A friend’s husband spent a long time perfecting his pizza dough recipe and I have stolen it. You can increase or decrease the quantities – this makes four pizzas. I sometimes get my guests to make their own pizzas. You can get them to do the work of making dinner and pass it off as an interactive activity.

My husband, the mad bastard, once put feta and blackberries on his pizza, inspired by IBM’s cookbook which was written by a computer. To give him his dues, it was actually quite nice. There seem to be two main schools of thought when it comes to pizza toppings: one is of Italian authenticity which is simpler and only uses a few toppings, the other is the American style of loading as much as possible onto the pizza. Then we have a modern trend for some rather quirky toppings: macaroni cheese or shawarma cauliflower & tahini. The list goes on. I tend to view pizza as a vehicle for lots of veg and cheese. You can find a list of suggestions at the bottom of the page.

I haven’t included a sauce recipe as it’s a minefield and everyone has their own recipe anyway. I have been known to open a carton of passata and just use that. One dinner guest refused to use tomato sauce and demanded BBQ sauce instead for his base. (One was utterly, shudderingly horrified and prefers not to think about this incident.) While pizza rossa is the most popular variety, you also get pizza bianca which aren’t made with tomato sauce. Rachel Roddy wrote a lovely piece about pizza in Rome and includes a recipe for a pizza bianca made with potato and rosemary. My favourite way of doing a pizza bianca is to use artichoke paste instead of tomato sauce and to top it with mozzarella, mushrooms & asparagus, finishing it off with some fresh pesto when it comes out of the oven. Some rocket might not go amiss…

With regards to flour, the expert responsible for this recipe recommends a blend of 00, plain flour and semolina but it’s also fine with plain flour or strong plain bread flour. I’ve also used instant yeast which doesn’t need to be left to go frothy – you can just add it to the dough with the rest of the ingredients.

Serves 4

1 teaspoon yeast

400g plain flour

50g 00 flour

50g semolina

340ml tepid warm water

2 teaspoons of olive oil

a scant teaspoon of salt

polenta, to roll the dough out in

tomato sauce

2 balls of mozzarella

other toppings of your choice

  1. Start by pre-heating your oven to 230C. Mix all the ingredients, except the polenta, in a bowl and knead well. You’ll see the texture become smoother and silkier.
  2. Cover the bowl of dough with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
  3. You can roll it out on plain flour or polenta, the latter adds some texture to the crust – as you prefer. Roll out into a circle of twelve inches and gently wrangle it onto a round tray or a pre-heated pizza stone if you have one. Spread the sauce over the base, add cheese and toppings of your choice and bake for 12 minutes.
  4. Here are some suggested toppings: artichokes, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers (raw or roasted from a jar), sundried tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, olives, blue cheese, feta, goat’s cheese, ricotta or spinach. You could finish the pizza off with fresh basil leaves, pesto, rocket, chili or pine nuts.