Make dinner tonight, inspired!

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? This is your place for quick and healthy meal inspirations. Here you'll find recipes for seasonally focused dinners, desserts, breakfasts, and everything in between.

My cooking focuses on the freshest ingredients prepared in a simple and careful way, to highlight their uniqueness. My own diet is primarily vegetarian, but does include sustainable fish and seafood, and is gluten free.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite recipes with you!

22 February 2010

Pizza Festa Romana

Pizza at home is such an easy indulgence and this recipe is quick enough for any weeknight. You do need a couple of special tools to make really good home baked pizza, but they're not expensive and once you have them you'll use them over and over again. First, you need a baking stone. I like the square tiles over the round versions if possible. They're more versatile and you can use them for bread too. Second, you need a pizza peel. That's're all set to go!

This pizza dough recipe makes 2 pounds of dough, enough for 4, 9" pizzas. It's the simplest dough I make and it's by far the quickest. My favorite pizza dough, which I make often has a bit more flavor than this dough because of a second fermentation. However, this is a great fast dough that requires only one rising and is completely reliable. If you don't use all 4 portions, it freezes well too.

I made two kinds of toppings tonight for our pizzas. My favorite, which I'm listing here, I call 'Pizza Festa Romana'. It has fresh tomatoes, oil cured olives, rosemary, red chile flakes, and Pecorino Romano cheese. I love it and it reminds me of a magical evening we spent in Rome, several years ago.

It was one of those completely unexpected experiences that often happens when exploring a new city. We were out one night in Rome, looking for a restaurant that turned out to be since closed, and saw throes of people heading down to the Tiber River. We thought it seemed like a good plan to follow the locals and happened upon a Roman Pizza Festa. Apparently this is a yearly event where all the best pizzarias in town compete for top honors. As you can imagine in Rome, pizza is a serious business but the Italians are always up for a celebration when it comes to food.

There was music and strings of lights in the trees above the river, dancing, lots of red wine, and lots and lots of pizza eating. Needless to say, it was far and away the best pizza I've ever had and what I took from it was a magical memory as well as this 'Pizza Festa Romana' which reminds me of the event every time I make it.

As I mentioned, I made two kinds of pizzas tonight... the other was a wonderful first of spring pizza which I will also share here in the coming days. However, it goes without saying that pizza lends itself to whatever topping you can dream up. So, use what you have and what you love.

I have one ball of dough left and I think it might become a 'Pizza Bianca'. To me that means just some good olive oil brushed on the dough, sprinkled with fresh rosemary and coarse sea salt. Then spread it with Nutella fresh out of the oven so it gets all melty and chocolatey. Yumm.

Happy Pizza Festa!

For the dough:
Yields 2#:

2 packets active dry yeast (1/4 oz each)
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 95-105 degrees)
2 TB Sugar
1/4 cup Olive Oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
2 tsp coarse salt
4 cups Flour ( I used unbleached Spelt), plus more for work surface

For 'Festa Romana' topping:
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, crumbled and/or grated
1 TB fresh rosemary and/or fresh oregano, chopped
pinch red chile flakes
1 TB olive oil, for brushing onto dough

1) Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until yeast is bloomed, about 10 minutes.

2) Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into the yeast mixture. Add the flour and stir, until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to an oiled bowl and brush the top of the dough ball with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

3) Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place pizza stone in oven and preheat for about 1 hour while dough is rising.

4) Once dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 1-2 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic before using.

5) When ready to use, roll out the dough into 9" diameter circles. Place one at a time onto pizza peel, add toppings and slide pizzas directly onto baking stone. Bake each pizza about 8-10 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.

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