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Pizza Romana

Our kids are going to be very confused.  Are they Chinese? Are they white? Are they hispanic? What language should they speak? And why does everybody else think pizza has lots of cheese and tomato sauce?

Yes, if our kids learn what pizza is from the pizzas we cook at home, they are going to be very confused when they go into the world and are served take-out–or anything else for that matter.  Not that there is anything wrong with a standard red sauce with cheese and toppings pie, it’s just not our go-to choice.

Furthermore, doing pizza this way is much more convenient and exciting.  Pizza, like pasta, can be the vehicle for combining whatever ingredients into a perfectly appetizing meal.  And if you are lucky enough to have potato, zucchini, and onion in your fridge, you can make an “authentic” Roman pizza.

As we’ve mentioned, Rome does great pizza.  The crust is paper thin and crunchy without tasting like a cracker–it maintains just enough chewiness.  This is the last pizza we had on our honeymoon in Rome.  Saute vegetables, top very generously over dough, cook on as high a heat you can.  That’s it.  Making sure your kids know what pizza really is–well, I think we’ve just accomplished that.  Dealing with questions of ethnic identity–that’ll be for another day.

Some general directions: First, it’s hard to do this wrong.  If you want to make your own dough (see recipe here), you really should; it’s hard to compete with the price and simplicity–unless you can get top-notch dough from somewhere like Modern Apizza.  Stretch it out and drizzle olive oil over the top.  If you are using a pizza stone, we suggest topping the pizza after you slide the dough onto the already-hot stone because sliding a topped pizza is tricky business.  Top with sauteed vegetables of your choice–or with raw vegetables, too, since they’ll (mostly, depending on the veggie) cook in the oven.  Bake at 450-500F.  Pizza’s done when dough is golden and crusty, somewhere near 10 minutes.

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Potatoes on pizza are a Roman preference, you know. And in keeping with culinary tradition, they’ve migrated here to New Haven where at BAR, mashed potato-bacon pizza is a true specialty, and at Chez CommunityFoodJustice, potatoes on pizza also proliferate.

And even though we haven’t had a bad experience making pizza dough, in this lovely city which claims to be the birthplace of American-style pizza, pizza dough is just $1/lb at Modern Apizza. Though neither of us have actually had pizza at Modern, we’re loyal customers of the dough. On the rare occasion we do make our own dough, we use Mark Bittman’s recipe below.

Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Red Bliss Potatoes, and Zucchini

1 t active dry yeast
1 c all-purpose flour
2 c whole-wheat flour
2 t salt
1 to 1 1/4 c warm water (~70 degrees)
3 T olive oil

Combine the yeast, flour, and salt in the KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. As it is mixing, add the 1 cup of water and 2 T of oil gradually. Mix, adding more water until the mixture forms into a ball around the dough hook and is slightly sticky. (You may also add other herbs and spices at this point. We’ve tried rosemary, oregano, and basil.)

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth round ball (a few seconds). Use the last tablespoon of oil to grease the KitchenAid bowl (or another bowl), and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a cotton towl and let rise in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in size (1-2 hours).

While the dough rises, prepare toppings. Caramelize thinly sliced onions over low heat for 10-15 minutes until browned and sweet. Slice zucchini and potatoes into thin rounds and sautee over medium heat until cooked.

Preheat the oven to 450F with a baking stone in the oven. (Baking stones really make a big difference in capturing the heat from the oven and releasing it directly onto the bottom of the pizza for a nicely crisped crust.) Meanwhile, stretch out the dough on a floured surface. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and top with onions, potatoes, zucchini. Spoon salted whole-fat ricotta on top of toppings, and grind black pepper on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until ricotta begins to bubble, keeping a close eye on it to keep from burning.

Perhaps needless to say, pizzas in our home are not confined to these toppings. We’ve also used sweet potatoes, eggplant, anchovies, mozarella, yellow squash, butternut squash, hazelnuts, arugula, basil, and a whole variety of other toppings. Create away, and keep in mind that this is also a great food to make with kids!

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