Pizza Story

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The way I heard it was like this…….the origins of pizza go back to the time of Alexander and his armies. After a long day of marauding and plundering, the soldiers used their shields to bake a rudimentary flat-bread over their camp-fire. Not long after, this tasty little snippet was called pitta and people realized that they could make all sorts of tasty treats. Obviously, it was a boon to the invading army if they could conscript or press-gang a cook into their ranks. And so the idea traveled. Long story short, it ended up in Naples and the people there were so taken by this idea that they put their favorite topping on this flat-bread. The pita bread is now a pizza. Depending on your accent, the pita or pizza sound alike. The Neapolitans codified and classified pizza. They had rules for the type of flour to be used, the kind of tomatoes that could be used, the basil had to be a particular varietal. So they claimed it and made it their own. This classification happened in the late 18th century. Mass emigration from Italy did not happen for a few more years. However, it was largely returning American GIs from Italy in World War 2 that popularized the pizza in the US. And that’s the reason most of us live close to a Napoli Pizza joint today. Hollywood also helped spread the appeal of pizza. Nowadays, pizza is ubiquitous and while it is a crowd pleaser, I feel it has lost a part of it’s soul. It is hard to get a decent pizza out anywhere. Solution, make it yourself.

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The advantage of having a home bread making program is that pizza is never far away and you get to put whatever you want on it. For my pizza, I went with carmelized onions, gorgonzola, potatoes, sage and olive oil. Pancetta is a very good addition to this combination. I went without. For a lighter pizza, trade the potatoes for walnuts or hazelnuts. I went the cheap and filling route because I like to double starch. The potatoes mark the end of what I grew in my garden this year.

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Potato pizza might sound like a strange combination. But, in times past, during flour shortages particularly, it was not unusual to incorporate potatoes to stretch the flour. To make it last longer. What is a gnocchi?……a strange combination of potato and flour. Simple ingredients for simple cooking. Eat like a peasant.

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