OF all the excellent reasons to visit Italy, my list of priorities is topped, every time, by something so simple: pizza. If this sounds like the dull side of predictable, I would understand: I mean, what could be more familiar? But I beg to differ. We all like to believe we know pizza. In truth, the thinly-stretched dough base and carefully paired, intense toppings you experience when in Italy bear little relation to the pizza so frequently offered once home. A whole new, revelatory light illuminates pizza in Italy: the uncompromising floodlight of authenticity.

Given that the core ingredients are accessible, pizza should not be that hard to get right. Introducing "twists’’ (man, how I loathe that word), absurd toppings (Asian pulled pork anyone?) and stuffed crusts, detracts from the real deal, often undermining quality and confusing the flavours. I wonder what my Italian friends would make of greasy, sickly pizza served up by the big chains? Chew on this: would you want Italian restaurants in Italy conjuring new ways to serve haggis?

Here’s the good news: if Italy seems a journey too far, creating the dough yourself is uncomplicated. As for toppings, four or five are regarded as sufficient in Italy. And yes, this includes the intense tomato sauce (this could be made and frozen in small packs in advance), the best mozzarella and fresh basil. Less is more, so I would add just one more item, such as olives or, my personal must, anchovy.

Pizza dough

Recipes make 6 medium pizzas

800g Tipo 00 flour plus about 120g extra for dusting and sprinkling

200g finely ground semolina flour

1 tsp fine sea salt

2 x 7 g dried yeast sachets

1 tbsp golden caster sugar

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

650ml lukewarm water

1. Sieve the flours and salt on to a clean work surface, making a compact mound shape. With your fingers, make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with flour-dusted hands. Knead until you obtain a smooth, springy dough.

2. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and sprinkle a little flour over the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Now knock back the dough: to do this, scrape the dough out on to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge for up to 24 hours until required.

4. If using straight away, divide the dough up into six to eight balls (this will give the corresponding number of individual medium pizzas).

5. About 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them, roll out each ball to a roughly circular shape, with a thickness of up to half a centimetre. (They can be rolled in advance, up to two hours beforehand. If doing this, cut out circles of parchment paper or tin foil, just a bit wider than the pizza base. Rub with olive oil and dust with a little flour then set one pizza base on each disc; these can then be stacked and stored in the fridge until needed.)

Tomato sauce base

2-3 dstsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

1 small onion, peeled and very finely diced

½ a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked off, stalks reserved

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

Pinch of sugar

Generous pinch of dried oregano

1 mounded tsp small capers

Few sprigs of thyme

1. Over a gentle heat, heat a large saucepan capable of holding all the ingredients. Add the olive oil and heat for one minute then add the garlic and onion. Season with a little salt. Fry slowly without browning, while stirring regularly.

2. Once soft, snip the thyme up with scissors and add to the pan. Also chop up the basil stalks and add with the thyme. Sweat for a few more minutes.

3. Add the capers and if you wish, a tiny bit of their brine.

4. Add the tomatoes and with the help of a spatula, break them down roughly, while stirring them into the onion mixture. Add the sugar and oregano, stir in well then simmer the sauce for 30 minutes.

5. Now add the basil leaves and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to the jug of a blender and pulse to make a sauce which is textured but not totally smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required.

6. This can be made a day in advance and chilled or frozen.

Making the pizzas

Roll out the raw dough to the desired size and transfer to a suitable tray. Allow to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before proceeding. You can use this time to chop your chosen toppings. Now spread the cold sauce with the back of a ladle across the pizza base so it covers it evenly, stopping about 1cm from the edge. Scatter your toppings evenly across the face of the pizza. Place a baking tray in the oven and preheat to 240C. Place your pizza, still on its tray, on this tray and bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a chopping board. Drizzle with a little olive oil, slice into eight slices then serve at once .

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, Ky15 5LH, 01334 8402026 www.thepeatinn.co.uk