Not so bad for “Peppe” Cutraro. He only raises the temperature of his oven to 375°C. And for those whose oven does not exceed 250°C? “Just place a fireproof stone in the middle of the grill, which will store the heat, put the pizza on it and then double or even triple the cooking time. »

Peppe recommends cooking the tomato-covered dough first in a convection oven for five minutes. Then cover with cheese and basil for another five minutes on the grill. The operation will have lasted ten minutes instead of the two sufficient in a professional oven. But that’s how the amateur would have been able to get away with it. And you can still bring back a bought pizza and enjoy it at home, “provided you reheat it in an oven preheated to 250°C”, insists “Peppe”. There is nothing worse for him than a lukewarm, even cold, pizza that tastes like cardboard.

The dough from which the pizzas are made

Most of the pizza is in the dough, and “Peppe” makes sure to hydrate it a lot “so that its water level stays at 70%”, he clarifies. That is, it constantly moistens it during the entire manufacturing process. “I just do it and I never answer the phone during that time. That’s what gives it its crispness and lightness. “Peppe” says he uses a mix of three types of flour, without specifying exactly which, except that they are “as low as possible in protein or gluten”.

In his book Neapolitan pizzas, published in full on Marabout, the world champion describes two recipes, even the simplest of which is quite complicated: For eight 300 g pieces of dough, pour 1 kg of flour into a large bowl and crumble 2 g of fresh yeast (or 0.8 g of dry yeast) in it. Add 435 ml of water and start kneading. After 10 minutes, add 27 g of fine salt, then 7 g of sugar and little by little 235 ml of water. Add 10 g of olive oil at the end. Knead more and more vigorously until you get a smooth and homogeneous dough. Leave for 10 minutes. Place the ball of dough on the work surface and make a few light folds. Let it rest again for 30 minutes under a damp cloth. Divide the dough into small 300 g balls and roll each ball onto itself. Let them rest for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature in a tightly closed container with plastic wrap. “After this, your pizzas will be ready to be topped and baked,” he wrote.

The quality of the ingredients

However, it is the ingredients that will make the difference. And of course it is appropriate to choose them in season. Except for the tomato, which can come out of a box. If “Peppe” prefers San Marzano, he recommends crushing it by hand to keep its fibers intact and not oxidize it. For the cheese, the former chef at Big Mamma recommends a first mixture of pecorino and parmesan before adding strips of mozzarella “fior di latte” previously drained “to avoid the risk of wetting the pizza during cooking”.

Another splash of olive oil to dynamite all this and finally some basil, which the world champion puts a few leaves off before cooking and others immediately when he comes out of the oven. The former for the smell, the latter for the taste. Cut the pizza like him with scissors, take the pieces between your fingers. And bon appetit!

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