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How to make better pizza

Step up your pizza game with a lesson from Melbourne's own Pizza Champion, Johnny Di Francesco.

Make your Friday night even better by whipping up the perfect healthy pizza at home. If there’s anyone who can help you put together a pie that will really impress, it’s Johnny Di Francesco.

The Melbourne pizza chef and owner of 400 Gradi is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) standards. In other words, his creations can be officially called “true Neapolitan pizza.” To top it off, in 2014 he was awarded top honours as World Pizza Champion at the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza in Parma, Italy.

Now, he wants to share his secrets. In his book World’s Best Pizza, Johnny brings together some of his favourite recipes, detailing the joy of making traditional pizza from scratch. From basic doughs to classic pizzas and calzones to mouth-watering dessert pizzas, this book has everything you need to take your homemade pizza game to the next level.

Here, Johnny takes a few moments away from his woodfired oven to chat about his favourite thing in the world.

What are your top three rules for making pizza?

1. Always cook with love.

2. Insist on high quality ingredients.

3. Enjoy yourself!

Do you need special equipment to make really good pizza at home?

I always make pizza with my hands, so nothing special required. I find kneading dough really cathartic – I prefer to do it by hand! It’s great to use a pizza stone if you have one, but it’s not a necessity. Just heat the oven as high as you can, and cook the pizza for 10 minutes or less.

What’s the secret to the perfect base?

It’s all in the flour – and make it a day before so you have the time to do it properly.

What are your favourite toppings to work with?

Vegetables are great on pizza – and a good way to get kids to eat them. I regularly use the likes of eggplant and asparagus on pizza. I also include tuna on one of my pizzas, so you really can get creative.

What’s your best tip for making dessert pizzas?

Don’t mix too many flavours, and traditional combinations are often the best, such as Nutella and strawberries. The dough is still the most important part of a dessert pizza though, so make sure it’s made properly. No amount of chocolate sauce disguises a bad base!

How does one master the pizza dough flip? (Or is that a secret only for pizza chefs?)

Haha, this is like anything – practice makes perfect. But to be honest, it’s again about the dough. Flipping the dough that you make to eat is very difficult. If we’re flipping dough as a show, we make a different kind.

Try Johnny’s delicious Pizza Sofia Loren recipe.

World’s Best Pizza By Johnny Di Francesco is available now from New Holland Publishers.

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