Cookbook cover for Passion for Pizza

PASSION FOR PIZZA: A Journey Through Thick and Thin to Find the Pizza Elite

Craig Whitson, Tore Gjesteland, Mats Widén, Kenneth Hansen

Agate Publishing
March 2015


ISBN: 978-1572841604

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Craig Whitson is a restaurateur and cookbook author. He has lived in Norway since moving from his native Oklahoma in 1980. He won Food Person of the Year at Norway’s largest culinary festival in 2003.


Tore Gjesteland is the owner of the Jonas B. Gunderson restaurants, and has received a total of six gold medals in the Hospitality Service Management Association International (HSMAI) marketing competition.


Mats Widén’s photography has been published in more than 10 cookbooks. He did the photography for Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac, which won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2001.



Kenneth Hansen was the designer for Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac as well as several other titles with the Bølgen & Moi team. He also operates his own company Blaane Guiding Great Brands AS, where he serves as the Senior Creative Director/Art Director.

Pizza is a global obsession, and PASSION FOR PIZZA celebrates the personalities, stories, pride, and excitement behind one of the world’s favorite foods. PASSION FOR PIZZA is not only a cookbook and a work of culinary history, but also a tribute to the people and places that make this dish so popular around the world.

PASSION FOR PIZZA begins in Italy, introducing readers to pizzaioli (pizza makers) in cities such as Naples, Rome, and Palermo. From there, the book travels through the United States, devoting plenty of attention to regional varieties like New York-style pizza, Chicago deep dish, and more. The authors offer entertaining profiles of the people who produce the cheeses, tomatoes, flour, and other ingredients used in pizza-making, illuminating the key characters in the global story of pizza.

With more than 50 easy-to-follow recipes for pizzas, crusts, and sauces; 40-plus profiles of great pizzerias around the world; and 20 profiles of the people behind the pizza, this book will inspire home cooks to make great pizza in their own kitchens—with the pizza elite at their side.

Pizza Margherita La Casa

Yield: 1 (12-inch/30-cm) pizza

Pizza Margherita La Casa

Bearing the colors of the Italian flag, Pizza Margherita is the world’s most famous pizza. In June 1889, Raffaele Espositofrom Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi served his version of the tomato, mozzarella, and basil pizza to Queen Margherita. The queen had never eaten pizza before, but she so loved Esposito’s pizza that she sent a letter telling him so. Esposito’s pizzeria still exists but is now called Pizzeria di Brandi. The queen’s letter still hangs on the restaurant’s wall. This recipe is true to the original, but we have added a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano (therefore “la casa”). If you are a pizza purist, you can drop the Parmigiano-Reggiano and experience the authentic flavors of long ago.

1 Neapolitan Dough, 9 ounces (260 g) (recipe below)
1/3 cup (90 mL) “Simple Is Often Best” Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
8–10 fresh basil leaves
4 ounces (110 g) fresh mozzarella di bufala, shredded
Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place a baking stone in the oven, and preheat to 500°F (260°C) or higher for 1 hour.

While the oven is preheating, stretch the pizza dough to a diameter of 12 inches (30 cm).

Spread the sauce over the dough, leaving a 1-inch (3-cm) border.

Distribute the basil over the sauce.

Spread the mozzarella over the pizza. Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pizza and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the pizza until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.

Remove the pizza from the oven and place it on a plate. Drizzle a bit more of the olive oil over the pizza, and serve.

Tip: You can use fresh tomatoes instead of sauce as long as they are ripe. If you do, sprinkle a little salt on the tomatoes.

Neapolitan Dough

Yield: About 5 9-ounce (260-g) pieces

This is the classic Neapolitan dough: flour, salt, yeast, and water. It is an incredible dough made from the simplest of ingredients.

3/4 teaspoon (3 g) fresh yeast
2 1/4 cups (500 mL) lukewarm water, divided
1 1/8 tablespoons (17 g) table salt
6 cups, 2 tablespoons (950 g) Tipo “00” flour (see Tips) (all-purpose flour will also work)

In a small bowl, add the yeast to half of the water, and stir to dissolve.

In another small bowl, dissolve the salt in the remaining water.

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Running the mixer on its lowest setting, add both the yeast mixture and the salt mixture. Mix for a couple minutes until the dough comes together.

Increase the mixer’s speed to medium, and blend until the dough is shiny and not too sticky (5–6 minutes). If the dough “climbs” up the side of the bowl, turn off the mixer and push the dough down with a wooden spoon.

Reduce the mixer’s speed to low and continue mixing for 3–4 minutes. The dough should be shiny, and it should come away from the sides of the bowl cleanly.

Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. Sprinkle a bit more flour over the top, turn the dough, and make into a large ball.

Divide the dough into 5 or more pieces, depending on how many pizzas you are making. Form each piece into a ball and place them on a tray. Brush the dough pieces with oil. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18–24 hours.

Notes: To save time, keep the dough at a cool room temperature for 6–8 hours until the dough has doubled in size. If the dough has been refrigerated, remove and let stand for 2 hours before using.

Tips: We often prefer using Tipo “0” flour over Tipo “00,” although both will make for a great dough. The Tipo “0” is not quite as soft as Tipo “00” and works great for pizza dough. You will need a bit less water if using Tipo “0.” Do yourself a favor and try both types of flour to see which one you prefer.

“Simple Is Often Best” Tomato Sauce

Yield: 28 ounces (800 g)

This simple combination of tomatoes and salt is not really even a sauce, but it is used by pizzaioli the world over, especially in Naples. Simple to prepare and oh so delizioso!

1 (28-ounce/800-g) can tomatoes (our favorite is the real San Marzano tomato)
1/2  teaspoon sea salt (less, or possibly none, if the tomatoes are salted)

Drain the tomatoes in a colander for a few minutes.

Use your fingers to lightly crush the tomatoes, and let them drain for a couple more minutes.

Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them thoroughly with your fingers or a potato masher. You can use a food processor, but that will take all the fun out of using your hands to play with the tomatoes.

Stir in the salt to taste. Let the tomatoes rest for a few minutes.

Taste again and adjust the salt if necessary.

But: This recipe requires using very good tomatoes (preferably true San Marzano DOP tomatoes). If the tomatoes are very acidic, you might want to add a pinch of sugar to them. If they taste a bit flat, you can add a splash of wine vinegar or lemon juice. After you add the sugar, vinegar, or lemon juice, let the tomatoes rest for a few minutes, and then taste. Adjust if necessary. These added minutes will give you a better sauce.

And finally: If you wish, you can add some fresh or dried herbs (usually basil and/or oregano) to the sauce. A small amount will give the sauce an extra dimension. You can also try a bit of crushed fresh garlic or freshly ground black pepper, but remember that the sauce is called “Simple Is Often Best,” and when you use great tomatoes you do not really need anything other than a pinch of salt.

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from PASSION FOR PIZZA by Craig Whitson, Tore Gjesteland, Mats Widén and Kenneth Hansen. (Agate Publishing; March 2015; $29.95/hardcover; ISBN; 978-1572841604).

Contact: Jessica Easto
847-475-4457 ext. 4#