Mario's Pizza Margherita

Mario's Pizza Margherita © ché bello piatto 2012
This is the classic pizza I was compelled to perfect at home when I moved 240 miles from my favorite Italian pizzerias in the Belmont section of NYC, also known as Little Italy in the Bronx. My Mom would make this same pizza for us on Saturday evenings when we came to visit. The classic Neapolitan style crust is thin, crispy and flavorful. The fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and the aroma and flavor of the fresh basil brings it all home. This recipe makes two 14" pizzas using your favorite *pizza pans. 

Pizza Dough Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 pkg. rapid rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk (scalded)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar In a medium sized bowl. In a small saucepan scald milk, remove from heat, add water and olive oil then pour into a large bowl (liquids should be 100 to 110 degrees F). Add dry ingredients gradually to the liquid while stirring with a heavy wooden spoon until all liquid is absorbed and a soft ball of dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead 5 minutes, working in additional flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic, taking care to not overwork or add so much flour that the dough becomes too stiff.

Place the dough in the bowl which has been coated with a little olive oil, and coat the top of the dough with olive oil as well. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Turn dough out onto a floured board and cut in two, gently shape into two balls, Cover with plastic wrap and proceed with making the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients and Directions: 
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 peeled and minced garlic (or as much as you like)
3 1/2 cups whole peeled plum tomatoes sliced and quartered lengthwise.
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano (1/2 teaspoon if dry)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat olive oil in a 2 quart sauce over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 1 to 2 minutes taking care to not burn the garlic. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and garlic for brushing the dough. Add the tomatoes, herbs and pepper and simmer 15 minutes.

2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic reserve
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 cups fresh mozzarella (cut in 3/8" thick slices)
2 cups fresh basil leaves (washed, pated dry and lightly dressed with olive oil)

Making Pizza!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (position racks at bottom and center)

On a lightly floured board begin patting the ball of dough with your finger tips from the center working outward toward the edges.  Stay an inch away from the edge to leave a thicker edge crust on your pizza. Repeat this inward to outward finger patting until the dough is a bit larger than the size of your pan.

When the dough is the size of your pan, gently lift it a lay it in the pan. Adjust the dough so it's just a bit over the pan's edge.

Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of the garlic olive oil. Top with 1/2 the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano and top with the fresh mozzarella.

Bake on bottom rack at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until mozzarella is bubbling and browning around the edges. Use a spatula to lift and check bottom crust to insure that it is nicely browned. Move the pizza to the center rack and continue baking until the edge crust is a deep golden brown. Top with the fresh basil leaves and continue baking for approximately 2 minutes. 

 That's it! Boun appetito!

*I like the *14" Bakers Secret perforated pizza pans. There inexpensive and they work great. I threw my stone out the first time I used it and immediately saved tons of money on my electric bill by not having to heat it and my oven for forty five minutes to one hour. 

**While the first pizza is baking prepare the second. 

              Mariya's Savory Eggplant Rollettini 

Mariya's Savory Eggplant Rollettini © ché bello piatto 2012
I love eggplant, I love garlic and I love goat cheese. If you're as fond of these three gifts of nature as I am you too will love this recipe. It's fairly quick and easy to prepare, and can be served hot, chilled or at room temperature. It's a great buffet item or appetizer, as well as a savory accompaniment to beef, pork or veal dishes.

The cheese used in this recipe is the classic fresh chèvre, a soft, mild  yet delightfully tangy goat cheese. The texture is perfect for blending the herbs and spices for this particular filling

Cook Eggplant:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggplant, medium, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick.
1/2 cup all purpose flour with a pinch of salt and pepper mixed in.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat both sides of eggplant slices with flour mixture, Fry in hot oil 2 to 3 minutes per side until deep golden brown. Absorb excess oil on paper towels until filling is prepared

10 oz. goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, finely ground

10 basil leaves

In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, garlic, dill, parsley and black pepper and blend with a large fork. place a dollop of the goat cheese mixture at the narrow end of the eggplant slice, sprinkle with a little of the basil chiffonade and roll the slices from stem to tip. Makes about 10 to 12 rollettini.

Boun Appetito!

  Erma's Cheese and Herb Stuffed Artichokes

Erma's Cheese and Herb Stuffed Artichokes © ché bello piatto
Thoroughly wash 4 large artichokes and remove stems. Cut off the tip of each leaf removing spines (about 3/4 inch). In a large pot, just big enough to contain them, place artichokes in 1 inch of water. Cover and steam for 20 to 25 minutes until tender and let cool for 30 minutes.

8 slices Italian or sandwich bread diced (approx. 1/4"). Should yield 2 cups
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (1/8 teaspoon dry)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage (1/8 teaspoon dry)
2 to 3 large cloves finely minced garlic 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 teaspoons of EVOO

Gently combine all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Spread artichoke leaves starting with outer leaves and working inward, remove choke and fill with stuffing and repeat for each successive layer of leaves and the center as well. Place artichokes in a baking dish and drizzle 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil on top of each artichoke.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving. 

                      Pasta alla Marinar

Pasta alla Marinara - Pappardelle shown - ché bello piatto © 2012

I lb. Fresh Pasta Noodles 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 to 3 cloves minced garlic
3 1/2 cups (28 oz. can) Italian whole plum tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

While an 8 quart pot 3/4 filled with water comes to a boil, heat 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large skillet until it begins to shimmer. Saute 3 cloves minced garlic just enough until it lightly browns around edges - not a second longer!  Add the chopped plum tomatoes,  fresh basil, oregano and black pepper. Lower the heat to low-medium and let simmer 10 to 15 minutes.

Once you've lowered the heat on the Marinara sauce add a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta. I like to make sure the pasta is separated to prevent it from sticking together. Stir with a large wooden spoon to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom and to itself. When the water returns to the boiling state reduce the heat to medium-high heat and cook between 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the cut and thickness of the pasta (Angel Hair 4 to 5 min. - Spaghetti and Pappardelle 7 to 8 min.). Test your pasta when it reaches the lower end of the cooking time and when it is al dente (not doughy tasting and still springy when you bite into it)... it's done. Add a little cold water to prevent further cooking. Drain the pasta and drizzle with a little butter or olive oil and lightly toss.

*Serve immediately in warmed bowls or plates and top with Marinara sauce, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and more black pepper if you like.  Serves 4


* If you prefer you can dredge the pasta with a noodle lifter and combine with the sauce in the large 

 Mariya's Smoked Bacon Wrapped Baby Red Bliss Potatoes
Mariya's Smoked Bacon Wrapped Baby Red Bliss Potatoes

• 3 lb. Red Bliss baby potatoes (16 small potatoes) 
• 16 slices Hickory or Apple Wood smoked bacon 
• 2 large Granny Smiths
• A bunch of seedless grapes
1. Preheat oven to 350º
2. Wash and rinse potatoes then thoroughly pat dry.
3. Cut strips of bacon in half and wrap each potato with two halves, the second strip perpendicular to the first, covering potato completely.
4 Arrange potatoes on a baking dish which allows a little space between each potato.
5. Bake 45 min or longer depending on your bacon crispness preference.
Serve with apple wedges and grapes, or any other fresh fruit you prefer. Apples are excellent fat burners, and taste great in combination with the bacon wrapped potatoes.  

Serves 4

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