19 June 2021

Weekend Cooking: Pizza Czar by Anthony Falco

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarWe love pizza here in the BFR household. We especially like homemade pizza, and we have it often. So, you might ask, why am I so over the moon about Anthony Falco's Pizza Czar cookbook, which I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party program? Well, this book is much more than a collection of recipes. Falco, a well-known pizza expert, draws back the curtain to reveal all the pizza-making tricks and tips that will elevate your home-baked pies.

The book is so full of useful and interesting information, it's a little hard to summarize. Falco tells us how he became an international pizza consultant and then shares his wisdom on ingredients, tools, and methods. Photographs and tip boxes accompany his directions for making mozzarella and a variety of sauces and doughs. He has opinions on toppings, and attempts to distinguish among grandma pizza, pan pizza, and Sicilian pizza. And that's just small bit of what you'll find in Pizza Czar.

I homed in on a few specific sections. First, I checked out Falco's four standard sauces. All were tasty, but it's the Spicy Grandma Sauce that won our hearts (recipe to follow). I'm pretty sure I won't bother to make any other sauce, though his Tomato Flavor Bomb was pretty darn good too.

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarNext, I devoured the sections on baking methods and was so intrigued with his tips for augmenting a home oven, that I broke down and bought a baking steel. No, not for baking on but for helping my oven trap the heat better. When I used his trick while baking a grandma pie (see my photo), I was completely sold. Even though I always put my half-sheet pan on a baking stone, I've often had trouble getting the crust to completely cook before the topping got too dark. However, when I used Falco's advice for turning my oven into a pizza oven by placing a baking steel on an upper rack, I got a perfectly baked crust and perfectly melted cheese. One of the best grandma pies I've ever made.

I also carefully read the sections about different techniques for layering ingredients, shaping dough, and even how and when to put the sauce on. Though I've been making homemade pizza for decades, I learned a lot and had fun trying the various ways of assembling a pizza.

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarFinally, I need to say a word about the dough recipes. All the recipes rely on a sourdough-like starter. Although I've made sourdough, I have long since lost interest in keeping a starter going. Instead, I made my favorite yeast crust, but I followed Falco's suggestions for how many grams each dough ball should weigh. All the pizzas we've made since I got this book (one grandma pie, six grilled pizzas, and two oven-baked Neapolitan-style pizzas) have been excellent, with perfect crusts and delicious sauces.

If you're a pizza maker--even if you use store-bought, premade dough--you need to take a look at Anthony Falco's Pizza Czar. I bet you learn something new and that your pizza skills will reach new heights.

The following sauce is my new favorite. Take note of my changes: I use less than 1/4 cup oil to brown the onions. I couldn't find the suggested chiles, so I used 14 grams of a Hungarian Wax pepper; use whatever pepper you'd like. I used crushed red pepper flakes to taste instead of the Calabrian chiles.

Spicy Grandma Sauce
Makes about 1 liter

  • 1 (794-gram/28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably Bianco DiNapoli), drained
  • 4 grams (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 110 grams (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 40 grams (about 1-1/2 ounces) yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 grams (5 cloves) garlic, chopped
  • 14 grams (about 4) fresh red chiles (bird's-eye or similar), thinly sliced
  • 8 grams (about 3) dried Calabrian chiles
  • 10 grams (about 1/3 ounce) basil, chopped
Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Using your dominant hand, crush each tomato into walnut-sized pieces. Season with the salt and 55 grams (1/4 cup) of the olive oil. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

In a medium saute pan, heat the remaining 55 grams (1/4 cup) oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the garlic is soft.

Add the fresh red chiles and Calabrian chiles and continue to cook. Raise the heat to high, add the tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring vigorously. Add a bit more olive oil if the mixture begins sticking.

Add the basil, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a container, cool, and refrigerate until ready to use. Use in the first 2 days or freeze.

Note: Recipe is shared in the context of review; all rights remain with the original copyright holder. The pizza photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Tina 6/19/21, 8:04 AM  

That’s a great tip for making your oven as a pizza oven. This is a great book!

Jackie McGuinness 6/19/21, 8:13 AM  

I will look for this book. Since going gluten free (John) I have been struggling with pizza crust.
I had to google baking steel and I am sold and will order one!
As for toppings they must be under the cheese!!!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 6/19/21, 8:16 AM  

I think pizza is a universal favorite and a sourdough crust sounds amazing.

rhapsodyinbooks 6/19/21, 8:56 AM  

This does sound amazing! And I have heard Calabrian chiles are The Big Thing now. Guess I need to try this!

Vicki 6/19/21, 9:03 AM  

Your pizza looks so good! You've sold me on a baking steel, going to purchase one now.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 6/19/21, 3:44 PM  

I love pizza, it doesn't always like me (digestively speaking) but I am still in search of a tender, light whole wheat pizza crust recipe...

Deb in Hawaii 6/19/21, 9:13 PM  

It sounds like a great book and the baking steel is a brilliant idea!

Marg 6/20/21, 2:25 AM  

This is such a delicious sounding sauce, and I am interested in finding more about the baking steel.

Sherry's Pickings 6/21/21, 12:09 AM  

lots of good flavours in that sauce!

Hallebose 6/27/21, 1:33 PM  

A good read for chefs and entrepreneurs.

R's Rue 7/5/21, 4:15 PM  

Yum. Sounds so good. Thank you for sharing. Have a beautiful day.

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