Whole milk & fresh mozzarella, seasoned crushed tomatoes, parmesan & romano, fresh basil, EVOO
I call this our “Plain Cheese” pie because it’s our basic model. When people ask me for a recommendation, I try to steer them to this pie. Why? Because it’s stripped down to the basics: dough, sauce and cheese. There’s no place to hide any weak links.
My plain cheese has no weak links. For the dough, we only use organic flour and French sea salt, natural leavening fortified by trace amounts of baker’s yeast and good old NYC tap water. The rest is time and technique.
For “sauce” it begins and ends with tomatoes. I’m favoring GustaRosso San Marzano D.O.P.s, Bianco DiNapoli and First Field crushed tomatoes. It really depends on what’s in the can – and I sample every case. That determines the appropriate seasoning – maybe some salt, definitely some black pepper, a little fresh marjoram and that’s it. Sugar? Not on my watch. If the tomatoes need sugar added, then I’m not using those tomatoes. The tomatoes are hand-milled and only cooked while on top of the pie. And by on top I mean above the cheese, not under it. I like the tomatoes to kiss my dough, not drown it.
For the cheese, my “plain cheese” gets 5 different kinds: a layer of sliced whole milk mozzarella from [xxxxxxx] and then some pieces of ciliegine fresh mozzarella from Lioni. I love Lioni but only order directly from their Brooklyn store, not the big manufacturing plant in NJ. I’ll throw some grated pecorino romano from [xxxxxx] and parmesan from [xxxxxx] right before putting it in the oven.Once the pie comes out, I hit it with some freshly grated grana Padano from [xxxxxxxx] top it with some fresh basil, maybe even some micro basil if it’s looking great at the market and then give it a drizzle of Bellucci Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Is my family related to these fine Bellucci’s? I’m not sure. I’ve got someone working on the ancestry. I’m sure those Bellucci’s are fine people, related or not. Either way, their olive oils are 100% organic and fully traceable to the olive orchard where the process starts.