Until recently, I’d always seen this type of pizza as a slightly greedy way of bulking out crusts and toppings. I hadn’t realized Italian immigrants had cleverly adapted their old-world recipes to suit new-world coalfired ovens. Making pizzas in tins to protect the base from the soot of the oven makes perfect sense to me now, and I can honestly say that when it’s cooked and seasoned with proper love and care, I’m more than happy with this representative of the pizza family.
To make your dough, pour 650ml of lukewarm water into a large bowl and use a fork to stir in the yeast, sugar and 1 level teaspoon of fine sea salt. Add your flour, bit by bit, until it comes together. You want smooth springy dough, so keep adding a bit more flour if necessary. Dust a clean surface with flour, then knead the dough with your hands. When you’re happy with the consistency, pop it into a flour-dusted bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm room until the dough has almost doubled in size.
Meanwhile, put a lug of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Add your sliced onions and thyme leaves and cook for 15 minutes, or until softened and golden. Take the pan off the heat and put aside. Put all the tomato sauce ingredients into a food processor or liquidizer with a good pinch of salt and black pepper and blitz to a purée. Have a taste and season carefully, adding a bit more salt and pepper if it needs it.
Slit the sausages open and squeeze the meat into a bowl. Bash up the dried chilli and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, add these to the meat with the dried oregano and mix well with a fork.
Preheat your oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Divide the dough in half and oil 2 trays (about 25 x 35cm) with olive oil. Use a rolling pin or clean hands to flatten and stretch the dough out. Roll or push the dough around each tray and really push it into the corners so you get a chubby crust and a base about 1cm thick.
Divide your blitzed tomato sauce between the pizzas and spread around. Scatter over the caramelized onions and dot small pinches of the sausage mixture around the top of each pizza. Tear up the mozzarella and dot the pieces over the sausage, then sprinkle over the fresh basil leaves, sliced fresh chilli, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the grated Parmesan. Finally let your slices of pancetta sort of fall on to the pizzas so they curl and crisp up as they cook. Place in the bottom of the oven for about 20 minutes so the base gets nice and crispy while the top is cooking. Once your pizzas are beautifully cooked, serve right away with a fresh green lemony salad.