Although today’s recipe will continue my recently established pasta trend, I’m going to take a moment to explore a complex topic that is very dear to me: pizza. I have a lot of internal conflict on the subject because I am loyal to a certain place in the south. And I think this is the nature of things–no matter what, we all think our own version is the best, and discussions of pizza make a quick transformation from lively, to spirited, to vehement.
That gets me to the issue: I have to admit, New Englanders have their own special way of handling pizza. While it can never measure up to the standards I developed at home, they’ve definitely got a groove going up here.
At first, this foreign pizza did not impress me, as I am kind of an expert (read: kind of opinionated). I come from a land that is far, far away, where the best pizza is covered with gooey, salty cheese, the sauce has a bit of a kick, and never too much actual tomato flavor, and the crust is very thin and crispy (ideal). I.e., it suspends itself in the air when you hold a slice by the crust. It is also covered with pickled jalapenos and served, from time to time, with ranch dressing–there! I said it! Ranch dressing! And I like it!
I know that Texas is probably not considered a hub of Italian authenticity, but we do have a town called “Italy,” and we eat a lot of pizza.
The pizza up north is different, though. First of all, all I think about when I pick up a slice is Splinter, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo. (In case you didn’t grow up in the late nineties, I’m talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not the artists.) You get the feeling you have to swallow it in two bites before it escapes you. This is high stakes stuff. What I mean is that if you pick up a pizza slice here with only one hand, all the cheese and toppings will slide onto the plate, leaving you with a greasy pile of quickly-solidifying cheese and a wilty-looking piece of triangular dough. The slide in action:
That’s another thing. The best way for me to describe the dough here is “wet cardboard.” It is not soft, not crispy. To take a bite, you have to get a grip and tear the rest of the pizza away. As weird as that seems, it is pretty enjoyable, at least once you come to expect it. I think that’s what they’re aiming for anyway (involves oil in the dough?). Also, the cheese has a sharp flavor–at first strange, then kind of tasty.
Last night, the Roomz and I went to Otto’s, a cozy place in Coolidge Corner. The area has a student-y, neighborhood-y vibe, and our server was from Texas. His name was Forrest. That’s not really relevant, but it made me less skeptical.
They had fancy salad and yummy pizza.
I also encountered this doughy, floppy, northern pizza on Long Island (a magical place where hair blows in the wind and boat shoes litter the back porch). Colosseo’s has been around for ages, or so the Roomz says. They have garlic salt on the table, which is a sign of authenticity–so I’m told.
What’s happening here is that it’s impossible for me to really praise the pizza up here because I am loyal to someplace else. The pizza up here is nice, but it’s not as good as home. No matter how authentic it is, I like what I know. But that’s amore, I guess!
I didn’t go home and make pizza, so I’m sorry if you’re hoping for a pizza recipe. I’m inundated with the stuff, and quite frankly, I have no idea how to approach the process anymore–too many choices. I’m paralyzed in the pizza department.
Instead, I made what I am calling “Fettugreene”–a spinach fettuccine dish with lima beans and fresh spinach. Next week we’ll branch into other food categories, I suppose. Honestly, though, noodles are high on my list of priorities. When Russo’s offers me fresh pasta for $1.50, I accept.
Fettu-green-e (yep, I did it)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup frozen lima beans
¼ cup vegetable broth
3 cups fresh spinach
½ lb. fresh spinach fettuccine, or the equivalent 2-person serving of dried spinach fettuccine
¼ cup reserved pasta water
2 Tablespoons fancy olive oil, for drizzling
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (you have to say it the way Giada does)
Salt & freshly-ground black pepper
1. Boil water in a large saucepan for pasta. If using fresh pasta, cook about 4 minutes. If using dried pasta, cook according to package directions.
2. Heat 2 T regular olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sweat onions until translucent, then add garlic. Sauté one minute longer, then add lima beans. Let beans cook for 5 minutes, stirring periodically to prevent burning.
3. Add vegetable broth and raise heat to medium high. Reduce broth to a syrupy consistency. Add pasta water and reduce again. (The starch will quickly thicken the sauce)
4. Return heat to medium. Add spinach to wilt. Add pasta and toss.
5. Serve drizzled with fancy olive oil, dusting the mountain tops with snow (adding parmesan), and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Enjoy! And tell yourself you are eating healthy. I mean, it’s so green.
Tell me, what food does your hometown get right? And don’t say pizza.