It’s ‘the best pizza in Britain’, according to The Observer, and we’re pretty enthusiastic about it too. Franco Manca opened in Brixton Market in 2008, one of the pioneers of the food revolution that has swept the market and Brixton Village in recent years. The place already had roots here, as the legendary Franco pizzeria, owned by Franco Pensa, which was open from 1985-89. To honour its legacy, Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo called their new artisan pizzeria Franco Manca, which means ‘missing Franco’.
Giuseppe and Bridget, crowned the ‘masters of pizza’ by the media, set up the place to return pizza to its roots and remind us that soggy middles, bland cheese and heaps of cheese is not the way it’s supposed to be. In Naples – where Giuseppe is from – pizza is famed for its simplicity, good quality ingredients. And it seems we like it better that way – the restaurant now has five branches across London, the latest opening in Balham this summer.
So what’s the secret to the perfect pizza? It’s all in their new book, Artisan Pizza to Make Perfectly at Home, packed with some 50 delightful recipes that don’t require a wood-burning oven capable of reaching 500°C. the book has the same ethos as the restaurant – keep it simple; know your products, your sources and what you are eating and, most importantly, delete those takeaway chains from your mobile!
Franco Manca’s famous, slow-rising sourdough recipe produces a soft and easily digestible crust (these guys know their bread – Giuseppe and Bridget also run the Bread Bread bakery in Herne Hill). The book guides you through the steps to make it, as well as providing you with more than 50 recipes with seasonal variations – from a simple margherita to more intricate flavours like radicchio, smoked mozzarella and pigs cheek – growing and buying tips, making your own flavoured oils, preserving tomatoes and curing meat.
Artisan Pizza to Make Perfectly at Home is out on 7 November (Kyle Books, £12.99)
Sausage with wild broccoli baked pizza
- Serves 4
Ingredients1 dough ball, left to rise for 1.5-2 hours
flour, for dusting
For the friarielli
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ red chilli, finely chopped
200g friarielli/wild broccoli
75g mozzarella fior di latte, torn into 6–8 chunks
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 slices Gruyère
4 slices sweet pancetta
5 teaspoons grated
2 teaspoons truffle oil (optional)
Prepare the friarielli: Heat the oil in a heavy sauté pan and fry the garlic and chilli over a medium heat. Add the leaves, some salt and a drop of water and cover. Cook for about 4 minutes. Drain well and squeeze excess water from the leaves before using.
Prepare the sausage: Set a heavy sauté pan, with enough water to coat the bottom and 1 tablespoon olive oil (or lard), on the stove over a medium heat. As the water comes to the boil, add the sausage and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, then take the lid off and allow the water to evaporate. Let the sausage cool, then remove the skin.
Place a rack on the highest shelf of an oven and turn the grill to its highest setting. When hot, place a greased 26cm iron pan on the stovetop, set to medium heat.
Sprinkle a little flour over your hands and on the work surface and open the dough ball by flattening and stretching the dough with your fingers, or by rolling the dough with a rolling pin.
Pick the pizza base up and gently stretch it a little further over your fists without tearing it. Drop this onto the hot pan, and allow it to start rising.
As soon as the dough firms up, distribute the friarielli over the base and add the mozzarella, Gruyère, pancetta and a drizzle of olive oil.
Cook the pizza on top of the stove for about 3 minutes, then transfer the pan to the grill for a further 3–4 minutes.
Once ready, sprinkle the Pecorino over the pizza, drizzle with the truffle oil, if using, and serve whole or in slices.