Have you ever known a family whose kids were perfect angels, and never bickered with each other growing up? (hmm, thinking, thinking). …………………… OK well then I’m guessing for most of you the answer is no, and I would have to agree with you. I mean anything longer than a 10 minute ride with our two little ones in the backseat was an ordeal (Mom, he touched my knee. Dad, she’s looking at me funny). I think we were tempted to put a plastic barrier in the middle of the backseat at one point or other to keep them from strangling each other.
All kidding aside, Michael and Christina were typical, normal kids who over the many decades we’ve been married have been the source of our greatest joy. I’m happy to report that they’ve grown up to be wonderful adults and great friends to each other. They love to come home and help out in the kitchen when we’re preparing family meals, but we seldom get a chance to eat a meal cooked by them in their kitchens. They each live in small apartments about an hour away and are so busy with their careers that it’s an option that doesn’t happen often.
So when they decided to have a pizza festa for us a couple of months ago at our son’s apartment, we were delighted to sit back and let them do the cooking. They made three pizzas – the classic one above with tomato sauce and mozzarella, the one below with broccoli rape and sausage:
I may have mentioned to you in a prior post that my husband’s father was a bread baker in Italy, and set up shop in the U.S. after he emigrated here. My husband still has cousins in Italy who bake bread daily and occasionally use the bread ovens to make pizza for special occasions too. I’m happy to see the family tradition carrying forth with our kids too, even if it’s just for family consumption.
I’ll let our son Michael tell you about his recipe and technique:
A few years ago, I got a pizza stone as a Christmas present, and found a restaurant supply store near me that sold pizza peels--those long, flat, oversized wooden spatulas you see at pizzerias--for about $10 each. Great investment.
Ever since then, whenever the mood strikes, I fire up the oven and make a few pies for me and my friends.
If you want to make your own dough, you have to plan things out a few hours beforehand.
Michael and Christina’s pizza:
You can also follow this recipe:
Pizza dough (enough for about two 14-inch pies)
1/2 cup warm water plus 1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 package dry yeast
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. coarse salt
5+ cups flour
Dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast, and let stand until foamy. Stir in oil and salt. Add most of the rest of the water, plus about 5 cups of flour to make a firm, soft dough. Depending on the heat and humidity, you'll have to add more flour, or more water. After dough is mixed, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes. Its texture should be almost silky by this time. Shape it into a ball, put it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for a few hours, until doubled in size.
When you're ready to make the pizza, punch down the dough, then divide in half. Shape the dough into a disk, make your hands into fists, and drape the dough over your knuckles. Using your knuckles, work your way around the dough by pushing upwards and slightly opening your fingers. Keep repeating until the dough has been stretched a bit.
You can either leave a bit of a crust around the edges, or roll the dough evenly right to the end. I prefer the latter.
Place the pizza stone on one of the lower racks in the oven, and crank it all the way - 500 degrees or hotter - and let it heat up for at least 1/2 an hour. If you have a pizza peel, spread some cornmeal evenly on it, an place
the dough on that before loading it up with toppings. It will slide into the oven much more smoothly.
When putting the pizza in the oven, place the peel over top of the stone. Then, jerk your hands back slightly to release the pizza from the peel.
Broccoli rape and sausage
1 bunch of broccoli rabe
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 sausage links
Trim stems of broccoli rape. Get a large saucepan, and heat about 1/4 inch of water with a little salt until it's boiling. Add broccoli rape, and cover with lid. It may not fit easily at first, but will shrink in size as it's steamed. Let it go for about 5 minutes, occasionally turning it so that every piece gets a turn in the water. Drain broccoli rape, and roughly chop into 1-inch pieces.
While it's draining, remove the casing from the sausage. In the same pan, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let it heat. Add sausage to pan, and using two spatulas, break it up into pieces as it cooks.
When nearly finished cooking, add garlic. After a minute or two, add in broccoli rabe, and mix everything together well. Set aside and add to top of pizza.
Caramelized Onion and Fontina Cheese topping
1 large onion (you may need more depending on size of pizza)
1/2 pound of fontina cheese
Slice onion into 1/8th inch slices. Saute in pan with olive oil until onions are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Slice or shred fontina cheese.
Spread onions, then cheese over pizza and bake. For an extra treat, follow directions for potato pizza, and put onions and cheese on top of it.
Tomato and Mozzarella topping:
Spread your favorite tomato sauce over the dough, then top with grated mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven as directed above.