Escarole Pizza……Cucina Povera

         Make it and they will come…………

Family… friendship….food…traditions…recipes…..and health of course:  these are some of the blessings in life.  At least that’s true for me.  There is a true joy that comes from digging into our pasts and sharing our heritage, especially through food.  At this time of year, the Lenten season for Catholics, many of us recall the meat- free meals our mothers and grandmothers made for us on Friday evenings.  

For Italians, a very popular dinner for this time of year was a vegetable pie.  These recipes really came from “the old country” and were truly “cucina povera,” poor peoples’ food.   How can you make dough and vegetables taste this good?  You cannot imagine these unbelievable recipes until you’ve experienced them. It seems that each region of Italy uses a different vegetable, but the basic ingredients are the same.  So when we Italians sit around talking about how our mothers made this dish, the possibilities are endless.  Escarole, spinach, broccoli, leeks, broccoli rabe, and of course my Pugliese grandmother’s pizza di cippole  (scallions), whose recipe you can find in the archives. 

 These dishes have been passed down from generation to generation and may be more popular today than they were back when they were eaten out of economic necessity.  I know that my family begs for pizza di cippole every year.  Literally, they beg for it!!!

Over the years of a special friendship, we have had the good culinary fortune to taste our friend Vinny’s mother’s recipe for escarole pie.  The background is Sicilian, so I’m going to say that this is a Sicilian version, but you just never know.  The pass-it-forward history of some Italian recipes covers miles. Some Italian foodies think it might have been a Christmas Eve dish from Napless. The truth is: run, don’t walk, to make this recipe.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had a reaction to anything like this.  

I made it for our family for my husband’s birthday dinner party, hoping my family would all enjoy it.  I was sure they hadn’t had anything like it before.  Liked it???  They LOVED it!!!  What joy it was to see them feasting on this dish.  Well the next day word got out that I had lots of leftovers, and any family members who weren’t at the birthday celebration showed up for a piece.  Friends came from far and wide to sample, and everyone left asking for the recipe.  Hence, this blog post.  

So if you want to entice your loved ones into your home, you have to make this.  I guarantee that if you make it, they will come.

I finally had to fib, saying it was all gone.  But please don’t tell—– I ate it for the next three days!!!

RECIPE: for one pizza, for two people…any more than two people, you must make more. Also, these measurements are rough. You can alter to your taste. And you can’t go wrong. These ingredients won’t fail you.

1 pound pizza dough

2-large heads of escarole, should be about 5 cups, torn into pieces of all sizes

1 small onion, chopped

1 8 ounce mozzarella

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup grated Locatelli Romano cheese

1 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves, finely minced

Anchovy, if you like….4 or 5 filets..I strongly advise.

Olive oil to mix, as if you were making a salad

I added some small cubes of provolone cheese because I had it.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

  1. Wash and dry the escarole well.
  2. Put dried escarole in a large bowl with all the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Roll out the dough to form a large rectangle.
  4. Cover a cookie sheet/pan with parchment paper ( so it doesn’t stick).
  5. Pile the escarole mixture on half of the pizza dough. Pile it up high. It will cook down.
  6. Pick up the other side of the dough and cross over the escarole, pinching all the sides down tightly.
  7. Poke the top with a fork once and slightly brush with a little olive oil.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, but keep your eye on it. You may want to lower your oven to 425 if it browns too quickly.
  9. Pray you have leftovers.

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