The only thing missing from Philadelphia pizza master Joe Beddia’s cookbook, Pizza Camp, is a form to sign up for actual pizza camp. We’ll settle for just the book, though, as it’s thoroughly packed with knowledge on making the best pizzas of your life. Learn how to make arrabbiata pizza, inspired by pizza legend Chris Bianco, and prepare for one spicy night.
I can remember reading about Chris Bianco and his Rosa pizza. He basically said this pizza was a true expression and representation of who he was. I initially found the statement funny and a little pretentious — but Chris is a really humble dude. I knew that until I actually tasted the pizza, I wouldn’t understand what he was talking about.
The Rosa pizza was brilliant. It was like tasting the terroir of Arizona (where his pizza shop is), the Bronx (where Chris is from), and Italy all at once. Then what he said made sense. It was proof that you can catch a glimpse of someone through their craft.
The Arrabbiata is my pizza. It’s what I want to eat, but it’s not for everyone. “Arrabbiata” means “angry” in Italian. What’s angry about this pizza is its heat. Like me, it’s bold and perhaps a little obnoxious. If you could describe a pizza as somewhat self-destructive, it is this one. On the positive side, it’s immensely flavorful and equally addictive. Just like me, if you get to know me. I’ve found when talking to customers that they will let you know what it’s like to digest spicy food and experience its inevitable disgusting return. We know, we know. But my favorite quote is: “Put the toilet paper in the freezer tonight.”
- 1 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
- 20 Thai chilies, stems removed, finely chopped
- 5 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- fine sea salt
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 ball dough (about 1 pound)
- 3 ounces mozzarella, pinched into small chunks
- 2 cups shredded low-moisture mozzarella
- 3 tablespoons grated hard cheese
- extra-virgin olive oil
For the sauce
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chiles and garlic and sauté for a few minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and stir in most of the basil, reserving some for garnish. This will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
For the pizza
Place your stone on the lowest shelf of your oven, then turn your oven to its highest temperature. Most ovens go to 500°F and some to 550°F. Heat your stone for at least one hour before baking.
If you’re taking your dough out of the fridge, give it about 15 minutes or so to warm up a bit so it will be easier to work with. It should have doubled in size in the fridge. If it hasn’t, let it sit at room temperature, covered with a slightly damp towel, until it does.
Lightly flour your counter and your hands. Flip the dough into the flour bowl so the top side of the dough ball gets dusted first. Flip it once more, making sure that the dough is completely coated. Press the dough down into the flour, then pick it up and place it on the floured countertop.
Pressing your fingers firmly into the dough, start by flattening the center and work your way out toward the edge to make it wider, until it’s about 7 to 9 inches wide. Pushing down on the dough will release some of the gas and actually begin opening up the dough. Be careful not to disturb the outermost lip. This will eventually become your crust.
The next step is a bit tricky. Your goal is to take this disc of dough and carefully stretch it to about 14 to 16 inches without tearing it or creating a hole. I pick it up with floured hands and begin to gently stretch it over my fists, letting gravity do most of the work.
Once you’ve stretched it enough, put the dough back on the counter, making sure there is a generous dusting of flour underneath. Take a few generous pinches of semolina flour and dust your pizza peel. Make sure it’s coated evenly. Gently lift and transfer your dough to the peel. Make sure both your hands and the peel are well-floured. You are now ready to dress your pie.
Spread 2 cups of the arrabbiata sauce on the dough, going all the way to the edges, being careful not to go over. Once the dough is evenly coated with sauce, add your fresh mozzarella. Take little clumps or pinches about the size of half a thumb and, starting on the outside and working your way in, place them evenly all over the pizza. But be careful not to crowd the middle — if you do, it gets too heavy and hard to transfer. Then add a medium to generous covering of shredded low-moisture mozzarella.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 4 minutes. The crust will rise significantly. Then change the oven setting from bake to broil, cooking the pizza from the top down until the crust begins to blister. The residual heat of the stone will continue to cook the bottom. (If your broiler is at the bottom of your oven, skip this step and continue to bake the pizza as described.) I cook all my pizzas until they’re well done, which could take up to 10 minutes total (sometimes less). Just keep checking so you don’t burn it. Look for the cheese to color and the crust to turn deep brown. It may blacken in spots, and that’s okay.
Finish this pizza with the remaining torn basil leaves, the grated hard cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.