Italians love to get together to eat, but Italian dinner parties are rarely formal affairs. After a friendly conversation or chance meeting with friends, both parties agree on a date a few days in the future, and a dinner party is born. I absolutely love this part of the Italian culture. The invitation to an easygoing and relatively unexpected dinner party creates an atmosphere of exuberant anticipation, giving the evening a youthful, carefree freshness and providing an opportunity to enliven the spirit. When we spend our vacation in Italy, unplanned dinner parties play an important part in the Italian experience.
How to have your own spontaneous pizza party:
1. Pick up the phone and call your friends and invite them to a pizza party that night.
2. Many pizza restaurants sell their dough raw; if you don't have time to make your own dough, ask around at your favorite pizzeria.
3. Use a pizza stone to replicate the effect of pizza cooked in an authentic pizza oven. Preheat it as the oven comes up to a temperature of 500 - 500 F (260 - 288 C) (Gas mark 9), and let it heat for at least 30 minutes before you slide the first pizza on it. Bake your pizza f or 6 - 7 minutes, or until the crust is browned and bubbly
4. Use my tomato sauce recipe below as a base sauce for the pizza.
5. Use fresh mozzarella - the kind that comes in balls packed in water - as your first layer.
6. Grate real Parmigiano-Reggiano in a food processor or with a Microplane grater to sprinkle on top.
7. Use freshly sliced prosciutto, salami, or capocollo meats. Make sure your cold cuts are fresh and moist. Arrange the meats on top of the pizza after it has come out of the oven to avoid overcooking.
8. Lightly saute slices of zucchini, eggplant, and artichoke hearts in extra-virgin olive oil. Drain on paper towels and set aside to use as pizza toppings.
9. Set out a jar of Nutella and have a small bowl of sugar ready to make an amazing dessert pizza.
10. There are many great toppings you can use on your pizzas. See below for more ideas.
Rosanna's Tomato Sauce
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
1 large carrot
2 ribs celery with leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (120 ml) good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 (28 ounce) (794 g) cans San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoons (6 g) sea salt
1/2 teaspoons (3 g) sugar (if necessary)
Chop the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic (this can also be done in a food processor).
Put the oil in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped vegetables and saute over medium heart until just soft, about 5 minutes.
Puree the tomatoes in a food processor, then add them to the pan. Add the salt and sugar if necessary (I find that the San Marzano tomatoes are usually sweet enough on their own). Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Daniela and Vito's Out-of-This-World Pizza Toppings
What exactly you choose to put on each pizza is completely up to you and your guests, but there are a few things you can do to make your pizzas truly extraordinary. First, use the best quality ingredients for your toppings: homemade sauce, locally grown and preferably organic vegetables, freshly sliced cured meats, and good quality cheeses. Second, don't be tempted to overload your pizza with too much sauce and cheese, which can result in soggy, sloppy crust.
Rosanna's Tomato Sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large balls fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices
1 cup (100 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup (100 g) freshly grated Pecorino Toscano (aged Tuscan sheep's milk cheese)
Zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, sauteed in olive oil until golden, and drained on paper towels
Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes
Eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise, grilled or sauteed in olive oil, drained on paper towels, and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths
Small yellow onion, peeled and roasted until soft and lightly browned
1 bunch baby arugula, washed, drained, and spun dry
1 (14-ounce) (396 g) can artichoke hearts in water, drained
10 thin slices prosciutto from Parma or Norcia, Italy
15 to 25 thin slices Genoa wine salami
15 to 25 thin slices copocollo
10 thin slices pancetta
3 mild Italian pork sausages, grilled or broiled until cooked through, then thinly sliced
1 (13-ounce) (371 g) jar Nutella
1 cup (200 g) sugar