Our own personal Italian cooking instructor asked us back for a pizza making lesson. I think this is because we showed such promise as pasta makers, she thought we were ready to branch out to other food groups. Pizza is one of my favorite foods on earth and I was very excited to learn how to do it the right way. I’ve tried to make pizza before with mixed results. Sometimes it was too thin, sometimes the crust was rubbery. I’ve tried different recipes from celebrity chefs, from cooking magazines and from food blogs. They all vary and some are very complicated. Rosella’s way is the best way and it’s very simple and straightforward. Just like most Italian food – no need to make it more complex than it is. We Americans are good at complicating food.
Our pizza lesson was made for a TV cooking show. We arrived and Rosella had already made a batch of dough that morning so that it could rise. But she wanted to show us how to make the dough, too. So while her dough finished rising, we made a batch. Simple – flour, water and yeast. But the proportions and the mixing and kneading are where the expertise comes in. Rosella knows just how much water to put in to make the dough the right consistency. I tried to feel it so that when I try to duplicate it I’ll know, too. Doubtful I’ll get to that point any time soon, but watching a master is the first step to greatness. Just like the pasta, we kneaded for about 15 minutes or so. The dough was perfect – wonderfully soft and with just the right amount of resilience. Then rolling and putting in the pans. We got good marks on kneading but had to go to remedial for our rolling. We got a little carried away and rolled it too thin – you don’t want to do that, so our teacher had to try and correct our rookie mistake. And, of course, she did.
We made three pizzas. One with salami (we would call it pepperoni, but it’s nothing like our pepperoni, trust me), one with anchovies, olives and basil, and one with onions. They were fabulous!
The observant reader will notice the prosciutto shank in the foreground of the spread photo. Yes, we hacked on that along with our pizza. Yum.
But we weren’t done yet. Along with the pizza making lesson we also had a piadina making lesson. Piadina is a type of flatbread that is used for sandwiches, primarily in the Emiglia Romagna region. One of the great things about our location is that we’re in Tuscany, but really close to Umbria, Emilia Romagna, and Marche so we get food influences from all of them. Making piadina dough is very similar to making pizza dough with two notable exceptions: one is the addition of warm milk, the other is the addition of strutto. Strutto is basically lard. This was going to be good stuff. The piadina is rolled out and grilled until it’s crispy and puffy and delicious. Then you fill it with whatever you like (we used prosciutto, arugula and tomato). It was crunchy and tender and flavorful and made our whole wheat sandwich bread seem like something you would use to polish your shoes with. And the combination of the fresh, peppery arugula with the salty goodness of the prosciutto was heavenly. Sorry, but I was in too much of a food coma to get a picture of it. You’ll just have to take my word that it was as beautiful as it was delicious.
Then cannoli. We didn’t make those, just ate them. Oh, and ricotta cake. Our cooking instructor knows how to feed her guests and we are grateful and thankful she invites us back. Myra is leaving in a few days so that was the end of our cooking lessons, but we’ve made a list of the things we want to learn when she comes back. Risotto, polenta, cinghiale. . . .