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Neapolitan Pizza Sauce

I’m just back from Sorrento, which is pizza country, pizza centrale, where the thin, crispy, wood oven-baked pizza that we all love, Neapolitan-style, comes from.

If there’s one thing in the world that I love as much as tacos, it’s pizza.

I thought I knew all there was to know about pizza. I’ve been making homemade pizza since the Denton Piggly Wiggly started stocking Chef Boyardee in the bright yellow box. I remember thinking back then that my Friday night pizzas were the best thing ever.

Then I had pizza in college at a place in Columbia, Missouri where they tossed the dough in the air, with artful grace and a bit of a swirl. Already this seemed like a more sophisticated pizza pie than the ones I’d known.

Years later, I fell madly in love with an Italian, then the entire country of Italy, and after a few years of flying back and forth to Florence and Rome and eating more pizzas Margherita than I could count, my pizza-making really improved. I made my own dough and sauce and threw pizza parties for my Dallas friends.

So when I asked the chef at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento about how much garlic he put in the sauce — and with some arrogance, mind you, because I knew pizza, right? — he abruptly stopped his dough-kneading demonstration.

“Aglio?!” he said, stunned, stopped in his pizza-making tracks. “No! Never.”

His sauce, he explained, was simply tomatoes — canned San Marzano — and basil. No garlic. No oregano.

Humbled once more — the more I know, or the more I think I know, the more I realize I don’t know anydamnthing at all  —  I decided to give it a try back home in Paris. I puréed a large can of whole tomatoes, fresh basil, and a pinch of sea salt in my blender, then poured it into a saucepan to let it reduce a little bit.

It tasted nothing like any other sauce I’d made before, and very much like the one I’d just had in Sorrento. O. Happy. Day.

Coming up next: the dough.