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As the pace of life speeds out of control, I try to remind myself of the simplicity and serenity offered by Italian cuisine. The basics of the Italian table are rooted in the enjoyment of life, friends and family. What could be simpler than pizza? I have a habit of making pizza by dialing a number, but the truth is a basic pizza dough is simple to make and the convivial experience of making pizza, calzones or a simple pasta can be a respite from a busy life. If you want to make it a full Italian dining experience, I’ve provided recipes from start to finito.
- Warm radicchio, arugula and walnut salad
- Bruschetta semplice
- Mixed mushroom and chicken pizza
- Olive and caper calzone
The pairings: 3 Italian wine styles for pizza
In Piedmont, the grape Nebbiolo (Barolo, Barbaresco) reigns supreme with its ethereal scents and firm structure, but for pizza lovers the go-to grape should be Barbera. Barbera-based wines tend to be full of bright fruit flavours and tomato sauce-loving tangy acidity. Consider this your most versatile pizza pairing, but I think they are especially good with mushrooms.
- Bersano Barbera D’Asti DOC (NLC, $19.95)
- Fontanafredda Silver Barbera D’Alba DOC (NSLC, $24.95)
Sicily’s answer to pizza night long lived in the shadows of other varietals, including Nero D’Avola and Nerello Mascalese. Now the darling of sommeliers seeking fresh, fruity styles for convivial conversations. Keep the pizza pairing simple, such as thin-crust margherita.
- Planeta Frappato Vittoria DOC (PEILCC, $24.89)
This is your meat-lovers, works-style pizza accompaniment. Benefiting from the warmth of the southern Italian sun, this varietal produces ripe, fruity wines with tannins ranging from round to firm. Too substantive for a thin-crust pizza, this is best served with fully loaded, thick-crust styles.
- Umani Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC (NSLC, $19.98, NLC, $19.98)
- Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC (PEILCC, $16.50)
Warm radicchio, arugula and walnut salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pancetta, cubed
2 heads radicchio, core removed, roughly chopped
8 cups arugula
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 cup dried cranberries
Directions: Place large sauté pan over medium-low heat; add olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté until browned on all sides. Add the radicchio and sauté, stirring frequently, until the radicchio begins to brown. Add the arugula and balsamic vinegar; sauté until arugula just begins to wilt (less than one minute) and then remove from the heat. Add the Parmesan; stir. Add the dried cranberries and walnuts; serve immediately.
24 slices baguette, toasted
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch salt & pepper
6 Roma tomatoes, seeded, diced
24 basil leaves
Directions: Rub toasted bread with cloves of garlic. Soak slices with olive oil. Season toast with salt and pepper. Top with diced tomato and basil leaves. Sprinkle a little extra salt on the tomatoes before serving.
Basic dough recipe
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: In a mixer, blend ingredients for dough at a low speed for 10 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for two hours or until the dough doubles in size.
Mixed mushroom and chicken pizza
1 pizza dough
1/4 cup mixed mushrooms (portobello and cremini)
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1/2 oven roasted chicken breast, sliced
1/8 cup basil pesto
1 cup grated mozzarella
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Directions: Using a rolling pin, or by hand, spread pizza dough into a 10-inch circle and place on a 12-inch diameter, lightly greased pizza pan. Place a pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and mushrooms. Sauté until soft but not overcooked (3 to 5 minutes). Spoon tomato sauce onto the centre of pizza dough and spread. Drizzle with pesto. Top with mushrooms, chicken and cheese. Bake in oven preheated to 500 F for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish, if desired.
Olive and caper calzone
2 x basic dough recipe
1 1/3 cups caramelized onion
1 cup fresh mozzarella
2/3 cup pitted black olives
1/4 cup capers
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: Split the dough in two and roll it in two, 10-inch rounds. Divide ingredients for the stuffing between the two doughs. Fold each into a half-moon shape and seal the borders with your fingers. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and bake in oven, preheated to 500 F, for 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
Makes 3 dozen cookies
4 tablespoons Amaretto
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sliver almonds, lightly toasted
Directions: Preheat oven to 300 F. Mix eggs, amaretto and vanilla extract in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and almonds. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; mix. Scrape out dough, divide in half and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Dust with flour and form the dough into 2 10-inch by 5-inch logs. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let cool. Slice into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Return to oven and bake for another 40 minutes, flipping the biscotti halfway through to make sure they cook evenly.
Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He's a creative director with SaltWire and local fare is his specialty. You can subscribe to his Follow a Foodie newsletter here.
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