Ultimate Pizza Party

1 Feb

I remember meeting the legendary Mama D years ago in her Dinkytown (University of Minnesota) restaurant. In the 70s there were three – count ’em three Italian restaurants on the University of Minnesota campus – Sammy D’s, Vescio’s and Valli. Mama D had helped her sons set up their Dinkytown restaurant – Sammy D’s – in 1966 (which eventually was renamed for the family matriarch). She opened Ristorante Italiano in St. Anthony in 1983. Mama D’s Dinkytown restaurant closed in 2001.

I treasure my Mama D’s Homestyle Italian Cookbook (1972) by Giovanna D’Agostino (aka Mama D). My pizza preferences have changed over the years. I now opt for thin crust and flatbread type pizzas but it was fun to walk down memory lane making pizza pretty much like what I grew up eating. Not thin, not thick, but somewhere in between – covered in red sauce. Definitely delicious – especially with sliced pepperoni!

Tip: If you plan to make pizza – any pizza – it helps to have the right equipment – e.g. pizza stone and a pizza peel. The latter you use to move the pizza from your cutting board to the pizza stone in the oven. I roll out the dough directly onto parchment paper and transfer it all to the pizza stone.

Pizza (and Basic Tomato Sauce)

1 package dry yeast

Warm water

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup oil

Basic Tomato Sauce (following)

Salt, pepper, oregano and minced garlic to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese

Grated mozzarella cheese (I used 8 ounces)

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup water. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Make a well and pour in the oil. Add yeast mixture and mix thoroughly. Knead the dough until it is soft and pliable. Add more warm water or flour to make it smooth; kneading well, until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. To test, press a finger into the dough. When indentation pops back, dough is ready. Place the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until doubled in size (about 1½ to 2 hours). Cover with a cloth until ready to roll out. (To make 2 small pizzas, divide dough into two balls.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or large pizza pan. Roll out dough to the size of the pan(s), about ⅛-inch thick, and place on pan. Prick dough lightly all over with a fork. Spread tomato sauce on top. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until done.

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 29-ounce can plum tomatoes in puree

1 large onion, chopped

¼ cup oil (or less)

Salt, pepper, oregano and minced garlic to taste

Chop tomatoes finely or puree in a blender or food processor. Sauté onion in oil, add salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer sauce for 15 minutes.

Note: For variety, you can add any or all of the following to your pizzas before baking: sliced mushrooms, sliced pepperoni (my choice), whole or chopped anchovies, chopped sweet pepper.

Fun fact: the book cost $5.95 and Mama D autographed my copy!

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