October 23, 2005

Pizza Bianca

Americans consume 350 slices of pizza every second, an amount equal to 100 acres a day Ė thatís 33 billion dollars worth of pizza annually from the more than 60,000 pizzerias in America.

Neapolitans claim pizza was created in Naples during the 18th century, though there are many versions of flatbreads with toppings around the Mediterranean area. In support of their claim, they can point to the earliest official pizzeria, which opened in 1830 at Via Port'Alba 18 in Naples and is still in business today. By the beginning of the 1900's pizza made its way to the United States, thanks to Italian immigrants, most notably in New York and Chicago, due to those cities having large Italian populations. In 1897, Gennaro Lombardi opened a small grocery store in New Yorkís Little Italy. Their pizza became so popular, Lombardi opened the first US pizzeria in 1905, naming it simply Lombardi's. Itís celebrating its centennial this year and a short review can be had from Vinography who refers us from there to Slice, an entire blog dedicated to eating pizza. Slice also has a review of the famous Pepe's in New Haven (opened in 1925) where customers waiting to be seated form lines down the block (I ate there with some local friends and the trick was apparently to go to the smaller dining room further back in the lot). One of my personal favorite treats are the pizza rolls at Sergi's in Canton, NY.

Sources: wikipedia.org, pizzamaking.com, vinography.com, sliceny.com

This week I attempted my first home-made pizza, and I felt compelled to do something just a little different, which would come as no surprise to those who know me well. Ergo, pizza bianca instead of the old standby with red sauce and pepperoni. And it would have gone fine, too, except for the mutant crust of doom -- I obviously need some more practice with that.

Pizza Bianca with Prosciutto, Arugula, and Parmesan
adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2003

1 batch pizza dough
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 thin slices prosciutto (about 6 ounces)
2 cups (packed) arugula leaves
2 cups fresh Parmesan shavings (about 4 ounces)

Made a single pie on a pizza stone. Prepare pizza dough and press out on stone. Drizzle dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Top each with prosciutto, arugula, and Parmesan. Bake until crust is brown, about 8 minutes. Using pizza peel, remove pizza from oven (leaving the stone to cool) and slice as desired. Transfer pizza crusts to plates. Drizzle each with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and serve immediately.

Notes: Well, it came out pretty tasty, despite the aforementioned difficulty with the dough. Getting it to cooperate is not as easy as it looks, and if you've ever actually watched someone make a pizza, it doesn't look that easy. Getting the right elasticity to the dough is the trick apparently, and one I've yet to learn properly. More experimentation required.

Posted by Jennifer at October 23, 2005 11:38 AM | TrackBack

Hey Jennifer,
I tagged you for a meme on childhood food memories. Hope you haven't already done it.



Posted by: Kalyn at October 23, 2005 12:21 PM

Talk to Kev for tips on pizza dough -- I make him do ours because he can and well, I can't. *laughs at self* The technique he currently uses is to make a small disc, then hold it hanging down from his two hands and he stretches it, moving around the edge of the circle until he's got it mostly to the size he wants. Then he settles it onto the stone or wherever he's working and does the last bits of stretching. So far this has worked out pretty well.

I keep waiting for him to decide to try tossing it, and wonder whether we'll be peeling it off the floor or the ceiling. *grins*

Posted by: D. at October 23, 2005 3:17 PM

The pizza did end up being pretty tasty, despite the less-than-cooperative crust. The flavors of the prosciutto, arugala and Parmesan blended well, and the crust itself had a good flavor, despite it's somewhat unorthodox shape.

Posted by: Michael at October 24, 2005 10:37 PM

I prefer my pizza sans the red sauce, so I always go for this type when I see them available at a restaurant. And, I'm making my own tonight...a truly white pizza...just cheese...nothing healthy!

Posted by: LisaSD at October 27, 2005 10:53 AM

When you bake pizza on a stone, you should put cornmeal on the stone first. It keeps it from sticking.

I might be able to help you with the dough, but I'd have to know what went wrong. Bread dough tends to be very elastic because of gluten production, so when you pat it out, it bounces back. If you've made the dough fresh and have kneaded it, let it rest for 10-20 minutes and it will be easier to work with.

Have fun with the next pizza. :)

Posted by: Linda at October 27, 2005 11:25 AM

Linda-- Thanks for the suggestions, but as it happens, I actually did both those things. The pizza didn't stick to the stone at all, thanks to the cornmeal. And I waited a good 15 minutes before attempting to roll out the dough. I think it was just a lack of practice, so I'll have to give it another try sometime.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 29, 2005 1:10 PM
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