17 January 2012

Eats: mascarpone and prosciutto pizza

As you can probably tell from the food I show you here, Mr. P and I are not particularly adventurous eaters. I mean, we eat international foods, but nothing super wild. At the very least, I can generally tell you what part of the animal we’re eating (and it’s never, ever an internal organ). Fortunately, Italy is a nice place to honeymoon for people who enjoy rather “safe” meals. We did try local delicacies – clams, local liquors, different grains and breads, even anchovies (did not like that last one) – but again, we generally knew what we were ordering.

Until... nearly the very end. While visiting Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, I saw a pizza on a menu that I didn’t see elsewhere during our travels: mascarpone and speck. I vaguely knew what mascarpone is; it’s basically the Italian version of cream cheese. And I never say no to cream cheese! But speck? Hmmm. We had no smartphone service in Italy to look it up, and our waiter’s English was only slightly better than my non-existent Italian. But it’s pizza, so I went for it. I figured that if it came out topped with beating chicken hearts, I’d pick them off and pretend that never happened.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The speck seemed sort of like ham. And I’ll be darned if that wasn’t one of the tastiest meals I had on our honeymoon.

(Mr. P, by the way, had some sort of tasty grain pancakey-things topped with oil, marinara, and pesto. They were a “special” not on the menu, and we forgot what they’re called. So if you know, let us know!)

When I got back to our room and internet connection, I checked to see exactly what I’d just eaten (it didn’t seem like beating chicken hearts but you never know). It turns out that speck is, indeed, basically ham. Or to be more precise, like prosciutto. A risk worth taking, and definitely less scary than the anchovies we tried!

Because it was so tasty, I really, really wanted to re-create this back here in the States. While I suppose I could find speck here in Nashville if I looked hard enough – we have quite a few authentic Italian markets – I tend not to purchase ingredients that I can’t find at Kroger. Our Kroger’s deli section has both prosciutto and mascarpone, so I decided that would work for my Nashville interpretation of a Cinque Terre special.

Both of these ingredients are pricey, but I stretch them. I got two pizzas and a chicken-and-prosciutto dish (you’ll seeeeeeeee) out of the 8 ounces of mascarpone and 3 ounces of prosciutto.

For the crust, I used Lil’s C’s dough recipe, but I also laminated the dough as instructed for Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Do not be afraid! Laminating sounds hard, but it takes all of five minutes. And it turned out amazing with Lil’s C’s dough – just you wait, I’ll show you! I also brushed olive oil over the edges of the crust to make it extra crispy and tasty.

I tried a new sauce recipe found here. Because I didn’t need it to be quite so thick, I used two cans of crushed tomatoes instead of one can crushed, one can paste. I also cut back on the sugar (it doesn’t really need it if you don’t use tomato paste) and let it simmer for approximately eighty years. The result was, by far, my favorite pizza sauce, store-bought or restaurant-bought or homemade.

To assemble the pizza, use a spoon and your finger to drop little chunks of mascarpone all over the sauce. The teensier, the better, but I don’t have a ton of patience so some of these chunks are on the large size. I used 4 oz. mascarpone, total, equivalent to half of that container up there.

If you’ve never worked with prosciutto before, you may be surprised by how thin it is. Seriously, you can see through it. And yes, it’s disheartening to be able to pay a lot for meat you can see through, but fortunately a little goes a long way.

I tore three slices of prosciutto (a little over an ounce total) into strips and laid them over the mascarpone bits.

And that’s it! Time to bake! Twenty minutes at 425 degrees is good.

Yes yes yes! A little bit of Italy, here in Nashville.

The crust and sauce are definitely more American-style than what you find in Italy, but I’ll be honest, I like them better than authentic Italiano. The chunks of marscapone blend into the sauce and make it super creamy but not too sweet. There’s not a lot of prosciutto, but because it’s quite salty with concentrated bacon-y flavor, it’s right for me.

But wait, I haven’t even shown you the best part! Remember how I said that laminating the dough was a smashing success? Well, if you cut into the slice (no, I did not take a bite and then a photograph)...

Oh my lands. So delicious! Give this crust and sauce a try for your next homemade pizza. And better yet, consider splurging a bit for the different, delicious toppings too! The mascarpone is incredible. My vegetarian readers (I know of two! Hi, you two!) might enjoy this with sauteed mushrooms or olives, to get the saltiness without the meat. No matter what, it’s a fairly familiar dish done up a bit different... with no beating chicken hearts involved. Enjoy!


Christal said...

I admit, I thought you laminated the recipe at first, and I thought that was kind of a good idea, as I'm a sloppy cook and I get things on recipes. Yet another thing I've learned on your blog. :-) (also, one of the things I've laminated, er lamented about my going vegetarian is that I discovered prosciutto like a month before the change. I would have liked some more time eating that little delight. :-) )

Laura said...

HA! I thought the same thing. Reading is hard.

Sarah said...

Haha! Laminating the recipe would also be a good idea, but fortunately my sweet friends who gave me the recipe binder put the recipes in plastic sheets ;) Come to think of it, I do the same thing with scientific protocols...