Think outside the box: Skye Gyngell's pizza recipes

Too thick, too sweet, too salty: it's time to throw away that home-delivery menu and make crispy, thin and healthy pizza at home

Some foods have a bad reputation. Cheap chocolate, bags of crisps with strange, synthetic flavours, tomato ketchup on almost anything except, perhaps, barbecued pork sausages – and pizza, for which the only effort required is the use of one finger to ring the nearest pizza shop. My children like all of the above, but commercially bought pizza is not something they enjoy: thick-crusted with toppings that are too sweet and too salty – each mouthful feels bad for you.

Pizza made with a little consideration, though, can be delicious. The crust must be very thin, bubbly and crisp. This is not difficult to achieve at home – a pizza stone is all that is needed (widely available in kitchen shops) or, failing that, do what I do and cook the dough quickly in a hot, well-oiled pan. Once the base is cooked on both sides, remove from the heat, scatter with your chosen toppings and sit a plate on top of the pan for a few minutes.

The topping in the recipes here do not require a base of tomato sauce, but if you want to add one use fresh, plump, ripe tomatoes cooked in a little extra-virgin olive oil until reduced and thickened. Add marjoram or basil as the toms are cooking and spread thinly. Remember that pizza is intended as a snack rather than a meal – so keep it as light and clean as possible.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Basic pizza dough

1 tbsp instant dried yeast
1 tsp salt
400g/13oz plain flour
Olive oil
1 cup of lukewarm water

Sift the yeast, salt and flour into the bowl of an electric mixer and turn on. Add a tablespoon of oil to the water and beat into the dry ingredients. Knead for eight minutes. By hand, it will take about 15. Transfer the dough to a bowl greased with a little oil. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes until doubled in size. Punch the dough to knock out the air and fold in on itself. Allow to rest, covered, for 40 further minutes. It is now ready to use.

Pizzetta with Gorgonzola and chard

Rather than serving one large pizza, divide the dough into six balls and roll into smaller pizzas, known as pizzetta. These are lovely served on individual plates, or cut into smaller slices and served with drinks.

Once you have divided the dough, set aside to rise, covered in a clean cloth, while you prepare the topping.

Makes six pizzetta

1 bunch of chard
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
The zest of half an unwaxed lemon
50g/2oz grated Parmesan
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
150g/5oz Gorgonzola dolce (younger and milder than Gorgonzola)

A little extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Heat the oven to its highest setting and put the pizza stone in to heat up. Boil a pot of well-salted water, blanch the chard for three minutes, then drain. Allow the chard to cool, then squeeze out any excess water with your hands. Chop roughly and put in a bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan, salt, pepper and oil and dress the chard lightly using your fingers.

Divide the dough into six and roll out till very thin on a floured surface. Let the dough recover for five minutes – it will shrink back a little – then roll again till very thin. Remove the stone from the oven and place the dough on top allowing space between each.

Arrange the chard over the top, then finish with the Gorgonzola and a little oil. Bake in the oven for eight minutes. Serve.

Pizza with roasted squash, tomatoes, black olives and chilli

This pizza is sweeter and softer than the other two here. It has only a little cheese, which is scattered over the top just before serving. The tomatoes moisten the topping.

Makes two pizzas

1 butternut or onion squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into small chunks
12 ripe little plum tomatoes
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt
A small handful of good-quality black olives without their stones
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
A little extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Put the squash, tomatoes and chilli in a roasting tin, pour over a little olive oil and toss to coat the ingredients. Season with a little salt and roast on the middle shelf of the oven until tender – about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven up to its highest setting and heat the stone. Roll out the dough, either into six as before or into two larger pizzas. Scatter over the vegetables and roast for eight or 15 minutes, depending on size. Remove from the oven and scatter over the cheese. Drizzle over the oil and serve.

Pizza with grilled radicchio and ricotta

Makes two pizzas

1 head of radicchio
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of marjoram, leaves only
1 tbsp traditional balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup/12 tbsp of buffalo - or sheep's-milk ricotta
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Slice the radicchio in half lengthwise, then into quarters. Heat a pan on the hob and add the oil. Cook the radicchio and marjoram over a high heat, stirring once or twice until wilted – about a minute. Remove from the heat and drizzle over the vinegar. Toss to combine and set aside.

Heat the oven to its highest setting and place a pizza stone on the middle shelf to become hot. Roll out the dough using the method in the pizzetta recipe above. Arrange the radicchio on top, followed by generous chunks of ricotta. Season, sprinkle over the Parmesan and drizzle a little oil. Return to the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until the outer crust is light brown and the ricotta has begun to melt. Remove from oven; the base should be dry. Allow to cool slightly, then serve with finely sliced Parma ham.

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