In one of its many forms, pizza has been a basic part of the Italian diet since the Stone Age. The earliest form of pizza was a crude bread that was baked beneath the stones of a fire. After cooking, it was seasoned with a variety of different toppings and used instead of a bowl or eating utensils to sop up broth or gravies. It is said that the idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread (plankuntos) baked with an assortment of toppings. It was eaten by the working man and his family because it was a thrifty and convenient food.
1st Century B.C.
In the translated version of “The Aeneid” written by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), it describes the legendary origin of the Roman nation, describing cakes or circles of bread:
“Beneath a shady tree, the hero spread
His table on the turf, with cakes of bread;
And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed.
They sate; and, (not without the god’s command)
Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band
Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,
To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.
Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:
“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.”
Our knowledge of Roman cooking derives mainly from the excavations at Pompeii and from a book by Marcus Gavius Apicius called “De Re Coquinaria.” Apicius was a culinary expert and from his writings, he provided us with information on ancient Roman cuisine. Apicius’ book contains recipes which involve putting a variety of ingredients on a base of bread (a hollowed-out loaf). The recipe uses chicken meat, pine kernels, cheese, garlic, mint, pepper, and oil (all ingredients of the contemporary pizza). The recipe concludes with the instruction “insupernive, et inferes” which means “cool in snow and serve!”
In the ashes after Mount Vesuvius erupted and smothered Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D., evidence was found of a flat flour cake that was baked and widely eaten at that time in Pompeii and nearby Neopolis, The Greek colony that became Naples. Evidence was also found in Pompeii of shops, complete with marble slabs and other tools of the trade, which resemble the conventional pizzeria.
Pizza migrated to America with the Italians in the latter half of the 19th century. For many people, especially among the Italian-American population, the first American pizzas were known as Tomato Pie (as my parents always called pizza). Even in the present 21st century, present-day tomato pie is most commonly found in the Northeastern United States, especially in Italian bakeries in central New York. Tomato pies are built the opposite of pizza pies – first the cheese, then the sauce, and then the topping. This is exactly how I have always made pizza.
So let’s model our early inventors of this marvelous food, get creative and think about a new way you can use pizza dough. I would love to hear if you have a nontraditional way of using pizza dough.
Quick Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
This make-ahead dough has endless uses for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
3 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 3-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
In a large electric mixer bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, salt and whole wheat flour; set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat water and oil to 120°-130°; stir into dry ingredients.
With paddle attachment stir in enough white whole wheat flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
Punch down dough; divide into three equal portions.
Use immediately or refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to 1 month.
Yield: 3 pounds (enough for 3 pizzas).
If using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Proceed as directed below.
Italian Spinach Braid
1 loaf (1 pound) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten
Pizza sauce, optional
Roll dough into a 12-in. x 9-in. rectangle. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook turkey over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
Transfer to a large bowl; add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.
Spread mixture lengthwise down the center of dough. On each long side, cut 1-in.-wide strips 3 in. into center.
Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Pinch ends to seal and brush with egg white.
Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce if desired.
Scrambled Egg Turnovers
4 eggs and 1 cup egg substitute beaten together, divided
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the egg mixture. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir remaining egg mixture over medium heat until almost set.
Stir in mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Cook and stir until completely set.
Remove from the heat.
On a floured surface, roll dough into a 13-in. square. Cut into four squares; transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.
Spoon cooked egg mixture over half of each square to within 1/2 in. of edges.
Brush edges of dough with 1 tablespoon reserved egg.
Fold one corner over filling to the opposite corner, forming a triangle; press edges with a fork to seal. Cut slits in top.
Brush with remaining egg; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Swiss Turkey Stromboli
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
3 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
6 ounces sliced deli turkey
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
In a large nonstick skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Stir in mustard; set aside.
On a floured surface, roll dough into a 15-in. x 10-in. rectangle.
Transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Layer the cheese, mushroom mixture and turkey lengthwise over half of dough to within 1/2 in. of edges.
Fold dough over filling; pinch seams to seal and tuck ends under.
Combine egg white and water; brush over dough. Cut slits in top.
Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Take your 1 pound package of pizza dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle some flour onto a flat, clean board or counter top.
Take the pizza dough out of the package and place it on the surface you floured. Divide it into eight balls. For large hamburger buns, divide the dough into six.
Brush each dough ball with olive oil.
Place the balls of dough onto the cookie sheet with a space between each one. Cover the cookie sheet with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 20 minutes.
Turn on your oven and preheat it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
After 20 minutes remove the towel or plastic wrap and place the cookie sheet into the oven.
Bake the hamburger buns for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are golden. Check them after 15 minutes to make sure they are not getting too brown, as some ovens bake hotter than others.
Let the hamburger buns cool on a rack and then slice each bun in half horizontally.
Since I prefer to make my own hamburger buns from whole wheat dough, I purchased a burger baking pan from King Arthur.
- Fruit Pizzas with Whole Wheat Cinnamon Crust (simply7snacks.com)
- Italian Torta/Savory Pies (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Flax Crust Pizza Bites, ‘Cuz Why Not? (the-tasty-truth.com)
- Part two: Weekend recap (Trader Joe’s, homemade pizza, & pancakes) (thegrassskirtblog.com)
- What Is the Difference Between Calzone and Stromboli? (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Pizza Loaf (transplantedandgrowing.wordpress.com)
- Breakfast Pizza Part 1: Savory Breakfast Pizza (vegetarianventures.com)
- Healthy Recipe: Whole-Wheat Pizza With Sundried Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Peppers (washingtonian.com)
Marcella Hazan has been called the godmother of Italian cuisine in America. She introduced Americans to regional Italian cooking, pure flavors, fresh and varied ingredients.
Marriage to Victor Hazan, a New Yorker, meant straddling the Old World and the New. In 1969, Marcella began teaching Italian-cooking classes out of their small apartment kitchen in midtown Manhattan. Her first American students were six ladies she met while taking a course in Chinese cooking. “What do you eat at home?” they wondered, and so Marcella introduced them to lamb kidneys, squid, rabbit and fish with the head on. Thus, began her teaching career.
Though 88, officially retired and wrestling with back and other health issues, Hazan continues to teach. This time it isn’t in a refurbished 16th century palazzo in Venice. It’s on Facebook.
Hazan has many ardent fans. And in the twilight of her career, they have found in her a willing and still feisty teacher happy to offer advice, challenge assumptions and continue to teach.
In her book,
Marcella Hazan devotes a chapter to, “Why and How You Should Be Making Your Own Egg Pasta”. After a discussion about how commercially made pasta is produced, she comments, “ What one responds to in homemade pasta, is its lightness, its buttery texture, its suave entry into the mouth, a deeply satisfying cohesion of pasta and sauce, and a buoyant, palate caressing richness of taste. The only egg pasta that delivers such sensations is one that you make at home, using low-gluten white flour for your dough and thinning it with gradually applied light pressure. Take into account, moreover, that when you make your own pasta you can produce noodle shapes that are usually unavailable commercially….”
Marcella also recommends using modern conveniences in making homemade pasta. She says,” You need a food processor for kneading the dough and a pasta machine ” for rolling and cutting. She also notes that she tested her recipes using these gadgets and the pasta was just fine.
Here is my version:
Why should you make homemade spaghetti when you can buy a box of dried spaghetti in your supermarket? Fresh pasta is not inherently better than dried pasta; it’s just different – definitely lighter and more delicate than dried pasta. Use dried pasta when you want to enjoy noodles with a lot of texture or for heavy sauces; use fresh when you want a softer, subtler dish that will let a delicate sauce shine. Making homemade pasta in our busy world cannot be a common occurrence but give yourself a treat, every once in awhile, so you can experience this unique taste.
I prefer to mix the harder southern Semolina (durum) flour with the softer unbleached flour or the Italian 00 flour to give some extra body, gluten and flavor to the pasta. Italian-Style 00 flour makes a supple dough, that is smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level.
Whole eggs add an old World richness to the mix, which is why genuine fresh pasta has a yellowish hue like egg noodles. Extra virgin olive oil in my mix also adds moisture and flavor. Many recipes only call for salt in the boiling water. I use it in the mix and in the boiling water so the pasta will have flavor.
If you would like a closer look at the photos in how to make the homemade spaghetti dough, you can double click them for an enlargement.
For a whole wheat version, substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of the semolina flour.
1 cup unbleached flour or Italian 00 flour
1 cup Semolina durum flour
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water, if needed
Heavy pinch of Kosher salt
Put all of the ingredients in the large bowl of a processor. Pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball.
Remove dough from the bowl and form into a round ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.
Rolling the Dough
Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine.
Divide dough into about 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough with flour on both sides if the dough is too sticky. Start thick and gradually crank to desired thinness.
After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides.
Next, move the rollers to the next smaller setting and run the dough through one time. Move to the next smaller setting and run the dough through again. Lightly flour the rolled dough strips as needed to prevent sticking in your pasta machine.
Keep rolling the dough through the next smaller setting until you have reached the second to the last setting, but you can roll the dough to whatever degree of thinness you prefer. I prefer the next to last setting for spaghetti.
As you move to the thinner settings, your pasta will become become more delicate. If it tears as you roll it through, don’t worry, it’s not ruined. You can simply fold the pasta and re-roll. However, I have found the pasta recipe that I am using is very supple and I have never had the dough tear.
Cutting the Spaghetti
When you have finished rolling the dough, let it dry on a cutting board or cloth for about 10-15 minutes. This will prevent sticking and will make it much easier to cut the dough in your pasta machine. Don’t let it get too dry or it will become stiff and brittle and will not feed through your machine. When the dough is finished drying, cut the dough into shorter strips to make it easier to cut in your machine.
As soon as you cut the pasta, either place the cut pasta on a floured flat surface or hang it on a pasta drying rack.
This type of fresh pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container.
Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta out because of the eggs in the mixture.
Cooking Homemade Pasta
Note: Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.
Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not overcook the pasta to a mush. Drain well and serve.
Some Recipes To Cook After You Make the Spaghetti:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2-by- 1/4-inch strips
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dry red wine
1-1/2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat until very soft, 7 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook until translucent, 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, wine, tomatoes, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer until thick, 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente; reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce along with the reserved cooking water and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of cheese. Serve right away, passing more cheese at the table.
Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Capers and Olives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 1 minced
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (2 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sliced garlic over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about two minutes. Do not let it take on any more color than this. Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the bread crumbs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat, and pour into a bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining olive oil, the red pepper flakes and the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells fragrant, and add the tomatoes, capers and olives. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the spaghetti. Cook al dente, drain, and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and parsley on top, toss again briefly and serve, passing the Parmesan at the table.
Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, about 1 1/2 lb., ends trimmed
1 tablespoons plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cut off the broccoli rabe florets and coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems.
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.
While the water is heating, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes.
Stir in half of the broccoli rabe, including the florets, coating them with the oil. Cook until the wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
Pour in the broth and reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in the 1/4 tsp. salt and season with pepper.
When the pasta is ready, drain. Place the pasta in a serving bowl and top with the broccoli rabe sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.
- Yes, You Can Make Homemade Pasta! (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- How To Make Stuffed Pastas At Home (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- How To Make Homemade Ravioli (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Homemade pasta with pesto (ginandjuiceboxes.com)
- What Can I Do With A Box Of Spaghetti ? (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Parsley Semolina Pasta (bangordailynews.com)
- The Dish on Pasta: Maligned Food Actually a Healthy Carb (livescience.com)
- The Art of Pasta by Lucio Galletto and David Dale (runningfurs.com)