Of all the elements of a perfect pizza, the toppings grab most of the attention. Mellow mozzarella, homemade sausage, pungent onions and other great pizza toppings deserve their spotlight, but it’s the rich, tangy tomato sauce that creates the stage for them. You’ll find cans of sauce on the shelves, but once you’ve tasted the concentrated flavor of freshly made pizza sauce, you’ll be spoiled for anything less. At Carlino’s, our sauce is a big part of what makes our pizzas so special. We’d like to share a few of our secrets for a great sauce.
Pick the Right Tomatoes
Many cooks reach for the best-looking tomatoes they can find, but those big, juicy beefsteak tomatoes that taste terrific on a sandwich are exactly wrong for pizza sauce. Instead, hunt for smaller, firmer Italian tomatoes. You’ll also see them labeled as Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes. A rich red color and a strong tomato scent tell you when the tomatoes are just right for sauce.
The tastiest sauce comes from layering flavors, so you’ll also want to seek out the queen of sauce tomatoes, the San Marzano. These long, thin tomatoes are related to Roma varieties, but they’re sweeter and more potent than their plum-shaped counterparts. Getting fresh San Marzano tomatoes shipped from Naples is a challenge for home chefs, so you can also use a San Marzano tomato paste from the gourmet aisle of your local market.
Prepare for Saucing
Tomato sauce requires peeling your tomatoes, but if you’ve ever tried to peel a raw tomato, you know it’s a challenge. There’s a trick to it: blanching. Dunking the fresh tomatoes in boiling water, cooking them for a few seconds until their skins begin to split and transferring them to a bath of ice water makes them easy to peel. Because they don’t stay in the boiling water long, they keep their flavor while shedding their skins. Once you’ve peeled your tomatoes, split them and remove the pulp and seeds with your fingers. You can do this step over a strainer placed over a bowl to reserve the juice for other recipes.
Tomatoes are the star of the sauce, but at Carlino’s, other flavorful ingredients play important roles too. Diced onions and garlic simmer with the tomatoes and impart their distinctive flavors to the finished sauce. Save the stems from fresh basil and oregano to give the sauce a more complex bouquet. If you’re using dried herbs, rub them between your palms to release their flavorful essential oils as you add them to the sauce.
Proportions for pizza sauce vary by taste, and every chef has a signature blend of ingredients. Chef Wali likes to start by covering the bottom of the pot with diced onions and letting them brown in a splash of olive oil. When the onions are brown, the garlic goes in the pot. Stir the mixture frequently to keep the garlic from overcooking; singed garlic tastes bitter and can spoil an otherwise great pizza sauce. After a few minutes to soften the garlic, add peeled, seeded tomatoes and fresh herb stems if you have them.
The perfect pizza sauce is slow simmered over low heat that produces a natural sweetness. The real secret to a perfect pizza sauce is frequent tasting. If you love the milder taste of fresh tomatoes, simmer your sauce for half an hour or so. We prefer a bold and sweet taste that stands up to the vibrant flavors of our toppings and our fresh homemade mozzarella. So we create our sauce every day and simmer it for hours to reduce the liquid and turn it into the sweet, thick and rich signature style that’s made our award winning pizza and Italian dishes famous.Tweet read more
Every restaurant has its secret recipe, and Carlino’s is no exception. The award-winning Grandma’s pizza recently helped Carlino’s Restaurant earn the Patch Reader’s Choice award for the best pizza in Garden City, Mineola and New Hyde Park, so it’s time to give something back and share this cherished recipe with the whole neighborhood. Come along with us as we venture into Carlino’s kitchen and you’ll learn the Corteo Family’s closely guarded secret for their Grandma’s Pizza.
As in the Corteo family ancestral home in Monte Di Procida, Carlino’s pizza begins with a thicker Sicilian-style bread dough that stays tender in the oven. After making the dough, it rests in a wooden dough box that absorbs excess water to make it just a little chewy. Then, the dough goes into a square pizza pan oiled with fine Italian olive oil. If you press it thinly, but not too thinly – it should keep some of its rich moisture during baking.
After the pizza dough is in the pan, it’s time for the mozzarella cheese. One of Carlino’s recipe secrets is to use its fresh house-made mozzarella for a creamier texture and just the right amount of mellow saltiness. Tear the cheese into small pieces and scatter them over the surface of the dough. The trick is to get just enough cheese on the pizza; you want enough to make it rich, but not so much that it weighs down the slice.
Only after the cheese is down does the pizza sauce go on. That way, the sauce spreads around the cheese to make each bite uniquely delicious. A handmade pizza should have variety in every mouthful, and that’s why the sauce goes on around the cheese. Carlino’s sauce is made fresh each day with hand crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano, basil and a dash of salt. Instead of spreading the sauce over the whole pizza, add it in dollops so it flows as it cooks.
Now it’s time for the garlic. Carlino’s Chef Wali roasts each morsel to release the sweet, nutty flavors before the slices of garlic go on the pizza. As the pie cooks, those flavors bake into the pizza without burning or overpowering the subtler tastes of the fresh mozzarella and vine ripened tomatoes. After scattering roasted garlic on the pizza, the pie gets a splash of olive oil on top and just underneath the crust to make it crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Why not put the oil in the pan before spreading the dough? Because when the oil goes in last, the bottom of the pizza has no time to soak it up, instead crisping and browning in the savory oil without getting greasy.
Carlino’s big deck oven cooks a Grandma’s pizza in about 15 minutes, but a home oven’s going to take longer because it doesn’t get to the high temperatures that restaurant ovens can reach. The restaurant’s ovens transform the dough into a hearty crust and the cheese into a creamy coat that’s just turning crisp and bubbling on the edges. You can shake on a little Parmesan cheese at the table or eat the pizza just as it is fresh out of the oven.
If that sounds like a lot of work to make a great pizza, you’re more than welcome to take a shortcut to a fantastic Grandma-style pizza: Call us at 516-747-6616 for free delivery or visit Carlino’s Restaurant at 204 Jericho Turnpike, in Mineola, NY and we’ll make you a fresh mouth watering pizza by hand from the freshest ingredients!
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’s
What percussion is to music, garlic is to Italian food. It’s the driving beat that you don’t immediately notice, but would certainly miss if it weren’t there. Earthy and pungent, garlic’s rarely in the spotlight, but it underlies everything else in the dish, pulling it together into a harmonious whole. Garlic has had a place on the dinner plate since ancient Egypt, but Italian culinary ingenuity elevated garlic dishes into art.
As its taste will tell you, garlic is a member of the same Allium family of plants as onions, leeks and shallots. Raw garlic is so pungent, it tastes fiery; roasting or sauteing it turns it almost sweet. The volatile flavors of garlic lend themselves to cooking in olive oil or butter, making it a perfect companion for buttery shrimp scampi and flavorful spaghetti puttanesca.
Italian diners eat about 110 million pounds of garlic a year, according to the Italian farmer’s group Coldiretti. For a nation of about 60 million people, that’s a hefty dose of the fragrant bulb. However, garlic doesn’t overwhelm a great Italian sauce because chefs use it with discretion. Brighter flavors like lemon, basil and oregano act as a balance to garlic’s earthiness, while acidic ingredients like balsamic vinegar and tomatoes bring out its sweeter nature. You’ll find garlic if you’re looking for it in a bite of a perfect marinara sauce, but it won’t be all you find. Italian food is anything but timid, so its robust flavors stand up beautifully to garlic’s power.
New studies suggest that garlic might even be good for you. It appears to be good for your digestion, your heart, your cholesterol and your blood sugar levels. You could buy garlic capsules to get all those health benefits, but eating extra garlic on your pizza sounds like much more fun. Some people even say it’s good for the common cold. A hot bowl of minestrone with garlic may not cure your sniffles, but it’ll certainly make you feel better.
If garlic has a single drawback, it’s that pungent aroma. Nibbling a bite of parsley or drinking something with lemon can eliminate it. A light dessert after dinner can also help clear your palate, especially if you pair it with a lemon-kissed espresso. Carlino’s also offers complimentary mints at the bar, so you can enjoy plenty of guiltless garlicky goodness for lunch or dinner.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’s