Americans buy three billion pizzas a year. But how many do we actually make ourselves? Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz of Patxi’s Pizza shares recipes and tips to show that making your own is easy as pie
“I probably eat pizza four or five times a week,” says Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz, a true pizza enthusiast who, with business partner Bill Freeman, started the Bay-Area-based Patxi’s Pizza after discovering that the Chicago-style pies he loved were woefully under-represented outside the Windy City.
The first Patxi’s Pizza opened in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2004. Nearly a decade later, there are 11 restaurants, with two opening within the last year in Colorado—one in Englewood and another in Cherry Creek. Plans for a third in downtown Denver, set to open in November, are in the works.
“I worked in a pizzeria while in college, then spent time in Chicago to study the whole pizza culture—iconic places like Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East,” says Azpiroz. “I loved the feel of these traditional pizzerias, with the red-checkered tablecloths and those red plastic soda glasses. It’s a communal experience, a feeling that we wanted to capture in our restaurants.”
Beyond the restaurants’ comfortable, modern-rustic atmosphere, Patxi insists on the best ingredients, going local when possible. “But we get our sausage from Chicago,” he points out. “It makes all the difference.”
Recently, Patxi has been experimenting with grilling pizza, and offers some tips (see the sidebar below). “It’s not terribly easy, but with a little practice it works surprisingly well,” he says. “I love being outdoors and not having to turn on the oven, and this method accomplishes both of those goals.”
Patxi’s Neapolitan Pizza Dough
Enough for 4 to 5 9-inch pies
1 quart warm (between 105 and 115 degrees F) water
1/2 ounce yeast
1 ounce salt
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
21/2 pounds ‘00’ flour or high-gluten all-purpose flour (available through King Arthur Flour)
In a large bowl, mix the yeast in warm water until fully dissolved. Add the saltand olive oil.
Add the flour, a little at a time, and mix by hand until dough is smooth and elastic. When the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and off of your hands and fingers, it should be ready.
Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm area on the counter for 2-3 hours.
Divide the dough and roll into four or five 8-ounce balls (about the size of baseballs). Arrange on a cookie sheet dusted with flour and paint the tops of the dough balls with extra virgin olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Refrigerated dough will last 2-3 days and can be frozen.)
Remove dough from the fridge 2-3 hours before using. Flatten the dough on a liberally floured countertop or large cutting board and roll into a circle. removing as much air as possible. Gently lift the dough and stretch to form a thin disc about 10-12 inches in diameter.
Patxi’s Neapolitan Pizza
3-4 ounces Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
5 ounces cubed whole milk Mozzarella
Meats/vegetables as desired
Place the disc of dough on a liberally floured pizza peel; ladle on 3-4 ounces of sauce.Top with cheese and your choice of toppings.
NOTE: Do not overload the pizza with toppings as it will take longer to cook all the way through; with practice you will
find your ideal amount as well as flavor profile. Right now my favorite is ham, mushroom, and eggplant. Be creative: instead of the standard pepperoni and sausage, try grilled chicken or roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. Experiment with leftovers!
Patxi’s Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce
Enough for 4 to 6 12-inch pies
This is a base for a great pizza sauce, but it can also be adapted for pasta or meatballs.
10-15 ripe large tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Hand crush the tomatoes in a large pot and simmer over low heat for about 10-20 minutes, until soft.
Let the tomatoes cool; run through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin (these make the sauce bitter).
Simmer the milled/strained tomatoes again on low until about 30 percent of the water has evaporated; the tomatoes should have a much thicker consistency. Let cool.
Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add a clove of garlic and cook until yellow; remove garlic from oil. Add basil and 12-16 ounces of your reduced tomatoes and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Margherita Pizza with Grape Tomatoes
8 ounces dough, stretched to 10 inches
3-4 ounces tomato sauce
6 ounces mozzarella, freshly shredded
8-12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Sea salt to taste
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan
5 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place stretched dough on cornmeal-covered cardboard round or pizza pan.
Using a small ladle, spread sauce in a circular motion, evenly covering the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim of dough uncovered. Ensure that there is minimal sauce in the middle of the pizza.
Sprinkle cheese from the outermost edge of the sauce, with lesser amounts as you go toward the center. Bake for 12-18 minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with grated parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, then place fresh sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced basil leaves on top.
Using the pizza cutter, cut pizza into 6 or 8 slices; serve immediately.
1 pound ground beef short rib
1 pound bulk Italian garlic fennel sausage
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 cup dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces fresh Ricotta cheese
24 ounces high-quality marinara sauce
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, julienne
Wedge of Grana Padano
In a large bowl, mix beef, sausage, salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine milk and bread crumbs; add egg and lightly mix, then add to beef mixture. Add Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses and gently mix by hand (be careful not to overwork the mixture as it will become tough when cooked).
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and form meatballs into 5 oz. rounded portions and space evenly. Bake in preheated 450-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove meatballs to a glass baking dish and evenly ladle marinara over the meatballs. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Reheat meatballs at 425 degrees until heated through. Grate fresh Grana Padano on top and finish with basil.
This impressive-looking and tasty appetizer is easy to make at a moment’s notice.
4 ounces Burrata cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup prepared or homemade confit tomatoes (recipe below)
2 tablespoons prepared basil garlic pesto
1 loaf focaccia bread
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Cut focaccia into 8 equal pieces, 3/4 of the way through. Brush focaccia with olive oil blend and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place in preheated 350-degree F oven for 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop tomatoes out of oil, drain, and measure. Place into a small serving dish.
Place Burrata portion atop the tomatoes, then spoon pesto over the top of the Burrata. Serve with warm focaccia.
NOTE: for confit tomatoes, bake halved cherry tomatoes in olive oil with garlic cloves on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F until tomatoes begin to soften.
Don’t want to make your own pizza? Patxi’s offers “half-baked” pizzas, ready to pop in the oven or toss on the grill. For more information, visit patxispizza.com.