When it comes to vodka pizza, our office is right in the middle of it all, being just a few blocks away from both Pomodoro and Rubirosa. Even though the first one has great Yelp! ratings, it’s not worth a damn because the crust is too greasy and the sauce is too sweet. The second one, on the other hand, is great. As with the best pizzas, this one is crisp on the outside and charred in the center, and it has a creamy vodka sauce that is rich enough to let you know it’s not just plain cheese but not so rich that your stomach rebels by releasing its contents on its own. If you’re feeling like you’re in a pizza rut, this is a fantastic dish to keep on hand.
1. The Outstandingly Good Crust
No matter how creative or high-quality the pizza’s toppings are, the pie is only as good as its dough. As much as I love Rubi rosa’s bar pies, which are made in the ultra-thin Long Island style, I much prefer the somewhat less crockery chew of a decent New York-style crust, and thankfully we already have a fairly fantastic recipe.
The crisp bottom and beautiful charring that lends crust taste may be achieved by baking the pizza on baking steel (a stone will do, but not quite as well). With it in place, you’ll be miles ahead of Pomodoro’s drab slices.
2. Awesome Condiment
Vodka sauce is not quite as easy to make as adding cream and alcohol to a standard marinara sauce, but it’s close. Vodka sauces need more salt and crushed red pepper flakes than is customary for seasoning, to balance the richness of the cream and the little sweetness of the alcohol.
Vodka sauce gets its distinctive kick from the combination of this spice and the alcohol’s warming effect on the back of the throat.
3. Obtain Appropriate Cheese
At the beginning of my experimentation, I produced a few vodka pizzas using the cheese of choice for a traditional New York slice: shredded dry mozzarella. It didn’t turn out very well. While the pie had good taste, it was quite oily due to the combination of the vodka sauce and the cheese.
It cut OK, but as I picked it up, the whole sticky mess on top slid off into a steaming puddle. Yuck.
4. Use minimal amounts of sauce
Normal tomato sauce doesn’t change much as it loses moisture during cooking, therefore a light hand is best when applying it. The only real effect is a concentration and sharpening of taste.
When I made a vodka pie using the same quantity of sauce as I would for a New York pie (approximately two-thirds of a cup for a complete pie), the cream split and the pizza turned into a greasy pool with small curdled particles of milk solids floating in it. To prevent it from shattering yet not make the pie too heavy, exactly the right amount of pressure must be applied.
Getting it right comes down to a few little nuances. If you can get all of these elements correct, you will have a vodka pizza that is delicious.
- Preserve Cookbook
- extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp plus more for drizzling
- 4 minced medium-sized garlic cloves (about 4 teaspoons)
- Dry Oregano, 1 Teaspoon
- A pinch of crushed red pepper
- Approximately one can of whole peeled tomatoes (28 ounces) broken up by hand.
- 1 mug of full-fat cream
- 1/4 cup vodka
- A dash of freshly ground black pepper and some kosher salt
- 1 dish of New York-style pizza dough, rolled out and sliced, with a two-hour rise time (see notes)
- One pound of fresh mozzarella (ideally made from buffalo milk), cut into rough 3/4- to 1-inch pieces and drained in a fine-mesh sieve placed over a basin.
- You’ll need anything from 12 basil leaves to make a basil leaf.
- Olive oil should be heated in a medium saucepan until it shimmers over medium heat. About a minute later, with steady stirring, the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes will be aromatic and ready to use. Tomatoes, please. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower it to a low simmer. The reduction to 1/4 should take around 20 minutes of cooking while stirring periodically. For another 20 minutes, raise the heat to a boil, then lower it to a simmer with the added heavy cream and cook until reduced by 1/4. Vodka should be added and the dish cooked for another 7 minutes. Take off the stove and season with salt & pepper to taste.
2. Cool the sauce slightly before putting half of it in the blender. Start the blender on low and gradually increase the speed to high until the mixture is absolutely smooth, which should take around 2 minutes. Prepare a medium bowl by passing the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Replace the leftover sauce with the same amount. For keeping any leftover sauce, see “Make Ahead and Store” down below.
3. Preheat oven to 550°F (290°C) and arrange a baking stone or steel on the top oven rack for at least 45 minutes before baking.
4. Roll out a single dough ball onto a floured work surface. Form a rough 8-inch circle out of the dough, leaving the rim an extra inch or so high. To make a 12–14-inch circle approximately 1/4 inch thick, drape the dough over your knuckles and gently stretch it. Move onto a pizza peel.
5. Cover the crust with the sauce, leaving a 1/2- to 1-inch border around the edge. Spread 8-10 pieces of mozzarella cheese over the pizza, and then sprinkle 4-5 basil leaves over the top. Use roughly a tablespoon of pure olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place pizza on a baking stone or steel and bake for 6-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the bottom of the dough is spotted with brown. Using a pizza peel made of metal, take the pizza out of the oven, place it on a cutting board, and then slice and serve. To create two more pizzas, follow steps 3 and 4 again with the leftover ingredients.
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