Thursday, December 15, 2016

Recipes by Sophia Loren: Fried Neapolitan Pizza; Involtini; Pasta Fagioli; Pasta Sauce; Pizza; Pizza Napoletana; Spaghetti con Pomodoro Crudo; Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Sophia Loren's Fried Neapolitan Pizza

(as told in Sophia's unique way)
First of all you must learn to make the dough. Take 1 1/4 lbs. flour, 1 1/2 ozs. compressed yeast, and as much warm water as you will need. Arrange the flour on the pastry board in the shape of a small conical hill; you dig a crater in the top, and into it put a little warm water in which you have previously dissolved the yeast, and then knead and slam at it energetically for a good half-hour. I'm not exaggerating. 
You have to bash and punch at that dough over and over again as though it were your worst enemy, squashing it over the board and then hammering at it with clenched fists until it becomes so soft that it almost sticks to your hands. After a good half-hour's toil -- adding more water if necessary -- roll the dough up into a ball and put it in a soup plate dusted with flour; then cut two slits into the surface to allow the yeast to do its job; and cover with a light cloth. 
As the dough rises (it isn't easy to tell how long it takes for the perfect rise; you should regard each lump of dough as a special case; the main thing is that it rises, and that the surface begins to stretch and crack, after which there is no need to leave it any longer), you make the sauce. For this you need a black iron pan if you have one. Put in a tbsp. of oil per person; crush a clove of garlic for each two people. 
When the garlic is browning, pour in the pulp of 2 lbs. of tomatoes, just the pulp, remember, not the liquid, and let cook over a fierce flame for about 15 minutes. The sauce is now ready. Meanwhile, in a row of plates have ready: 10 ozs. of fresh milk cheese, such as mozzarella or fior di latte, cut into small pieces; grated Parmesan; finely chopped garlic, and some small young leaves of basil. 
Now for the grand finale. Bring a good dollop of olive oil to the boil in an iron pan. Then using your hand (never, never a knife, as you will ruin everything), pull a little of the dough off the ball in the soup plate and shape it into a pizza, round and flatm then fry it in the oil, turning it over quickly. It is better to fry a number of pizzas at the same time if the pan is large enough. In any case, as soon as each pizza is fried, it should have a light yellow color. 
Now you spread a spoonful of sauce over it, a little mozzarella, a little Parmesan, basil, and the chopped garlic. Whoever is eating it should fold it double, being careful not to drop the filling, as the heat of the pastry should still be melting and binding the flavors, as well as keeping the taste deliciously alive. Eat it just like that, in your hands, without any further fuss.

Thoughts: Use about 5 cups all-purpose flour, 2-3 envelopes active dry yeast, and 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water. For flavorful additions, add 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsps. oil (will lengthen rising period, oil makes dough easier to handle). Fior di latte cheese is not available in the U.S. It is a fresh mozzarella made in Italy similar in flavor and texture to mozzarella cheese commonly used for "pizza cheese" in this country. Sophia's recipe makes four 12-inch pizzas. Round pancake griddle makes a handy pan for preparing the prized pizza. If possible, use fresh basil (if available), fresh ripe tomatoes, and top grade imported Italian olive oil.

Sophia Loren's Involtini

(as told in Sophia's unique way)
You need, for 6 people, 12 thin slices of lean beef (round or sirloin tip), each about 2 1/2 ozs. at the most. Give them a light pounding and cover each with a slice of bologna mortadella; roll and spear together with wooden toothpicks. Brown in a pan with olive oil in which you have previously and briefly browned a garlic clove. That is all for the moment. When the involtini have turned brown over a fairly fierce flame, toss about 1/2 cup of dry white wine over them; then add lashings of tomatoes, 2 lbs. even, salt and pepper and a few young minced basil leaves. From now on, the cooking should continue over a slow fire for over an hour. Serves 6.
Sophia Loren's Pasta Fagioli

Two 20-ounce cans chick peas
3 quarts water
Ham bone (or 1/2 pound lean bacon, cut in 2 pieces)
4 ounces prosciutto ham, cut in strips
1 clove
1 teaspoon dry hot red pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
One handful each of at least 3 types pasta: curried elbow, noodles, seashells.

1. Put beans, water, ham bone, prosciutto ham, clove, tomatoes, and red pepper in large pot. Cook slowly 2 hours until beans are tender. If water evaporates, add boiling water.

2. When beans are tender, be sure there is at least 1 quart of liquid. Bring to a brisk boil. Add pasta, cook 8-10 minutes or until pasta is chewy.

3. Remove from heat, let cool a few minutes before serving. The flavor improves if cooled slightly before serving. Ladle soup into flat soup bowls. Accompany with slices of crisp Italian bread. Makes 4 generous servings.  

Sophia Loren's Pasta Sauce

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced very small
3 small onions, sliced or chopped
1/2 medium size fresh or dried chile pepper
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, skinned, or 1 large can petite diced tomatoes
6 to 8 large fresh basil leaves, sliced very thin
Salt to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/4 pounds bucatini pasta or other large pasta

Heat oil and butter over medium heat and add pancetta and onions. When onions are golden, add chile pepper, tomatoes, basil and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 15 minutes so flavors are nicely combined.

While this simmers, cook the pasta and drain. Toss all together. Add cheese generously.

Sophia Loren's Pizza

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup marinara sauce or peeled, chopped tomatoes, to taste
2 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded or thinly sliced, or to taste
2 ounces anchovy filets or strips of thinly sliced prosciutto, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or dried, to taste
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in water. On a clean surface, combine flour and salt. Make a well in center of flour and add the dissolved yeast. Blend together and knead thoroughly. Add oil and continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; cover and let stand in a warm place for one to three hours, until doubled in bulk.

Flatten dough and roll out to form a 10-inch circle about one-quarter-inch thick. Place dough on a flat surface sprinkled lightly with cornmeal. (If you don't have an extra-wide spatula or flat lifter of some sort with which to move the assembled pizza, transfer the dough to a board or the flat side of a tray sprinkled with cornmeal so that the pizza will slide off easily into the skillet.) Spread tomato sauce over top of dough. Add mozzarella, anchovies or other toppings, as desired. Sprinkle with basil, Parmesan and pepper, to taste.

Heat oil in large, heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet. When oil is sizzling, transfer the uncooked pizza to the hot skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until crust is golden and topping is bubbly. If needed, cover pizza for a few minutes toward the end of cooking to speed melting the cheese. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Sophia Loren's Pizza Napoletana

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope yeast dissolved in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp. olive oil

Tomato sauce (or canned marinara sauce, or peeled, chopped tomatoes)
Mozzarella cheese
Small tin filleted anchovies (or sliced sweet Italian sausage, salami, thin  strips prosciutto ham)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place flour and salt on board. Add dissolved yeast. Knead thoroughly, add oil, continue kneading until smooth. Place in lightly greased bowl, cover. Set in warm place about 3 hours or until dough doubles in bulk.

2. Flatten, roll out into 10-inch disc about 1/4-inch thick. Spread surface with your choice of garniture. Heat olive oil in large, cast-iron skillet. When oil is sizzling, add pizza, cook over medium flame about 10 minutes or until golden and topping is bubbly. Serve immediately. Makes 4 generous portions.

Thoughts: Neapolitans prepare a closed-style pizza using half the above dough. Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness. Spread lightly with 1/3 cup ricotta cheese, 4 ounces minced prosciutto ham, a light grating of freshly ground pepper and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Cut dough into 2-inch squares, fold in half, sealing edges. Plunge envelopes into sizzling deep fat, brown quickly on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve immediately. Makes 20 small pizzas.

Sophia Loren's Spaghetti con Pomodoro Crudo

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
2 pounds tomatoes, not quite ripe, chopped
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 medium red or Vidalia onions (or less), thinly sliced
1/4 cup pitted Sicilian green olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
10 to 12 chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook the pasta until just al dente. While the pasta is cooking, place in a large serving bowl the tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, olives, capers, parsley, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the oil over and toss gently.

When pasta is ready, pour it into a colander and quickly rinse it under cold water; drain well and add the warm spaghetti to the bowl. Toss to combine, remove the garlic if desired, and serve. Pass the cheese at the table. Serves 6.

Sophia Loren's Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

(as told in Sophia's unique way)
The spaghetti or vermicelli must be cooked al dente. Calculate 1 1/4 lbs. of pasta for 6 people. The sauce should be ready and waiting the moment the spaghetti is cooked. Now for the sauce: First pour your olive oil into a saucepan -- 3 tbsps. (meager) for every 2 people; then crushed garlic, one clove for 2 or 3 people. Garlic never fails to put in an appearance in the Neapolitan cuisine, or in all Mediterranean cooking for that matter. If you find it too strong, reduce the quantity, or do without. 
But it's a shame! Cook over a lively fire. When the oil is boiling and the garlic blanches, add the tomato. For 6 people, with 9 spoons of oil and 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, you would need at least 1 lb. of canned peeled tomatoes or the flesh of freshly peeled and sieved tomatoes. 
Add a few basil leaves (using jarred basil only when fresh leaves are not available); a good pinch of salt (depending on taste, and, incidentally, the saltiness of the salt); and a tsp. of sugar. These days there is a tendency to forget the sugar, but that is a mistake because it compensates for the acidity of the tomatoes. Lower the flame, and leave it cooking gently for another half hour. 
Then it is ready. When the spaghetti is steaming hot and waiting in a big serving dish, pour the sauce over the top with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan (at least a tbsp. for each person). Stir very well and serve. Serves 6.

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