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Pandemic Pizza: Part 41

Submitted by Bethany on Mon, 10/25/2021 - 14:18

This is Italian week!

When I was growing up the extent of my Italian culinary experience was Chef Boyardee Pizza and Kraft Spaghetti.

When Olive Garden hit the scene in 1982 it quickly became one of my favorite dining places. (I still love their ‘Never Ending Soup, Salad & Breadsticks’.)

We are fortunate that Des Moines offers a rich history of family-owned Italian restaurants. And Graziano Brothers Italian grocery store has been a south-side tradition since 1912.

Prior to our first visit to Italy in 1999, Bethany and I visited the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa. We discovered that the first Italian immigrants came to the area in 1879.

Ten years ago, I discovered a delightful place in the East Village of Des Moines, Cooking with Alessandra. I (and my family) have taken many Italian cooking classes with Alessandra. And someday we hope to join her on a culinary tour of her hometown, Viterbo, Italy.

Although we have not taken any in person classes since the start of the pandemic, one caught my eye. Alessandra had reduced her class sizes and was requiring masks and gloves, so I thought it would be safe. When we arrived for the class, Alessandra greeted us and immediately apologized. She said the class was going to be larger than originally planned and she was no longer requiring masks. Knowing that we are immunocompromised, she offered for us to return the next evening for a smaller class. Or, she offered a private class for us on a Sunday afternoon.

So, this week’s Sunday’s Creation: Fried Pizza and Ricotta Salata (an Italian sheep’s milk cheese), a private cooking class with Alessandra. (She is vaccinated, yay!) When we arrived, Alessandra had the table set with Fried Pizza Strips (fries) and Ricotta Salata to snack on. We learned this style of pizza originated in Naples, Italy where it is called pizza fritta and can be found on a street cart.

After learning the history of fried pizza, we each made our own dough which we brought home with us. She also had some premade dough that we stretched out and fried in Canola oil. We then topped it with red sauce, arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Fried Pizza is delicious and we will certainly be giving it a try at home. (For Fair Food lovers it’s like a savory Elephant Ear.)

Thursday Doughday: A combination of spaghetti and lasagna with five kinds of cheese morphs into…Million Dollar Spaghetti, homemade garlic breadsticks, salad with the last of the cherry tomatoes and gypsy peppers from the garden before tonight’s frost.

Friday(Fruit) Pieday: Did you know that eggplant is a fruit? My Birthday Eggplant Parmesan Pizza…my pan crust topped with pizza sauce, shaved Parmesan, one of the last garden tomatoes, roasted eggplant, Italian breadcrumbs, mozzarella and garnished with the very last of the basil we brought in before the frost.

Next week my hubby & Matthew are planning to take Thursday Doughday outside.

Till then…

~Peggy Palmer-Johnson