Cameron's Four-Cheese Pizza

From the start, Spago gained lots of attention for the fresh, contemporary-style pizzas we served. So, it continues to surprise me that people think great pizza is difficult to make. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Pizza is nothing more than a thinly rolled out flatbread with your choice of sauce and toppings, cooked quickly in a hot oven. The most time-consuming part of pizza-making is preparing the dough, and that involves only five basic ingredients -- yeast, water, honey, flour, and salt -- and a few minutes of active involvement to mix, knead, and shape it. The yeast itself does the rest of the work. (And, to make it even easier, some markets today sell good, ready-to-use pizza dough in their refrigerated cases.)

As for what goes on top of that dough, you have an incredibly wide variety of choices. That starts with the sauces. In Italy, many traditional pizzas begin with a smear of intensely flavorful canned plum tomatoes. American pizzas elaborate that a bit by making a pizza sauce fragrant with herbs such as oregano and basil, and the pungent aromatic accent of garlic. But tomato sauce isn't obligatory. You could moisten and flavor your pizza with fruity extra-virgin olive oil, or with creamy and tangy creme fraiche. And one of my favorite pizza sauces is pesto, that richly perfumed blend of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil.

Toppings almost always include cheese. Mozzarella is a standby, with its mild yet rich flavor and its excellent melting properties. But I like to build unique flavor profiles for my pizzas by adding other cheeses, such as rich and nutty-tasting fontina, tangy and creamy goat cheese, and a dash of freshly grated Parmesan. Other toppings add more to the pizza's personality, from meats like sausage or bacon; to seafood, from salty anchovies to sweet, plump shrimp; to all kinds of roasted, fresh, or preserved vegetables.

With so many options, you can put together your homemade pizza as simply or elaborately as you wish.

The Four-Cheese Pizza recipe I share with you here has become a classic in my restaurants and my home ever since I first made it, to his specifications, for my oldest son, Cameron, almost 20 years ago. He's 22 now, and this is still the way he prefers his pizza.

So, isn't it time you started creating your own pizza classics at home? Get started!

[ Related: Wolfgang Pucks' Classic Italian Artichokes & Porcini Mushrooms Calzone ]

Cameron's Four-Cheese Pizza

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 15 minutes

    Yield: Makes one 10-inch or two 8-inch pizzas; serves 2 to 4

Cameron's Four-Cheese Pizza Ingredients

    Pizza Dough Ingredients

    1 packet active dry yeast

    1 teaspoon honey

    1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees F.

    3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

    Pesto Ingredients (2 tablespoons)

    1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves

    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    1 garlic clove, peeled

    1 tablespoon pine nuts

    Pizza Topping Ingredients

    1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, about 4 ounces

    3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese, about 3 ounces

    2 ounces fresh, creamy goat cheese

    2 organic Roma tomatoes, cored and trimmed, cut into 6 slices each

    1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

    2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cameron's Four-Cheese Pizza Directions

    For the Pizza Dough

    In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup of the water. Set aside.

    In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and remaining water and process until a ball forms.

    Turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl or tray, cover loosely with a damp towel, and leave at cool room temperature until almost doubled, about 2 hours.

    Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Work each into a ball by pulling downward all around its sides and tucking the pulled-down dough underneath, repeating 4 or 5 times. Then, on a smooth unfloured surface, roll under your palm until the top feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Transfer to a clean tray, cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 1 hour. At this point, the dough may be used; wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days; or frozen up to 1 month.

    For the Pesto

    Lightly toast the pine nuts over low heat in a small dry saucepan until golden, 2 to 3 minutes

    Put all the pesto ingredients in a blender or a food processor. Blend or process until smoothly pureed, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. To store any unused pesto for up to 3 days, smooth its surface, cover with a thin film of oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

    For the Pizza

    Place a pizza stone or baker's tiles on the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

    On a lightly floured work surface, stretch or roll out the dough into one 10-inch round; or divide it in half and form two 8-inch rounds. Transfer to a lightly floured wooden pizza paddle or rimless cookie sheet.

    Leaving a narrow rim, brush lightly with pesto. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella and Fontina. Arrange fresh tomato slices on top of cheese. Crumble goat cheese over the surface, then sprinkle with oregano, thyme, and Parmesan.

    Slide pizza from paddle or cookie sheet onto hot pizza stone or tiles. Bake until nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

    Use the paddle or cookie sheet to transfer the pizza from the oven to a cutting board. With a pizza wheel or large, sharp knife, cut into wedges. Serve immediately.

[ Related: Wolfgang Pucks' Classic Italian Artichokes & Porcini Mushrooms Calzone ]

Pizza, Italian, Wolfgang Puck


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