I wake up often with food memories dancing in my head. Visions of pizza dough stuffed with sausages and broccoli, peppers and onions, and escarole braised with black olives, anchovies and smoky olives. Mom filled pizza dough with ingredients that she had in the house. Nothing went to waste. I fought for the corner pieces, in love with the yeasty pillowy golden crust.
I crawl out of bed and put on the coffee as a taste of childhood memories flood my kitchen in Rome. I savor the umami flavor of anchovies preserved in salt, smashed and stirred into a paste. They disappear into the heavy laden silver pan. The bottom is slightly brown, aged by daily use.
I pour my coffee all the while thinking of anchovies. They may swim in my Sicilian blood. My paternal grandfather, Sebastiano grew up in Augusta, Sicily and was a fisherman by trade. Silent and stoic, he spent the majority of his life at sea. The simplest dishes of fish and greens were prepared by my grandmother Maria. She too spent her childhood in Augusta. She would have lived her life there given the choice. That’s a story for a different day.
My mouth starts to water just thinking of pizza stuffed with sweet escarole and buttery pine nuts, and the sea. Here is my version of “pizza con la scarola” aka pizza filled with escarole, anchovies, pine nuts, capers and olives.
Ingredients for the dough
- 5 cups of flour
- 1 cube of yeast
- 1 1/4 cup of water
- 3 – 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- grated pecorino cheese to taste
- 2/3 cup milk
Ingredients of the filling
- 2 large heads of escarole
- gaeta olives (to taste – approximately 3/4 cup)
- capers (to taste – approximately 1/2 cup)
- anchovy fillets preserved in olive oil or salt (to taste – 3 or 4 fillets)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- pine nuts (to taste – approximately 1/4 cup)
- salt and pepper
Pile the flour in a mound on a marble or wooden surface. Make a well in the center of the mound. Dissolve the brewer’s yeast in tepid water as instructed on the yeast packet. Pour the yeast mixture, EVOO, water, milk and salt into the well. Knead until smooth and elastic adding pecorino cheese to taste to the mixture. Place in a floured bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.While the dough is rising make the filling.
Clean the escarole. Cook the greens in a bit of salted water for about 20 minutes. Once cooked set the escarole aside to drain.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and anchovy fillets. Stir and mash the anchovies until they melt away. Add the olives and the capers. Stir well. Add the pine nuts and the escarole. Salt and pepper to taste. I like to cut the escarole into bite size pieces but it’s not necessary. Lower the flame and mix well.Let the filling cool while you roll out the dough. Grease the pan with olive oil. I use a medium size square pizza pan. Divide the dough in two sections. Use a bit more dough for the base of the pizza letting it flow over the sides of the pizza pan. Roll out the bottom half of the dough in the shape of the pan. Place in well oiled pan, add filling; covering the dough evenly. Top with the remaining dough. Seal the edges by pinching the dough together with your fingers or press together with fork tines. In a pinch use pre-made dough.Cover and set aside in a warm place for an hour. Place in preheated oven at 400° for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. It’s mouthwatering served warm or cold.