Not long ago, I received a book to review - "Passion for Pizza." Bloggers frequently receive these types of offers, and I turn down most of them. But when the subject is pizza, it's hard to resist. I mean, who doesn't love pizza? The book more than lived up to my expectations. It's divided into two sections - Italy and the USA, with various chapters on pizzerias in those two countries, and recipes at the end (including one at the bottom of this post.) It covers different types of pizzas, from crispy -crusted Roman style, to deep-dish Chicago style and many others, including my favorite, Neapolitan style.
I've visited a few of the places mentioned in the book, both here and in Italy, but it's clear that I've got a long road ahead of me if I'm going to make a real dent in the list. With this book as my guide, hopefully I'll get to some of the others in the future.
There are so many great pizza places around the world that it's hard, if not impossible, to include all of them. For instance, a real standout that's not included is La Renella in Rome. They make outstanding bread as well as many varieties of pizza, and like most Roman pizzerias, you order by indicating to the person behind the counter how much of a slice you want them to cut.
Among the places listed in the book is another spot where I've eaten great Roman-style pizza, - Gabriele Bonci's tribute to pizza, Pizzarium (which recently expanded from its little hole in the wall).
Thankfully, there's a chapter on Naples, the city where pizza Margherita was created more than 100 years ago for Queen Margherita of Savoy and where I've been lucky enough to indulge in pizza on a couple of trips to that great city, including one a few weeks ago.
The ownership of Brandi has changed over the years, but it's still turning out fabulous pizzas from these wood-fired ovens.
Including the famous pizza Margherita, made with simple but high quality ingredients - tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. It's hard not to dig right in, but if you wait a minute or two, the center won't be as runny as it cools down a bit.
Despite the criticism New York City Mayor DeBlasio received from Americans when he ate pizza in Naples with a knife and fork, go ahead and follow his example. It's the way Italians do it and Neapolitan pizza can be very floppy and difficult to handle when it's hot from the oven.
Pizza Margherita is only one of the many types of pizza on Brandi's menu. Another winner I had to try was this one with prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. I'm still dreaming about them both.
Fortunately, I have some great Neapolitan pizza places not far from where I live in New Jersey, including Nomad Pizza in Hopewell (soon to open another place in Princeton by the end of the year!); Porta in Asbury Park, N.J., and Brigantessa in Philadelphia.
If you want to try your hand at making pizza at home though, "Passion for Pizza" has a plethora of recipes from many of the pizzerias listed in the book.
It's nearly impossible to get the same kind of dark mottled crust from a typical home kitchen, since the temperatures can't reach the heights of a professional pizza oven.
But it's still fun to try, and the results, if not the same as your favorite pizzeria, can be delicious anyway.
I recently tried three different pizza recipes from the book, using two different doughs -- the "Neapolitan dough" recipe and the "our favorite dough" recipe. We scarfed down the pizza Margherita:
And we loved the pistacchio e salsiccia pizza recipe from Kesté's in New York (although it could have used a bit of olive oil on top):
And although mine didn't look as wonderful as this photo from the book, we all loved the pizza with brussels sprouts, mozzarella and ricotta cheese, inspired by Motorino Pizza in New York City. The recipe is below.
From "Passion for Pizza"
printable recipe here
1 t. sea salt
2 ounces Brussels sprouts
pizza dough (use your favorite or get the recipe from the book for "our favorite dough")
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 ounce fresh ricotta
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, crumbled
1 ounce smoked pancetta, thinly sliced (alternatives:bacon or unsmoked pancetta)
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Place a baking stone in the oven, and preheat to 500 degrees F. or higher for one hour.
- Bring 1 quart water with sea salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.
- While the water is heating, rinse the Brussels sprouts in cold water, and remove any wilted leaves. Place the Brussels sprouts in the boiling water, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove the Brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon, and place them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes to cool. Pour off the water.
- Stretch the pizza dough to a diameter of 12 inches.
- Distribute the mozzarella, ricotta and Pecorino Romano over the pizza. Distribute the pancetta and garlic over the pizza.
- Peel the leaves from the Brussels sprouts, and place them on the pizza.
- Bake the pizza on the baking stone until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.
- Remove the pizza from the oven, and place it on a plate. Top with coarsely ground black pepper and a bit of olive oil, and serve