The beauty of living in an old Italian farmhouse with an equally old kitchen is to have a real wood fired oven. Cosimo, who produces the fragrant extra virgin olive oil we are bringing to the US, is fortunate enough to have one dating back to 1600 (pretty impressive!).
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a pizza bake out to celebrate….life. What can I say, it was a feast!
Now, pizza in Italy is a religion. And as it is with religions, there is room for conflict. In the south, especially in Naples, birthplace of the pizza, the dough is soft, with a high rising crust. In Tuscany and in the north of Italy, people will prefer the crisp, thin pizza. Take someone from Naples for pizza in Tuscany and he will be very unhappy all evening (no, I am not exaggerating - I tried unsuccessfully several times before giving up for good).
So the yeast dough is rolled out really thin, covered with a very basic tomato sauce (tomatoes, basil, salt) and whatever topping one might like. Talk creativity! Very popular also the "pizza in bianco" (white pizza), which does not have sauce. Only a thick layer of tasty gooey cheese and then lots of other treats (my personal favourite is a pizza in bianco with stracchino, a creamy cow milk cheese from Lombardia, and radicchio).
Cosimo (pictured here with his lovely wife Annick) prefers the simplest version of all, which relies on the pure taste of his extra virgin olive oil and nothing but his olive oil (well, maybe a pinch of salt): la schiacciata. The dough is rolled out finely, baked till it is cross and then the liquid gold Cosimo produces in San Miniato is generously poured over it. Add a pinch of salt and basta! If you are out for a treat, add slices of prosciutto.
One comment on food and drink matches: although Italy is one of the world's great wine countries, the drink to go with pizza is beer!
More on extra virgin olive oil in the January 11, 2009 post in this blog!