Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stracciatella and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula and Tomato Sauce

An homage to CO. and DiPalo Dairy Store in Little Italy

It’s great to live in a city where you can still shop in a traditional Italian cheese and dairy store that’s 99 years old and just expanded into the space next door. That’s quite an accomplishment given that New York’s Little Italy is fast contracting and is now cheek to cheek with an ever-enlarging Chinatown. But Louis DiPalo continues his family’s almost century-long run at DiPalo Dairy at 200 Grand Street, (212-226-1033).

Now I won’t say this place actually reminded me of my old haunts in Rome which were more Salumerias than Dairy outposts. But it is exclusively Italian down to the Illy coffee that was being sampled along with rounds of Gran Padano, that cousin of Parmigiano that’s grainier and less well known. DiPalo continues that wonderful Italian tradition of letting you sample virtually everything you buy.

We were treated to paper thin slices of prosciutto that literally melted in our mouths and we got to taste our cheeses. The cheese selection at DiPalo is fantastic and I think, well priced. I got Pecorino Romano for $12.00 a pound and Gran Padano was on offer at 11.99. Then there was, at 7.99 for 500 grams or 1.1 lbs., the all-important Stracciatella, yet another cousin, this time of mozzarella, that’s the basis for my homage to Co., the new pizza place at 230 Ninth Avenue and 24th Street (212-243-1105).

And there’s also a little nod (in the use of the prosciutto) to the spectacular “Parma” pizza at World Pie, 2402 Main Street in Bridgehampton (631 537 7999), which is one of our all-time favorites.

We are in full pizza mode in New York at this point. It’s one of the most frequent of foody discussions and pizza practitioners have amped up their offerings and, more often than not, thinned out their crusts to a point where one wag described them as communion-wafer thin.

It makes a lot of sense that pizza would take off in this economy. It is an inexpensive luxury although I am not sure a 12 inch pie like the ones at CO. (pronounced Company, by the way) coming in at $17.00 can be considered that inexpensive. But you can certainly get in, have a couple of glasses of screw-top wine and get out for about $35.00 a piece.

Co. already has a huge following and doesn’t take reservations but at lunch, it’s a snap to get a table and, jammed as the place was when we went for a weeknight dinner, we got seated immediately.

Now I have tried to make pizza prior to this outing. But my recent encounters with restaurant pizza made it clear I wasn’t doing it right. So I scoured recent ramblings on the subject and found the following advice. To make pizza in a conventional oven, you have to make adjustments.

You must use a pizza stone, parchment paper and a dough that uses all-purpose rather than bread flour. This is because bread flour has a higher protein content and retains less moisture.

In a restaurant pizza oven, the 800 degree temperature zapa everything so that the crust browns and the toppings melt before the dough dries out. In a home oven where you might get a temperature of 500 degrees, a bread flour crust will dry out.

I got both pizza stone ($19.99) and parchment paper ($4.99) at Bed Bath and Beyond. You can even order them online. Here’s the Link:, although I couldn’t find the parchment paper on-line on their site, it's now in virtually every grocery store.

To make Stracciatella and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula and Tomato Sauce, you will need:

1 Recipe of Pizza Dough which will give you two 12 inch pizzas.
1 cup of Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
8 ounces of Stracciatella (or substitute fresh mozzarella)
¼ pound thinly sliced Prosciutto
Baby Arugula (two handsful)

Making the Dough

I confess that I did not make my own pizza dough this time and instead bought it ready made at DiPalo. I didn’t actually have a problem with my crust, because I like a very crisp crust. In fact, to assure that I baked the crust without any toppings at all for four minutes, took it out of the oven and put the toppings on and the pizza back in the 500 degree oven for another 10 minutes. It was perfect.

However, because the dough is such a key part of making this pizza, I wanted to include a recipe for it. I’ve combed the blogs and recipe sites and this one makes a great deal of sense. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated and the general consensus is this is the best recipe for at-home pizza crust.

One caveat: You should make the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours before you use it. I’ve included instructions for creating dough you can use instantly. But I promise you this is true proof that the best things in life come to those who wait.

Recipe for Pizza Dough From Cook’s Illustrated

10 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups), preferably Gold Medal, protein content no higher than 10.5 percent
1/2 tsp. instant yeast (1 1/4 tsp if you do not want to do an overnight rise)
1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
6.2 ounces water (about 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons), preferably filtered or spring, 100 to 105 degrees
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Combine flour, yeast, honey, and salt in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. With machine running, add all but 2 tablespoons water through feed tube. With machine still running, add olive oil through feed tube and process until dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Turn dough out onto work surface.
2. A freshly processed dough with adequate water will look shaggy and stick to the counter. A few “throws” against the counter will help the dough become supple and fine-textured.

  • On the other hand, a freshly processed dough that is too dry will form a clean ball, feel more oily than moist, and look slightly curdy on the surface.

  • To moisten a processed dough that is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water and throw the dough against the counter 10 times. The dough may take up to 2 teaspoons additional water.

  • A properly kneaded dough with enough water will be supple and fine-textured. Though moist and sticky, the dough should have structure and not feel “batter-like.”

3. Place dough in gallon-sized, heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag and seal. Refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.

Tomato Sauce

I made some gorgeous sauce this summer using the beautiful tomatoes I get from the farmstand down the road from our house.

Now that tomato season is past, here at least, it’s reassuring to know that everyone from Marcella Hazan on down touts using canned tomatoes when tomatoes are not in season. So don’t fret about fresh versus canned.

You can decide if you want to spring for San Marzano tomatoes at about twice the price of Red Pack, the ones I use.

There’s good reason to spring for the Italian imports. They are grown very close to Naples, and Naples, if it didn’t invent pizza, certainly gave me my first taste of a genuinely fantastic pie.

Or you can be completely indolent and go with your favorite store-bought Marinara Sauce. I can personally vouch for any one of Newman's Own All-Natural Pasta Sauces.

Recipe for Quick and Spicy Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp. Olive Oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic clove, minced
½ cup white wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1- (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to heated pan

2 Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds. Add tomato paste, oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and tomatoes.

3 Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Cool.

4 This will yield about 2 2/3 cups of tomato sauce.

To make the pizza:

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Heat baking stone 1 hour before proceeding.

2. Remove dough from plastic bag and divide in half with pastry scraper. Set each half in center of lightly floured large sheet parchment paper. Flatten the each dough lump into a circle. Neatness doesn’t count here. If the pizza isn’t a round, it will be just as delicious.

3. Setting one dough aside, roll the other dough into a 14-inch round with even thinness of 1/32-inch. You can make your life easier by putting a second piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and using your rolling pin directly on the parchment. With scissors, trim excess parchment so that it is just larger than dough. Using a fork, make multiple tiny holes in the dough so that it will keep its flat shape.

4. Slip dough with parchment onto inverted rimmed baking sheet, or rimless cookie sheet, then slide onto hot pizza stone. Bake 4 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with tomato sauce, then about 1/8 of the stracciatella and finally ½ the prosciutto slices. Return the pizza to the oven and cook an additional 8 minutes under a watchful eye—your pizza make take less or more time depending on how hot your oven is and how thick your toppings are.

5. Transfer pizza to cutting board, slide parchment out from under pizza.  Spoon spoon stracciatella over the prosciutto. Cover the pie with a handful of arugula, a couple of grinds of the pepper mill and a little salt.

6. Cut pizza into wedges and serve.

7. While first pizza is baking, repeat steps 3 and 4 to roll and sauce the second pizza; allow baking stone to reheat 15 minutes after baking first pizza, then repeat step 5 to bake the second pizza which for some reason you will be ravenous for after you’ve tasted the first.

8. This serves 2. I am sure you can double or triple the recipe without any problem at all.


  1. WOW that looks fabulous. And so much better for you than both "delivery or DiGiorno".

  2. It's not delivery and it's not DiGiorno but boy is it good!

  3. Another useful tip - sprinkle corn meal (which act like ball bearings) on the paddle and the dough slides off more easily. The corn meal also gives another complementary texture.

  4. This recipe looks delicious. I love a fresh green on top, and Arugala adds a nice bitterness. Will try this Sunday night!

    BTW...After cracking my pizza stone, I found what's now my preferred way to cook the pizza: the grill. Charcoal is preferable, but gas certainly works. You want to get the grill very hot and then just slide the pizza on (with the aid of some cornmeal - as the poster above noted).

    It's not the two minutes at 800 degrees that Neapolitan acolytes live by, but just six minutes or so on a very high temp gives the crust a very nice crispy texture and allows the toppings to cook just right as well. Just check once or twice to make sure you're not scorching the bottom.