Chef's Corner: Calabria Style Pizza

Updated: Mar 21




Alexander's is now producing their very own Calabria style sausage. Made from pork, garlic and Calabrian peppers it is an ingredient that you can have a lot of fun with. Maybe spaghetti you say? Perhaps sauté the sausage with some broccoli, add some chicken broth and pour over your favorite pasta. Top with some Parmigiana Reggiano and enjoy.


But, we really want to talk pizza.


Yes, you can make a very good pizza at home. With special toppings that include this unique sausage, not only will it be delicious, it will be your very own.

 

Our Calabria Style Pizza


Sure, you can make your own pizza dough (we do; there are whole communities of people on the 'net that will show you how), but you don't have to. There are various pizza doughs and pizza dough kits for sale. Boboli makes a pre-cooked 12" pizza crust that is a decent substitute. Or, contact your favorite pizzeria. Many will sell you some of their dough.


Pizza is nothing more than a base for toppings only limited by your imagination. What you like and how much you use of it is totally up to you! Here's what we did and it was absolutely wonderful....

  • 1 lb. pizza dough

  • Pizza sauce

  • Black olives, sliced

  • Red onion

  • 4 oz. caciocavallo cheese OR 2 oz. provolone & 2 oz. asiago

  • 3 oz. Calabria Sausage, removed from casing and pulled into chunks.

  • Pimenton (smoked paprika), optional

  • Red pepper flakes, optional

  • Fresh basil, optional

Sometimes we like a thick pizza, sometimes thin, but either way we always start with 1 pound of dough (which we make around 4 days in advance and put in the fridge (it gets a final rise on baking day); that way making/baking the pizza takes about 20 minutes, start to finish, and that's because we are using a regular kitchen oven that only goes to 500 degrees. A pizza oven would do the baking task in 2-3 minutes.)


Slice the red onion into 1/4" rounds, then slowly sauté in olive oil until they are soft.


A good fresh dough that has completed it's final rise can be stretched to the desired size. This can be done with your hands. If it only goes a little way, cover with a towel, wait 5 minutes and keep going. The relaxation period will let you stretch it further. But first, here's a trick that makes a big difference: After stretching the dough just a little bit, use your fingers to dimple the dough, creating a rim about 1" in from the edge. Turn it over and do it again. This effectively makes an edge that will puff up. Not only does it look nice and make a nice handle to eat the pizza, we like the taste of the slightly burnt bubbles that often are created. After making the rim, continue stretching to the desired size.


If you are using a store bought dough, follow the instructions on how to stretch it out. They may have you use a rolling pin. If using Boboli, well, you're all set!




To top the pizza, start with brushing a little extra virgin olive oil over the inside part (not the rim), then a thin layer of pizza sauce, then the sliced black olives. Next put bits of provolone on top. You don't want/need to cover the pizza with cheese (unless you really want to, of course, but then you'll need more cheese than we used). Separate the red onion into rings and put them on top. Grate the asiago and sprinkle on top. At this point we like to sprinkle a bit of pimenton over the top. This adds a nice hint of real pizza oven flavor. Finally evenly scatter the Calabria sausage pieces over the pie.


14" Thin Pizza Sauce and Black Olives Provolone Sautéed Red Onion Asiago, Pimenton Calabria Sausage

The first time we made this pizza we made it thick, 12" in diameter. It was so good we made it again a week later, but did it thin, just over 14". Here they are in the oven, first thick, then thin. We preheat baking stones for an hour at the highest temperature our oven will go (500 degrees).


All ovens differ. The heat from our oven comes from the bottom. We place the pizza stones on the top shelf. We have found what works the best for us is to place the pizza on the stone (we use a pizza peel) and cook for 6 minutes. We then turn the pizza around and bake for another 6 minutes and 30 seconds. We then move the pizza to the bottom shelf and cook for 30 seconds more. This slightly burns part of it (but not badly) and gives it a very pizza oven taste!


Again, if using something other than freshly made dough, follow the cooking instructions.

Out of the oven scatter optional Red Pepper Flakes and optional fresh basil (we forgot the basil for the thick piazza picture). We let the pizza sit about 5 minutes before eating.


Finally... First thick, then thin. Buon appetito.



WINE SUGGESTION: Italian Primativo, which almost is to say Zinfandel since they are different clones of the same grape.


BONUS IDEA

We make pizza once a week. The two above were the 2 weeks prior to last night. Here, from last night, is something else for your imagination:



14" thin pizza topped with pizza sauce, black olives, garlic, provolone cheese, Toscano cheese with black pepper, capocollo and diced red onions:

Of course we often use the pizzeria standard, mozzarella cheese, but also think about treating yourself to a good imported Italian fontina.


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