Sunday, January 27, 2013

Italian Pie

 aka Pizza Pot Pie

With a nod to world peace, this post will attempt to bridge the wide gap between thin crust and deep dish pizza. Chicagoans love the deep dish and New Yorkers believe that only thin crust pizza, straight from Naples qualifies as pizza. 

I think the trouble is terminology.  Words mean different things to different people.  The word pizza, for example, is divisive.  When it comes to food favorites, expectations for one thing are not easily replaced by something different showing up on the plate. 

To Easterners and thin crust lovers reading this blog:
What if tonight you were served a casserole with fresh ingredients including cheese, sausage, veggies and some tomato sauce to hold it all together?  What if the bottom and sides were formed from a light dough, like a pot pie?  What if no one uttered the word pizza?

That’s what I did and we now have a new dish in our dinner repertoire that is different than the pizza we make on a 600˚F stone with dough rolled onto a peel and shoved into the hot oven for only a few minutes.  We call that pizza.

Think of this as pizza pot pie.  Mine starts with a layer of mozzarella topped with chunky fresh tomato sauce and then is packed with lots of roasted veggies like spinach, zucchini and mushrooms plus anchovies and thinly sliced chorizo (I don’t like peperoni).  The top is latticed with red peppers and sliced olives and sprinkled with grated cheese.   It is like eating antipasti in a nice hand-held package.

My husband has a purist version with sausage, mushrooms, and cheese. over a base layer of mozzarella and tomato sauce. Yours might include onion, green peppers, olives, spinach, pepperoni and sausage or any combination above.  Think about things you like in lasagna.   Or make a cheeseburger-inspired version layered with sauce, cooked ground meat, caramelized onions, cheesey layers of cheddar or blue cheese and roasted peppers.  Or check out an online menu from one of the many deep dish pizza restaurants in Chicago for inspiration.  After our first two, our next will be filled with layers of cheddar, ground turkey chili, black beans and salsa with a garnish of olives, sour cream and cilantro.  A chili  pie.

You can use either the very simple and light Bisquick-based dough recipe   or the biscuity dough recipe from King Arthur Flour for your pie base. 

These are  light, easy to work doughs that won’t overwhelm you, even if you have not made pizza or bread dough before.  It will remind you of  bread dough more than a pizza dough.  I recommend the Bisquick version for the busy.  You can even use biscuit dough but try not to use regular pizza dough.  

This recipe serves about 6-8 people.    It makes enough for two 9” pizzas baked in cake pans or one really large pan.  Try baking it in a large cheesecake pan that will allow you to pull the sides away to cut wedges with ease.  You could also use cast iron pans.  We liked the variety of a meat and a vegetable pie that two 9-inch cake pans provided.  If you are in a household with a serious deep dish versus flat pizza issue, bake this in a square or rectangular baking dish. Whatever you bake it in, lightly oil the pan.

Italian Pie
dough for two 9-inch cake pans (see recipe links above)
2 cups chunky tomato sauce (1 1/4 cups if smooth)
6-8 ounces thinly slice mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Filling layers: about 2 cups per pie placed in layers
Meat Lovers: Cooked Italian sausage, sliced pepperoni. sauteed mushrooms,  extra mozzarella
Antipasti: steamed spinach (1/2 cup), sliced sauteed zucchini (1 medium), sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, sliced Italian salami, drained marinated artichokes, olives, etc

  1. Once your dough is ready, press it into the pans and up along the sides.  King Arthur recommends baking the dough for 10 minutes at 425˚F before layering in the fillings.  Just like you pre-bake a dessert pie crust for certain soft fillings.  You can skip this step for the Bisquick version. 
  2. Start with a thin layer of cheese then sauce and customize your pizza layers from there.  Finish with more sauce and cheese.  Layering is important.  Plan to layer chunkier ingredients like broccoli and olives between strips or slices of roasted veggies, thinly sliced meats or cheese.  The layers will make the dish look good when sliced and provides contrast in every bite.  
  3. Bake your pizza pot pie for about 30-40 minutes, a few minutes less for smaller baking dishes.   It is done when the outside dough is browned and a knife inserted comes out steaming.  A thermometer stuck into the middle of the baking vessel but not touching the bottom should read 140˚F. 
Let your Italian Pie rest about 10 minutes before slicing.  It will hold together better.  Serve with a crisp salad.  These pies (especially the antipasti one) can be served at room temperature and reheat well the next day. 

Italians have been stuffing and topping dough for centuries.  Calzones, leftover spaghetti pie, eggplant timbales, even bruschetta with chunky toppings are related.  Give a pizza pot pie --deep dish pizza-- a try.  Call it what you want but make it with pure ingredients and you will be happy. 

Chicagoans: What if someone handed you a snack on freshly baked flatbread that had a lot in common with grilled cheese and tomato? …..