Ode to Joy (of Pizza)

For this post, I thought I would (at least try to) adopt a bit more serious tone than usual in this blog. On the other hand, a proper Italian pizza certainly is a serious matter!

Food really has an amazing impact on life. Obviously it has moved masses, borders and wars throughout the human history. But in addition to meeting our most primal and physical needs of survival, it can also nourish your soul in the same way as any other form of art or culture. There are always some “diet gurus” who will tell you to treat food as fuel. They are probably (either miserable and/ or) those individuals for whom taste simply is not a sense important enough for them to appreciate its sensations fully. In a similar way, there are people who aren’t moved by music or can’t help but stifle a yawn if they are dragged into an art museum. There is nothing wrong with any of that but just because one sense is not important for one person, doesn’t mean that it would be silly for someone else to feel differently. So it is actually kind of baffling how the diet gurus get away with publicly stating their fuel opinions whereas you never hear anyone slate people for loving music or Picasso!

I think there is also a difference (albeit admittedly sometimes maybe a very fine one) between eating evoking emotions and emotional eating. When I first tried this pizza recipe, I actually cried! Yes, it naturalmente was so good. But it was also about the challenging moment in my life in which opportunities were more limited in many ways. Yet even if I couldn’t travel to Italy at the time, I could still bring a perfect little piece of Italy to my small kitchen in Helsinki.

Making a proper Italian pizza, embodies many aspects of food culture at its best. It is always a special occasion (at least if you don’t work at a pizzeria in Rome…) as it does require planning, time and some effort. However, for the special occasion, this effort for the delight of others feels quite exhilarating. It is also a social event with important people in your life – the fun of cooking together (you don’t need to slave in the kitchen by yourself), of a bit of gossip and good conversations, and of savouring the fabulous union of a thin crust, delicious tomato sauce and mozzarella. In short, you can’t really make an Italian pizza for one. Finally, there is an element of challenge in the art of making a pizza as you can never be too good at it!

When I started this blog a year ago, I hence promised a continuous investigation for the perfect pizza base. I have by no means forgotten this mission although I have grown fairly attached to that afore-mentioned recipe. Next on my list is the aim to try a Neapolitan version (the current recipes are apparently Roman ones). I additionally stated that I would dedicate a separate posting for the tomato sauce of a pizza. However, having googled this more afterwards, it seems that most Italians simply use tinned tomatoes (of good quality) or tomato puree with some seasoning. Therefore, being a big tomato fan myself, this time I added my own little and very simple version of the sauce.

As I am feeling more serious today, let me end this post by quoting an aphorism that I recently heard on an Italian radio channel (apparently by a lady who sadly died too young): “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but about learning to dance in the rain.” I can guarantee that a proper Italian pizza will make you dance regardless of the weather!

Anna’s Tomato Sauce for Pizza

For ~4-6 pizzas

2 cans of peeled tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

½-1 red chilli

olive oil

herbs to your taste (basil, oregano, thyme…)

salt, pepper

Chop the garlic cloves and chilli. Gently fry them in a kettle/ pan in some olive oil for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes. Switch your stove to the minimum heat and cover the kettle with a lid. Let the sauce simmer for several hours (I usually do that for 2-4 hours) and lightly season to your taste.

Something Not Borrowed – Insalata Improvvisata

The idea of my blog is to learn about Italian cooking by testing recipes I have found from different sources. Yet in real life, I do come up with my own little recipes from time to time too. And since for this blog I have no manager to answer to, I can really post here whatever I like (at least until Cucina Fintastica becomes a supermega success with the amount of sponsors to challenge Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson combined). Who knows, you might even like it… At least I quite enjoyed this potato salad tonight!

So today’s dish has very little to do with Italy although a quick Google search tells me that there is a broad range of Italian recipes of potato salads available too. Maybe I will give them a try later. Anyway, I got the inspiration for this dish after buying new potatoes of this season and realising I had some leftover yoghurt and asparagus readily in my fridge. Obviously lemon is the BFF of asparagus but I also liked the creamy yet fresh twist of the yoghurt with it!

Potato Salad with Asparagus and Lemon

Serves 4

800 g potatoes

1 bunch of fresh asparagus

2-3 spring onions

3 dl Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp olive oil

zest of 1 lemon, grated

lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

fresh mint

salt, pepper

Clean the potatoes and cook them in salted, boiling water until ready. In another kettle, bring a sufficient amount of water to a boil, add some salt and lemon juice and the asparagus. Cook for a few minutes.

Mix the yoghurt with the lemon zest, a bit of lemon juice, honey, salt, mustard and olive oil. Cut the cooked potatoes and asparagus into chunks and chop the spring onions. Place them into a bowl, pour the yoghurt dressing onto them and mix well. Add fresh mint, salt and pepper to your taste. Serve with e.g. fresh salmon.