Category Archives: Italian for Beginners

Spaghetti with Agretti & Pancetta

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agretti spaghetti

Agretti refers to the edible green parts of the native Mediterranean annual known in English as salsola soda or saltwort. Looking a bit like chives and tasting a whole lot like spinach when cooked, agretti are harvested in funny-looking bunches with some of their roots intact, giving rise to the quaintest of their many epithets, friar’s beard (barba di frate in Italian). Raw, they taste like fresh grass, so if you like a grassy-tasting salad, just rinse and roughly chop them up, and toss them with good oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. They also do well as a garnish, snipped and sprinkled in the way you would chives. Cooked agretti are as versatile as spinach or any other leafy-ish green. Some common ways to prepare them are briefly boiled then added to a pasta dish, or in a frittata or omelet. Here’s one way to make them with spaghetti:

Ingredients

1 bunch of agretti
350 grams (about 11 ounces) spaghetti
100 grams (1/2 cup circa) smoked pancetta, sliced or diced
75 grams (3/4 cup) grated aged parmesan cheese or ricotta salata
olive oil
salt & pepper

Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt. Chop the roots off the agretti and boil the greens for 3-4 minutes. Strain and set aside. Keep the water going for the pasta. Meanwhile heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in large pan and cook the pancetta until just turning crisp. Add the cooked agretti, salt and pepper to taste, combine, and keep warm in the pan. Cook the spaghetti al dente and when ready scoop out (do not use a colander) and transfer to the pan. Sprinkle in all the cheese and blend well.

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a bunch of agretti, aka friar’s beard, with their roots

A Caponata Controversy, or How to Piss Off a Sicilian

making my own mischief: caponata with prawns

making my own mischief: caponata with prawns

You gotta love Italians. For a population at times so indifferent to its societal troubles (political corruption, tax evasion, pension reform, pollution, to name a few), they are oddly disposed to rather vocal, even organized indignation when it comes to their food.

A commercial for Star brand dadi, or what we’d call bouillon cubes, is being lambasted these days as an ‘insult to Sicilian cuisine.’ The spot features a Sicilian woman at her stove alongside Tiziana Stefanelli, winner of the second MasterChef Italia, and as the two cheerily proceed with making a Sicilian classic, caponata, one of them adds a (gasp!) Star dado—the source of all the recent uproar. With the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi visible through a background window, the setting is unmistakably Palermo, although many have been quick to point out the housewife speaks nothing like a palermitano (wanting to disassociate, no doubt). Like salt on a wound, she then recites the slogan, Se non c’è il dado non c’è caponata, e se non c’è caponata non c’è famiglia (roughly: ‘Without a bouillon cube there’s no caponata, and without caponata there’s no family’). People are totally freaking out.

The outcry on the web includes a Facebook page called La caponata Siciliana non va profanata (‘Sicilian caponata must not be desecrated’), an outlet for indignant Italians to voice their stance that using a dado in a caponata is both insulting and unnecessary. Some are calling for the commercial to be cancelled. As well, the Star brand’s Facebook page has been filled with critical comments regarding the commercial, while on Twitter the hashtag #savecaponata is getting a fair amount of play.

Protests have come as well in the form of letters to Star’s customer service department, and in several posts on sites and blogs dedicated to Sicilian cooking, with apt doses of wit and brio. I counted at least five bloggers using the adopted slogan alla faccia del dado Star (‘In your face, Star bouillon’). Too many media outlets to count are covering the controversy.

In a post titled Giù le mani dalla mia caponata (‘Hands off my caponata’), journalist and Palermo native Giusi Battaglia, in addition to criticizing Stefanelli for having ‘colluded’ with Star, had this to say (my translation): ‘If there is one thing we Sicilians can be proud of, it is our centuries-long gastronomic culture. A bouillon cube in caponata is like Lucifer in heaven. Period.’ Battaglia says she contacted Stefanelli, citing the latter’s duty to decline such a request from a multinational, calling the whole business ‘dirty’ and detrimental to her credibility. Stefanelli’s response? ‘My husband is Sicilian. I know how to make caponata. The bouillon cube helps to bring all the flavors together, especially for amateur cooks.’

Meanwhile, the Star group’s response has been simple: ‘In this spot we are showing one interpretation of the recipe, one which can be personalized, as with the addition of other ingredients.’ Actually, caponata does vary throughout southern Italy. Some versions include artichokes, others fish, or peeled whole tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, and so on. Yours truly recently made a version of caponota with prawns. So, in theory, Star’s defense is sensible. Recipes change. Variations abound.

But no one’s having it. The frenzy over this spirited dado debate—which at its core seems to me not about adding or varying an ingredient but rather the lowly bouillon cube itself, widely considered a culinary shortcut of poseurs and dilettantes—continues to gain steam and yield evermore imaginative responses. The folks at StrEat Palermo recently posted a video in which they explain how the bouillon cube can be used in another Palermo specialty, pani câ meusa, a sandwich made from veal organs. It’s pretty funny. Still others are advocating for reason and good sense, summed up by a comment I saw recurring across various media: Hasn’t Sicily got other things to worry about?

Rucola Pesto

rucola pesto

arugula – rucola – rocket pesto

To make this tangy and super green rucola pesto, process several large handfuls of fresh rucola with one clove of garlic, about 1/3 cup good olive oil,  and one small handful each of salted (rinsed) capers and finely-grated parmesan cheese. Toss with just-drained pasta. It keeps in a glass jar for 4-5 days in the fridge. Remember to let warm to room temp and incorporate some hot pasta water before using pesto that’s been cold.

culture bite

In his book The Unites States of Arugula, David Kemp outlines the (very recent) explosion of ‘exotic’ foods and ingredients on the burgeoning gourmet food scene in America. And here you can read about rucola’s various names and their respective etymologies.

Champignon & Porcini Mushroom Lasagne

viva le lasagne!

viva le lasagne!

The idea is simple. In place of meat ragù, use a chunky-ish sauce made of finely chopped mushrooms (champignons and dried/soaked porcini; cook for about ten minutes in olive oil; salt, pepper, chopped fresh parsley; a scoop or two of your béchamel). You can layer in extra slices of mushrooms here and there as you construct the lasagne. Bake at 160 °C / 320 °F for about 45 minutes or until very golden and bubbly. Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. Everything else is the same as with making a traditional pan of lasagne, nicely outlined here (in Italian).

An Island Wonder: Tradition & Innovation at Ventotene’s ‘Il Giardino’ Restaurant

a tour de force

a tour de force

There are so many reasons to visit the tiny Italian island Ventotene. To convince you, I could talk about the island’s fascinating history—of the tufa-carved port that served the structure known today as Villa Giulia, Emperor Augustus’s luxurious vacation villa that would become his daughter, Julia’s, place of exile. I could post pictures of the endlessly stunning seascapes, or recount my experiences with some of the island’s uber-friendly locals (fewer than 900 in off-season).  If you’re anything like me, however, the one aspect of a place sure to hook your interest will be its food. And on this count, Ventotene will not disappoint.

Recently I met the two skilled and charming cooks at Il Giardino, Candida and Christian.

Cooks Candida and Christian of Il Giardino Restaurant

Cooks Candida and Christian of Il Giardino Restaurant

Christian is from Ecuador and has lived in Italy for 13 years. He moved to Ventotene after living six years in Rome, during which time he was chef assistant to Giovanni Passerini at Uno e Bino, an acclaimed establishment in Rome’s San Lorenzo quarter that closed about five years ago (Passerini went on to start Rino in Paris). Today Christian works alongside the restaurant founders, Candida and Giovanni, who opened Il Giardino over thirty years ago, and their children.

In the kitchen, Candida’s extensive cooking experience and knowledge of the island—its abundance, its limitations—pair perfectly with Christian’s flair, innovation, and hard-won expertise, resulting in dishes that are at once harmonious, delectable, and beautiful to behold. Per Giovanni’s vision, Il Giardino strives to use only products available on Ventotene. This means no or very little meat. As Candida explains, birds are protected on Ventotene, a migratory stopover; so birds are ‘off the menu’. There are no livestock farms here, and while the cooks could pick up some pre-packaged meats delivered from the mainland to the island grocer, doing so would not be in line with the restaurant’s philosophy. There is no game to hunt on Ventotene, save the occasional rabbit, which local hunters might sell to Candida from time to time. Yet outside sporadic windfalls of this kind, the menu at Il Giardino is based exclusively on fish and seafood—selected each morning at the port by Giovanni himself—and vegetables grown on the island, fairly bountiful: onion, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, peas, artichokes, lentils, potatoes, and more.

Working within the limitations of this island life must surely be a challenge, and no doubt lesser cooks would falter. These two have absolutely flourished. Have a look at the two astonishing dishes Christian kindly prepared for me, using local, fresh ingredients favored by the restaurant.

Carpaccio of Marinated Ricciola Fish

The ricciola, marinated in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, is served with an orange emulsion, fresh fennel, bean sprouts, and capers. You will be forever dubious of cooked fish after tasting this melt-in-your-mouth delicacy.

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Fried Zucchini Flowers with Tomato Confit & Capers

The flower is stuffed with ricotta and pecorino and fried to perfection. But what renders this dish a tour de force is Christian’s trademark confit, made by oven-cooking Pachino tomatoes low and slow (100 °C for 3 hours) with clove, lemon zest, and powdered sugar.

Ventotene is reachable by ferry from the town Formia, located on the Gulf of Gaeta and roughly halfway between Rome and Naples. In summer the island bursts with visitors, and the season peaks with ten days of festivities leading up to September 20, feast day of the island’s patron saint, Candida. When I arrived on Ventotene, the celebrations had concluded by just a few days, and the atmosphere was thrilling and blustery yet calm, with few tourists in sight. Just the odd sea view or two to whet your appetite (I couldn’t resist!):

the view from tiny Ventotene of even tinier Santo Stefano

the view from tiny Ventotene of even tinier Santo Stefano

Broccoli & Blue Cheese Ravioli

on the plate

on the plate

Use any kind of blue cheese you like for this recipe. For a twist add some rapini buds and greens and romanesco to the broccoli blend. I don’t use a pasta machine for these, just a rolling pin, which results in a very thick raviolo and thus fewer pieces per serving, about 5 or 6 per plate. This recipe makes 18 to 20 ravioli, so 3 to 4 servings.

Ingredients

for the pasta
250 grams flour (1 & 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
water

for the filling
180 grams broccoli florets (about 2 cups)
100 grams blue cheese (about 3/4 cup crumbled)
80 grams fresh ricotta (4 Tbls circa)
2 Tbls finely grated parmigiano cheese
1/4 tsp each salt & pepper

for the sauce
2 Tbls crumbled blue cheese
4 Tbls olive oil
chopped fresh chives & grated parmigiano for garnishing

Instructions

Start with the pasta. Pour the flour in a mound on a large wooden work surface. Make a hole in the middle by swirling the fingers of one hand around the center a couple times. Crack in the eggs, add the salt and olive oil. Using a fork, first work the center to blend the eggs a bit, then start moving flour from the edges into the center. When the pasta starts to form a uniform dough, switch to hand kneading. Add a little water if the pasta becomes too crumbly to work, and keep scraping the work surface to incorporate the bits of dough as you proceed. Knead for 5-8 minutes, switching to one hand for the ‘stretch and fold’ knead once you have a combined dough: with the lower half of your palm, firmly press the pasta ball forward on the board (the stretch) then fold the pasta back over on itself and keep going. When the pasta is smooth, elastic, and compact, form a ball and let it rest covered in plastic wrap for a half hour. While it rests you can prepare the filling.

Crumble the blue cheese and let rest at room temp in a mixing bowl. Steam the broccoli until it’s al dente (not overcooked) and let cool. Add the broccoli to the blue cheese along with the ricotta, parmesan, and salt and pepper and combine well with a fork. Next you can use a wand blender to pulse the mixture a few seconds to obtain a more uniform filling. It should be smooth; some texture is fine, you just don’t want pieces of broccoli that could puncture the ravioli. Use your judgment. Taste the filling, correct for salt, and set aside.

Make the ravioli. On a clean, floured surface (I use semola for this step), roll out the pasta to about 1/8 inch thickness. You will end up with a round about the size of an extra-large pizza. Using a pizza cutter, first trim the edges so you have a square shape (it doesn’t have to be a perfect square). Make 2-inch wide strips, then cut the strips transversely into approximately  5-inch long strips. Place a teaspoon of filling on one side of each strip. Keep a cup of tepid water nearby. Dip your finger tips in the water and dampen the edges of the pasta strip around the filling. Now carefully fold the strip closed and press the edges firmly with your finger tips to seal. Place each formed raviolo on a semola-dusted surface, and proceed. When all the ravioli are ready, trim any uneven edges with the cutter, and then use the tongs of a fork to seal the edges again, dipping the fork in the flour as needed.

The ravioli don’t have to be perfect. In fact, they will likely vary a bit and that’s fine. The important thing is that they are sealed well and roughly the same size. This is what mine looked like:

ravioli2

(By the by, there are many ways to make ravioli shapes. My recipe here will result in a thick and chewy raviolo, but to obtain more subtle, delicate, and arguably more traditional ravioli, use a pasta machine or your mixer attachment. Watch Mario Batali make luna-shaped ravioli here to get an idea of the method. Note what he says about saving the extra trimmed off pieces of pasta to make maltagliati; but feel free to disregard, as I do, his opinion on salting the pasta dough).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the chive and grated cheese and set aside, and make the sauce by heating the olive oil and blue cheese in a small sauce pan on very low heat, stirring often until the cheese is melted (it will foam a little while heating). Keep the sauce warm. I suggest cooking the ravioli in batches, say 2 servings at a time. Drop them in the boiling water (watch the splash) and set a timer for 7 minutes. The ravioli will sink first and then rise to the surface as they cook. Stir them gently and when ready gently lift them from the water with a hand-held strainer (do not dump them into a colander!). Serve with a drizzle of the sauce and a dusting of the herbs and cheese.

Frittelle di Alghe: Nonna Luisa’s Seaweed Fritters

seaweed for breakfast. why not?

seaweed for breakfast. why not?

I tasted seaweed fritters on the first morning I woke on the island of Ponza, at the sweet and cozy Piccolo Hotel Luisa.  I almost missed them entirely. Tucked away on a corner shelf of the terrace where breakfast was served, the fritters caught my eye only as I angled for a photo of the colorful Ponza houses below. At first I thought they must be sweet fritters, but their aroma promised otherwise.  I could not identify the flavor, only that it was subtle, delicate, slightly salty, herby. When hotel founder Signora Luisa Mazzella, the 88-year-old spry and amiable woman known to all as ‘Nonna Luisa, The Rock of Ponza,’ arrived, I decided to ask about them. She was more than happy to oblige my curiosity.

Life on an island can be tough. What we tourists often fail to notice, dazzled as we are by the beauty of places like Ponza, are the challenges and demands island life entails. Resources are limited, and scrupulously managed—fresh water in particular, but also items like poultry and game, corn and wheat, and certain fruits and vegetables can be difficult to obtain on an island. Nonna Luisa explained that seaweed came to be used in the island’s cuisine given its abundance, nutritional qualities, and flavor.  Seaweed can be used fresh or dried (like an herb), and to find it on Ponza one need only head down to the port when fishermen are returning with their catch; or, it can be purchased weighed and packaged at the fish counter. These fritters reflect an astute exploitation of a readily available resource, a common theme of island life.  

Ingredients

This recipe is for a very large batch of fritters. You can reduce this recipe’s ingredients by a third, or enclose any unused dough securely in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for a couple days.

300 grams (about 10.5 ounces) cooked white rice, cooled
300 grams fresh seaweed
3 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 kilogram of flour (about 7 cups)
1 tsp salt
water

Instructions

Rinse the seaweed and cut into small pieces. Combine the rice, egg, seaweed, and lemon zest and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt, then incorporate the dry ingredients into the rice and seaweed mixture until a uniform dough forms. Add water as needed. Shape the dough into balls about the size of a walnut and fry them in good oil until golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper-covered platter and dust with a little salt and pepper while still hot (test the saltiness first).

Nonna Luisa of Ponza

Nonna Luisa of Ponza

La Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno: The Umbrian Resurrection of an Ancient Legume

la fagiolina

la bella fagiolina, whose multiple colors are a result of biodiversity

The fagiolina del lago Trasimeno is a tiny, multi-colored legume cultivated in the lands around Lake Trasimeno in Umbria since as far back as the third century B.C., an era in which it formed part of the Etruscan diet. In the mid-19th century, however,  the fagiolina faced near-extinction; at a time of increased production of profitable crops such as corn and sunflower, the fagiolina fields, which require manual labor from sowing to reaping, were all but abandoned. But today, thanks to the efforts of farmers such as Flavio Orsini of the Azienda Agraria Orsini, the fagiolina is making a comeback.

About 25 years ago, when many farmers were starting to incorporate new technologies and machinery in cultivation, the Orsini family farmers were looking to the past, to the ancient farming methods of their region. In doing so, they contributed to the resurrection, if you will, of not only the species but its traditional cultivation as well. The beans are planted by hand in the spring and harvested by hand in late summer. The harvest is complex, requiring a knowing eye and firm grasp of the plant’s natural progression: the pods are ready when crisp and pale yellow in color, yet only some pods will be ready at the time of the first picking, in July or August. Daily hand picking continues in this very selective manner until perhaps a week or even two after the first picking, when the final straggler pods are ready. Harvesting ends not according to a day on the calendar, but when the plant begins to weaken and transform. The picked plants are then rolled up like hay bales and used as feed for the farm animals, and the ground is left to rest until early spring. Meanwhile, the pods are sheathed—a manual procedure involving three persons and a machine once used to separate grape skins from pulp, today adapted to separate the legumes from their pods. Then the process of drying the legumes begins.

Cultivating la fagiolina is an arduous business. Little profit or glory can be gleaned from an enterprise of this kind, which makes the Orsini family’s work all the more admirable. While visiting the Orsini Farm during the This is your time Travel Blog Tour, we learned that a full hour of picking yields about a kilogram of beans. After a few hours at the farm, I needed no further convincing of the fagiolina’s special status, and yet it was not until we sat down to a lovely lunch prepared by our hosts that I truly understood what all this hard labor and dedication to old methods was all about: the fagiolina is exquisitely tender, savory, and so pretty to behold (biodiversity accounts for the range of colors). It is rich in fiber, iron, and protein, and when served with quality extra virgin olive oil, makes for a wholesome and tasty dish.

beans3

So those Etruscans were on to something, it would seem. And the Orsini have taken that something to new (lofty and tasty) heights. Bravissimi!

This is the simple, traditional method of making a pot of la fagiolina. Serve with an excellent evoo and grilled crostini. You can liven up the recipe by adding a bit of hot chili pepper (dried or oil) or truffle shavings. I decided to add the cooked fagiolina to a pot of zuppa di vongole, pictured below.

Ingredients for 5 servings

250 grams of fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno
olive oil
salt
water

Instructions

Place the beans in a large pot of abundant cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes. In the meantime bring another pot of salted water to a boil. After 20 minutes drain the beans and boil them in the next pot for another 30 minutes. Drain, saving some of the water if you want a zuppa-type plate of beans. Drizzle with a top quality oil.

zuppa della fagiolina & vongole

zuppa della fagiolina & vongole

Gelato For A Muse

a cup of la musa, the gelato inspired by Maria Musa's beloved cake

a cup of la musa, the gelato inspired by Maria Musa’s beloved cake

During a special visit to Gelateria La Musa in Orvieto as a participant in the This is your time Travel Blog Tour, I was reminded of one of the things I love most about Italians— call it flair, or an ability to craft-create-design with an impeccable eye towards quality and authenticity. Especially when it comes to culinary matters, Italians seem to possess a kind of innate radar for what constitutes the real deal.

At the heart of this family-run enterprise is Chiara, a young Italian woman who brings together tradition, skill, and scrupulous standards in selecting raw materials for her gelato. Chiara studied Art History at university, yet she was so inspired by her uncle’s dream of making gelato, she chose to learn the craft rather than pursue a career in her field of study. Along with her bright smile and contagious enthusiasm, Chiara exudes a rare confidence for one so young, no doubt a result of her hard-won expertise.

Many of the gelato creations at Gelateria La Musa are inspired by traditional Italian desserts. One in particular is remarkable for both its backstory and pure yumminess. A cake made by Chiara’s grandmother, Maria Musa, is remembered fondly by the family and has become the basis for the  ‘house’ gelato, aptly named ‘la musa‘. It’s a flavor as whimsical as it is delightful, carefully crafted to recreate the harmonious flavor combination of nonna Maria’s beloved cake. Made with a blend of sheep and cow milk ricotta, Sambuca, cinnamon, and dark chocolate, gelato la musa is a taste experience indeed worthy of its name. If you find yourself in Orvieto, make time for a stop at this truly special gelateria, and be sure to ask for ‘the muse’.  

Chiara (right) with her mother, Elisa

Chiara (right) with her mother, Elisa

 

Porcini Mushroom Pizza

yum!

epiphany pizza

I’ve been experimenting with pizza dough for a few years now, but only recently did I hit on what I consider a sure-thing recipe. Or method, I should say. Turns out you really must make your dough the night before, or at least 6 to 8 hours prior to forming your pizzas. That, and let it rise in the fridge! In honor of this epiphanic moment, I decided to top my finally perfect pizza dough with something worthy. Porcini mushrooms are common enough around here come September, but this year in particular their abundance and size are breaking records and turning heads (other species as well) after an atypically rainy summer. So I picked up a few lovelies at the town market and made this, if I may say so, masterpiece of a pie.

Ingredients

for the pizza dough (makes enough for four 10-inch pizzas)
3 & 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 & 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt

for the topping (2 pizzas)
4 or 5 large porcini mushrooms
1 handful fresh parsley
olive oil
salt
1 cup circa grated fresh mozzarella
3 or 4 Tablespoons grated parmigiano (optional)
2 teaspoons minced fresh red chili pepper (optional)

Instructions

Make the pizza dough the night before. You will have enough dough to make two 10-inch pizzas per this recipe (or four pizzas if you increase the toppings amounts above accordingly).

Sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Wait a minute then stir briskly with a fork and stir in 1/2 cup of the flour until combined. Set aside at room temp for 30 minutes to let the mixture double in size.

Combine the yeast mixture, 3 cups of flour, and 1 cup of warm water in the mixer and mix on low with the dough hook until a dough forms and the mixer starts to struggle. Add the salt and mix a minute more. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until very smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a flour-dusted large bowl. Leave in the fridge overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let rest at room temp an hour before you plan to cook the pizza. ‘Punch’ it down and cut the dough into four equal pieces. Put two back in the fridge if you don’t intend to make four pizzas at this time. Form the other two pieces into balls and set them aside on a flour-dusted surface to rest again. In the meantime, prepare the porcini for topping.

Clean the porcini if needed by gently brushing or wiping with a paper towel. Dampen the towel if needed but only slightly. Slice the caps and stems into thickish pieces (no more than 4 slices per cap) and cook them in about 2 tablepoons olive oil for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces carefully rather than stirring them all together. After turning them, add 3/4 of the chopped parsely and lightly salt and gently combine. As they brown a small amount of juice will form. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 260° C / 500° F (probably as high as your oven will go). Prep the cheeses and set aside.

Flour a work surface and make your pizza rounds. You can use the hand method or a rolling pin. The hand method which involves flattening out the ball into a thick disk and, while rotating the disk continuing to flatten the dough using your fingertips, working from the center outwards. Pick up the disk and let gravity help by hanging it from the edge and turning (or try tossing it in the air if you’re brave!). Then place on your pizza stone or baking sheet and shape as needed. This method results in a more rustic-looking pizza. Or use a rolling pin if you prefer, arguably simpler, which results in a uniform look and consistency.

Cover your two pizzas with the grated mozzarella, then divide and arrange the porcini on each. A lot of flavor will be in the oil/juice in the pan, so drizzle that on top, too. Dust with finely grated parmesan cheese, and for a kick and some color, a teaspoon or so of minced fresh red chili (optional).

Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, keeping an eye on them. The pizzas are ready when the edges are brownish or even slighly blackened in places, the bottom is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with the remaining parsley (optional).