2019: O… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Only the Best Pizza by “Dad”
I’m back for “Year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!
Only the Best Pizza by “Dad”
Saturday night at my in-laws was often pizza night… and who made the best pizza… my father in law! But it wasn’t made with pizza dough from pizza parlors… it was made with the Pillsbury pizza classic dough sold in the grocery store. I can’t remember how it came about in using it, but we all loved it… and none of us have ever replicated it… but I keep trying.
- Pillsbury pizza dough – classic style
- pizza sauce or crushed tomatoes (dad used both at different times)
- mozzarella cheese (opt., but dad didn’t use)
- meat – your choice (optional)
- grating cheese
- EVOO – extra virgin olive oil
I don’t remember how it all started with Dad making pizza… maybe because he had the most patience… I see his cooking ways in his son… my husband. Lots of patience and meticulous in his cutting skills… everything must be precise!
This pizza is made and baked in your baking pan… the same one you make cookies in. Lightly grease with Crisco or spray Pam on the bottom and stretch the dough out… very carefully… having no holes… stretch just to the edge of the pan.
Dad was meticulous in adding the sauce… he spooned it on gently… always starting in the center and slowly working toward the edges, but never getting close enough to the edge… and he’d remind you… that it must not touch the edge; he always took his time… never in a hurry. If he didn’t have pizza sauce and used crushed tomatoes, then he’d add oregano for taste, but his grandson reminded me he mostly used crushed tomatoes, rather than pizza sauce in a can. Next went a round of fresh pepper… it seemed to make the taste! I don’t remember him ever adding mozzarella…. it was always only grating cheese… maybe that’s why it was so different and yummy! It was very simple… but Oh so good!
Dad very seldom added meat on his pizza… it was just plain with grating cheese… and always a drizzle of olive oil as the final touch before baking!
Dad’s Pizza Apron
I was in a sewing mode during this pizza making time and one “Father’s Day” I made Dad his very own special Pizza apron… he didn’t mind modeling it either, but it was the grandchildren, Steve and Melissa, who wore it the most… often fighting over who’d wear it when making pizza!
Making pizza memories!
The young pizza helpers!
The young pizza helpers… all grown up!
Grace and McKinley modeling great grandpa’s famous “pizza apron” – Melissa’s girls!
Nina and Ana wearing great grandpa’s famous pizza apron – Steve’s girls
Ella (Steve’s daughter) with Molly… the family dog modeling great grandpa’s pizza apron!
While writing this post, I got the bug to make dad’s pizza… or rather attempt to… and while it wasn’t bad… it wasn’t his… yet! Dad’s pizza was one of a kind!
I even used the same well, worn pan Dad made his famous and so-remembered pizza in… it’s now my choice for a pizza pan.
Pizza was good… but it wasn’t Dad’s!
Saturday night at my in-laws was always a get-together… besides us, Aunt Dolly was there and often the aunts, Mary and JoJo came over. Sometimes we even made calzones if we’d bought pizza dough earlier in the afternoon at the pizzeria… with everyone making their own favorites and shapes… and it was always a competition to see who’s looked and tasted the best!
Before cooking dinner we usually hung around in the den, watching shows like The Victory Garden, Nick Stellino “Cooking with Friends”, “Ciao Italia” with Mary Ann Esposito, and Wide World of Sports Ice Skating with our favorites of Nancy Kerrigan, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Elvis Stojko, Viktor Petrenko, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan and pair skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov… who were married. Sometimes it was hard to cook when our shows were on, as no one wanted to leave the room… but when they watched Bowling, I always fell asleep. I was never a bowler but it was a big thing in their family; most all the family had been on bowling leagues at one time.
When OTB (off track betting) came to Ct., that often changed our Saturday TV viewing and cooking… if we had placed bets that afternoon, we tuned in to root for our horses. I can still remember how my mother in law would be cooking with the wooden spoon in one hand and the racing form in the other; they were a big gambling family. In cleaning out the family home, I laughed when I found a copy of an Easter pie dough recipe scribbled on the back of a racing form… it brought back memories… and yes I saved it!
My mother in law’s recipe for sweet crust she scribbled on the racing form… it’s what was close at hand!
We rarely watched a movie at my in laws… TV wasn’t like it is today… you had to take what was on … no “on demand,” Netflix, or Amazon Prime. If we had had all those choices… dinner would never have gotten cooked!
My mother-in-law, Celia Insalaco… 2nd from left
My father-in-law, Steve Insalaco… far left on back row
Dad bowled with several of his friends from Armstrong Rubber… most every workplace had a bowling team. It was about 1963 when Ten Pin in Milford first opened, and every business immediately developed bowling leagues; Armstrong Rubber had about fifteen different leagues. The Ten Pin in Milford was the first “big pin” bowling to open in the area… before that it was all “duck pin” bowling.
DAD… I sure miss your pizza… and You!!!
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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