The summer after my freshman year in college, my friends and I rented a house in Seaside, Florida. We did not live in the area made so famous by The Truman Show. Instead, we rented a tiny beach cabin from the dad of one of my friend. We each paid $100 a month for this two-bedroom cottage that sat just outside the five-story rentals of Seaside. We showered outside, never locked our doors, and spent every day working or lying on the fiery hot sandy beaches. It was one of those idyllic summers that everyone should have, but no one would truly enjoy once college is over.
There were numerous things I learned that summer. Like, if I work in a clothing boutique and get a significant discount, my ability to save money is nonexistant. Also, there’s no better place to be during a beach storm than on a screened-in porch with a tin roof. But the most important thing I learned that summer? An invaluable life lesson: pizza is my favorite food.
I literally talked about pizza at least daily. I wanted it all the time. Pizza picnic on the beach? If only Domino’s, the only pizza place in town, would have delivered. Pizza for lunch and dinner? My real savior was that most of my money was going to clothes.
When Ancora opened this summer on Freret St. in New Orleans, I went through a period of overwhelming jubilation. I’m actually still in that period. The pizzeria and salumeria imported a pizza oven directly from Naples – pizzas cook in 90 seconds or less. Naples, the birthplace of the cheesy happiness known as pizza, has very strict rules governing what can be considered Neapolitan pizza, and Ancora strictly follows them. Plus (I know, right? There’s more goodness), the pizzeria only uses local ingredients or ingredients imported from Naples. Basically, Ancora makes me ecstatically happy.
Like all food that I love, I have to try to make it at home. Admittedly, I was completely unsuccessful at getting the thin, crisp dough and I’m not all that sure I even followed the Neapolitan rules. I researched them and somehow ended up drifting off of that course, too. But (!!!), this was a really delicious pizza, so I won’t get caught up in the ways I failed.
Prosciutto, Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza with Balsamella Sauce
Makes three individual pizzas
⅓ cup chopped hazelnuts
3 oz. Gorgonzola
2 pears, thinly sliced
6 slices prosciutto, cut in half
1 cup Balsamella sauce
Preheat your oven to 500°. If you will be using a pizza stone, sprinkle it liberally with cornmeal. Roll ⅓ of dough out thinly on a surface covered lightly in cornmeal. Crimp the edge of the dough to form a rim for your crust. Spoon balsamella sauce to thoroughly, but not heavily, coat the dough. Arrange pear slices in a circular pattern, so they cover the pizza. Top with 4 prosciutto halves and ⅓ of cheese. Sprinkle with ⅓ of hazelnuts. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Repeat twice with remaining ingredients.
1 package yeast
1 ½ cups warm water, divided
pinch of sugar
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
¼ c olive oil
Pour ¼ cup warm water in a mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. Add pinch of sugar and let rest 10 minutes. Add additional water, flour, salt, and olive oil and mix well using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. Once combined, begin to mix with your hands, adding additional flour if dough is sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another 5 minutes. Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for one hour, or until doubled.
Once doubled, punch dough down and place it in a zip-lock bag. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 2 cups
Balsamella sauce is the Italian version of Béchamel. Use the extra to top a yummy weeknight pasta dish!
5 tbs unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Heat the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add flour very slowly so that it does not clump and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
In a separate saucepan, heat the milk until just about to boil. Add milk, 1 cup at a time, to the butter mixture, whisking constantly. The combined mixture will likely begin to boil quickly, so pour the milk in slowly. Bring combined mixture to a boil and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove from heat and season with salt and nutmeg.