Pizzeria Paradiso Owner Pens Cookbook
We’ve all dreamed of making our own pizza at home. We’ve imagined kneeding the dough with our hands, creating our own sauces and topping our creation with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and all of our other favorite toppings. Most of us never do it, but now we can.
Ruth Gresser, owner and chef at Pizzeria Paradiso, just published Kitchen Workshop: Pizza, a cookbook dedicated to making the perfect pizza at home.
Gresser opened her first Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont in 1991 in a small shop down the street from its current location. “We were the first Neapolitan pizzeria in D.C.,” she said. “A lot of the others (who have opened pizzerias) worked here first then went off to do their own thing.”
In her book, Gresser takes readers step-by-step through the pizza making process starting with the basics from how to make dough and proof yeast, to topping your pizza and how to bake it. Following her directions, any home cook can become a pizzaiola (a pizza baker).
“It’s all about having fun,” Gresser told DC on Heels. “Everyone loves pizza. It’s a really, really fun food and has everything all in one.”
Kitchen Workshop: Pizza [Quarry Books, $24.99 US/$27.99 CAN] is a complete curriculum for making your own pizza using a home oven and tools most people already have in their kitchens. It is divided into levels beginning with the basics, including seven variations on the tomato-cheese pizza and recipes for dough, including whole wheat, multigrain, deep-dish and gluten-free pizza doughs. Level 2 moves to the classics and showcases all of the standard pizzas and even a calzone. Level 3 is filled with original pizza recipes from Gresser’s restaurants. Levels 4-7 will help readers take their pizzas to the next level with lessons on different sauces, proteins, vegetables and fruit toppings.
Some of the recipes are standards like margherita and marinara pizza, while others include her restaurants’ specialties like Pizza Genevese with potatoes and pesto and Pizza Bottarga with eggs and grated bottarga (fish roe). Sauces include roasted red pepper, black bean and salsa verde. Toppings include proteins such as chicken, shrimp, tuna and tufu; vegetables such as pumpkin, broccoli rabe, cauliflower and asparagus; and fruits like cantalope, apricots, pears and bananas.
The cookbook is now available online or at Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont, Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria. If you purchase a copy at any of the three restaurants through Saturday, you’ll receive an 8-inch pizza and draft beer for $10. From 5-9 p.m., Gresser will sign books in Dupont on Wednesday, Georgetown on Thursday and Old Town on Friday. On Feb. 12, there will be a party at the Brewmaster’s Castle featuring an antipasto table, pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso paired with beers and cider from DC Brau, Oxbow and Millstone & Stillwater, pizza making demonstrations with Gresser and book signings. Tickets cost $65 and include a copy of the book, all you can eat and drink, and a ticket to a pizza demonstration class. Half the proceeds will be donated to the Heurich House Museum. Tickets can be purchased here. On Feb. 25, there will be a display of photos from the book and others that didn’t make it. Gresser and photographer Moshe Zusman will be at “The Art of Pizza: Photos from Kitchen Workshop” at Art Works. Some of the proceeds from the sale of signed cookbooks and photos will benefit Art Works.
During a media preview of the cookbook last week, I got to make my own pizza from the cookbook. I admit the restaurant made the dough, prepared the toppings and baked it. All I did was add the toppings. I chose the berry pizza. And by the way, if you are up to making homemade dough, you can buy balls of pre-made dough at any Pizzeria Paridiso location.
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- 10 medium fresh basil leaves
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup marscopone cheese
- 2 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 cups mixed fresh berries
- 1 ball pizza dough
- Cornmeal for sprinkling
- 12-15 lemon supremes (lemon sections)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- Place a pizza stone on the top rack of a cool oven. Set the oven to broil and preheat for 30 minutes.
- Place the whole almonds in the bowl of a food processor and process until coursley chopped. Add the basil and lemon zest and process until finely chopped.
- Add the cheese, the 2 of honey and the salt and process until blended.
- In a small bowl, toss half the berries with a drizzle of honey. Set aside.
- On a floured work surface, flatten the dough ball with your fingertips and stretch it into a 12-inch round.
- Sprinkle a pizza peel (the board with a handle used to put the pizza into the oven) with cornmeal and lay the dough round on it. Spread the almond-basil mixture onto the pizza dough, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch of dough uncovered around the outside edge. Arrange the lemon supremes on top of the almond-basil mixture. Scatter the slivered almonds and the berries over the pizza, Drizzle liberally with honey.
- Give the peel a quick shake to be sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel. Slide the pizza off the peel onto the stone in the oven. Broil for 1 minute. Turn the oven to its highest bake setting and cook for 3 minutes. Quickly open the oven door, pull out the rack and with a pair of tongs rotate the pizza (not the stone) a half turn. Cook for 3 minutes more.
- Using the peel, remove the pizza from the oven. Drizzle liberally with honey and cut into slices.
- Mound the reserved berries in the center and serve.
If you try your hand at pizza making now through Feb. 15 and post a picture of your finished product to Instagram with the hashtag #kwpizzacontest, you could win a free copy of the cookbook and a $25 gift certificate to Pizzeria Paradiso. A winner will be selected each week.