15 November 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: When in Rome

SARONNO, Italy – My cousin Ray loves pizza. If he had his way he would eat pizza morning, noon and night. And sometimes I think he does. I don’t know when his passion for pizza started, maybe it was about the same time that he developed an undying love for red Ferraris – hard to tell. It’s been a while though, years I would say.
 Pizzeria Panattoni, Rome
Ray isn’t alone. Almost everybody loves pizza. It’s been a favorite since the days of the Etruscans and they were making a pizza like flat bread 6 centuries before Christ was born. So were the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. 

But it wasn't until 1730, when a baker in Naples decided to add a little tomato sauce to the olive oil and spices that normally went on his flat bread that pizza as we know it was born. While it didn’t take long for more shops serving pizza with tomato sauce to spring up around the city, it took another it took another hundred years before pizza spread to other parts of Italy and then, thanks to Italian emigrants, to the rest of the world. The rest, as they say, is history.
 Hill Town in Lazio
My grandmother, who was from the Etruscan area of Lazio called Tuscia,  used to make a wicked pizza, but she didn’t make Neapolitan pizza, which is thick and chewy, she made Roman pizza which is thin and crisp. You can buy dough at most bakeries that make their own bread, or at some grocery stores, or try your hand at the pizza dough recipe below. 

I don’t recommend the pre-formed shells you find in the grocery store simply because they tend to have preservatives and other things in them that may extend the life of the product but are neither good for you nor taste good. Remember the Italian Golden Rule of Cooking – only best quality ingredients makes best quality (and best tasting) food. 

Roman Style Pizza

Makes 8 individual dinner plate size pizzas

For the dough

2 lb Italian "00" flour or all-purpose flour

1 oz fresh yeast (you should be able to find this in the dairy section of your store)

2 cups water

A pinch of salt

A pinch of sugar
For the Topping 
4 mozzarella cheese (the best quality you can find)
fresh basil leaves (enough to sprinkle over the top of the pizza)
1 lb canned tomatoes (Italian Marazano tomatoes are best – rough chop or pulse in blender)
3 oz capers (thoroughly rinsed, especially if salt packed)
20 anchovy fillets in oil
salt to taste (remember the anchovies are salty)
extra virgin olive oil -  to taste 

25 minutes preparation + 10 minutes cooking
Step 1 - Make a mound of flour on the table and pour the yeast you have melted in a little water in the center. Start kneading, add the salt. Knead until you have a smooth dough that is elastic in texture. Set aside for a few minutes, then separate into small balls and allow to rise (also called leven). 

Step 2 - Once the dough has risen, roll out into regular-shaped disks.


Step 3 - Spoon the fresh (not cooked) tomato sauce onto the disks, raw and pureed, season with salt, pepper and basil.

Step 4 - Sprinkle diced mozzarella on the disks and drizzle some olive oil over them.

Step 5 - Place anchovies and capers evenly over the disks, in oven at 220°C (428°F).

Step 6 -  Remove from oven when outer surface of the dough is crisp and golden.

And one last thing:
The quantities to prepare the dough in this recipe could vary a little depending on the type of flour you  use. So have some extra flour and water handy to add to the dough if needed to achieve the right consistency, which is a smooth and elastic dough, easy to clean off your hands and the working surface.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting blog! I stumbled on it when I was doing some research on my family history and came across this entry from a couple of years ago: http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.ca/2010/10/life-il-giorno-di-colombo.html.

    Your grandfather was related to Joe Bronzetti...so was my grandfather, Joe Fronda, who was also from Piansano. I've been trying to learn more about the old days---I get the sense that things were pretty wild in Syracuse in the 1910s and 1920s. I'd love to swap some stories.

    If you're interested, email me mpfronda (at) gmail (dot) come.

    Oh, and I love Roman style pizza.