ANYONE who watched a lot of television during lockdown can be forgiven for getting into the habit of reaching for a slice of pizza to replace a tub of ice-cream at the movies.
To make our own, pizza dough is the same as bread to make, and Arbutus bread stalls have very good pizza dough, as does Iago on Princes Street, Cork. Ready-rolled bases available in supermarkets allow children and parents to play around with toppings.
While tomato sauce is easy to make, a jar of readymade tomato pasta sauce makes an easy coating.
What’s worth choosing carefully is the cheese. It’s hard to beat traditional buffalo mozzarella from Toonsbridge (sold at Real Olive stalls countrywide, including its new Dublin shop), while Macroom Buffalo cheese is available in supermarkets. The process of making mozzarella results in the unctuous, stringy texture which distinguishes pizza from a toasted sandwich.
In Italy, people don’t often eat a whole pizza. That’s just as well, as one can contain our full daily salt allowance. As for fat, a whole pizza can have a whopping 50-60% of our daily allowance. A quarter slice can be satisfying if we add crunch and other textures with a green salad with seasonal fresh peas or broad beans.
For this classic pizza margherita survey, we looked for simple bases of flour, water, salt and yeast, and strong, natural flavours to balance.
No additives in this thin, crisp sourdough base and there is a simple list of ingredients in the generous tomato base and topping, including mozzarella, some Parmiggiano Reggiano and oregano. Everything tastes homemade. “Cheesy without being too cheesy,” said one taster. Frozen. Made in Italy.
The nicely off-circle shape was an appetising start to a delicious, thin crust supporting just the right balance of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese with basil leaves. “A perfect balance of natural flavours like the best pizzeria-made in Italy, reminds me of great holidays”, said one, with a “certo!” agreement from the others. Also available by the slice for €2.50. From Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown Road, Cork.
No artificial colours, preservatives or flavours is the proud boast from this Little Island, Co Cork, company and it shows in the tasty, natural pizza base of a good, shortlist of flour, water, salt and yeast which was topped with tomato sauce, olive oil, mozzarella cheese, and authentic fresh basil. The quickest of all to cook (5 minutes) from frozen. A winning combination for freshness, crispness, cheesy bubbliness. Widely available.
The best of the big brands, mozzarella is mixed untraditionally with cheddar, with tomato purée flavoured with oregano and garlic. The base was crisp, lacking in flavour, but had no additives. Good enough flavour, not quite as special as our top three. Overall, the kids loved it. A brand that has stood the test of time, now owned by Birds Eye. Frozen. On offer in Tesco for €2.50 until 10 August.
Lots of additives in the base which doesn’t crisp up as well as others. Plenty of mozzarella, slow roasted, tasty red cherry tomatoes and yellow baby plum tomatoes and oregano make a pretty picture on the tomato sauce base, but no special flavour. Wrapped in clingfilm, at the fresh counter.
The thick cheese rim is stuffed with mozzarella and herbs giving it a well needed moist inner texture. The blend of four cheeses – mozzarella with Edam, Red Leicester and cheddar - couldn’t be further from the established Italian recipe. Oregano, maize grits, garlic purée and chilli powder result in a slightly sweet blend of flavours, which tasters agreed made a good family sharing pizza. We bought in Tesco.
While the dough base was a bit chewy, tasters liked the clean tastes and appreciated that no fake ‘cheese’ was used, though there are a few emulsifiers. The rich tomato sauce had chunky bites of onions and semi-dried tomatoes. A tasty product, more natural than other vegan samples tested. Frozen. Made in Germany.
A thin base was satisfyingly crisp. A low flavoured tomato base lacked a natural intensity and was topped with pads of mozzarella and semi-dried tomato halves with oregano flavour. Not a favourite of any taster, but good enough for our Top 8.