14 April 2010

Nonna's pizza

I posted about pizza last month and mentioned how Nonna and my mom inspired me to make my own pizza from scratch. I had no idea that post would create such a firestorm of pizza chatter that culminated with me, my mom, and Angela making pizza, as she so eloquently put it, 'Nonna style.'

It started when Eva left a comment on the pizza post stating that she had a recipe card with Nonna's pizza recipe on it. She offered to send me the recipe and I was eager to see it. As I read the recipe, I saw that it called for the cheese to go directly on the dough, then sauce and toppings on top of the cheese. I did not realize Nonna assembled her pizza that way, so I asked Eva if she remembered. She did not remember either, so we decided we needed to get the facts from more experienced 'Nonna's pizza' connoisseurs.

So, Eva emailed Aunt Sue and Aunt Mare, and I asked my mom. We heard back from Aunt Sue first, and she confirmed the cheese was directly on the dough. I learned the term "Where there's no cheese, put cheese," which was what Nonna told Nedra when she was helping her assemble the pizzas. I also learned that Nonna used slices of mozzarella and not shredded. We then heard back from Aunt Mare and she added that Nonna used a mixture of half whole wheat, and half white flour for the crust, and to sprinkle finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on top of the sauce and toppings. When I talked to my mom, she told me how Nonna made her own sauce, and some of the herbs and seasonings she used.

I felt better knowing how Nonna made her pizza, but I realized I really didn't really remember Nonna's pizza. I just had a vague recollection if it, perhaps an amalgam of different pizzas I have had. I couldn't even remember the cheese was under the sauce, for goodness sake. Then, I had a revelation, the best way to remember Nonna's pizza was to make Nonna's pizza.

Eva and I continued emailing each other about what we found out about Nonna's pizza. Meanwhile, I asked my mom if Nonna still had her pizza pans, and she said she would check. If I was going to make Nonna's pizza, I wanted to make it as authentic as possible, right down to the pans she used. My mom asked Uncle Lee if he knew where the pans where and he was able to find them. I wanted to make the pizzas with my mom, so we decided to make them for my birthday party at her house.

We each made a batch of dough using Nonna's recipe that Eva sent us. My mom got the sauce simmering early in the day, and by the time I got there in the afternoon we were ready to make the pizza. We decided to make one cheese pizza, one with pepperoni and sausage, and one supreme.

Angela helped us too, and my mom showed her how Nonna cut the slices of mozzarella. We then placed the slices of cheese on the dough remembering the adage 'where there's no cheese, put cheese.'

Then came the sauce and toppings with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

We baked the pizzas at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, and when they came out of the oven I thought to myself, 'these look like Nonna's pizzas.'

Complete with the crispy edges.

The proof was in the eating, though. The cheese pizza brought back what I remembered Nonna's pizza to be. My mom said is best when she took that first bite and said, 'This is my mom's pizza!" She looked stunned, and said she didn't think it would be so close to the original. I asked Angela, and she said it was just how she remembered, too.

It was a little surreal eating that pizza again after so many years. It was also very rewarding because we were able to introduce it to Valerie, Michael, and Marty. Watching Ari, Emilie, and Piper eat it was also special, since this pizza was so much a part of my childhood. Ari even asked for seconds, which is something he rarely does.

I loved using Nonna's pizza pans, and I am so glad I was able to borrow them. Seeing all those marks from the pizza cutter on the bottom of the pan, I knew these pans were special and got a lot of use. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I look forward to breaking in my own pizza pan and revisiting Nonna's pizza for years to come.


  1. Thank you so much for this post, Luke! Could we re-create this experience the next time I'm home, pans and all?

  2. It would be my pleasure, Eva. I would love to make this pizza with you. Trust me, it's a lot easier than rolling out pasta dough.

  3. Thank you, Luke! I remember Nonna's pizza with the sauce on the top! I wish I could have been there to make/taste with you.
    How can I get the recipe? What size are Nonna's pans? Miss you!

  4. Iris! I wish you could have been there, too. It was such a fun endeavor and it brought back a lot of nice memories.

    Nonna's pizza pans are actually Wilton 14x2 round cake pans. I saw one at Jo Ann Fabrics this evening and thought about buying one. I sent you a message in facebook with the recipe. Enjoy!!
    Miss you, too!

  5. Aunt Joan here...I remember Nonna making double batches of pizzas for our slumber parties.....sometimes after midnight! What a fantastic mom, everyone wanted to come over to our house!!

  6. I bet, Aunt Joan. Few things in life are more enjoyable than late night pizza!



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