Review by Bageshree Blasius, for EatingWell May/June 2009
This is a delicious guide to Italian cooking for those who thought that pizza, pasta and breads were off limits! As a diagnosed celiac and optimist, Capone explored the many foods she could still enjoy from her ancestral heritage and realized that gnocchi and tiramisù could be altered to suit her gluten-free lifestyle. The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook reflects Capone’s desire to connect with her roots and pass on family recipes, such as biscotti and risotto. The book provides helpful pantry and storage tips and includes an informative section on healthy fats. For a satisfying and flavorful experience, try Raven’s Pizza Pie with an herbed focaccia crust and sausage and sun-dried tomato topping. Although the crust was softer than traditional pizza crust, our tasters agreed that the pizza was delicious and a good substitute for pizza made with wheat flour.
Raven’s Pizza Pie
My daughter Raven created this rustic pizza which is a combination of her favorite ingredients. After the first bite, the family’s only response was, “Yum!”. Roasted peppers, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, sundried tomatoes, a little cheese and splash of sauce blend together to create a mouthwatering old world peasant dish fit for a queen. (Recipe excerpted with permission from The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook: Classic Cuisine from the Italian Countryside by Mary Capone; The Wheat-Free Gourmet Press, 2008; www.wheatfreegourmet.com.)
Add to one Focaccia recipe of your choice (see Focaccia recipe, below)
2 TBL olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, sliced
1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casing removed
2 red, orange or yellow peppers, roasted and peeled (see How to Roast Peppers, below)
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, hydrated and sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup Capone’s Marinara Sauce (see recipe, below) or tomato sauce of your choosing
1 TBL fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix It Up
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease a pizza pan.
2. Prepare focaccia dough. Transfer dough to the baking sheet, and shape in rectangular or round shape 1/4–1/2" thick. Place in a warm area to rise for 30-40 minutes. Dough will almost double in size. If using a warming oven, place inside uncovered, making sure temperature is not greater than 80 degrees.
3. In a large skillet, add oil, garlic and onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add sausage, salt and pepper; cook until brown, about 7-10 minutes. Break up sausage with the spatula into bite size pieces.
4. Prepare roasted peppers and sun dried tomatoes.
5. Ladle marinara sauce over the top of risen focaccia dough. Add cheese and sausage and onion mixture. Arrange sun dried tomato slices and roasted peppers. Sprinkle with parsley.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Makes one 14" pizza. (Serves 4.)
This pizza is great without cheese if lactose or casein is a problem. Buying the peppers and sundried tomatoes already prepared makes this a super easy supper.
Focaccia (Italian Flatbread)
This Italian flat bread is a great companion to any meal. It’s easy to make, and the dough is quite forgiving. In this recipe, I have added nutritious chickpea flour. Serve it with a saucer of olive oil mixed with salt and pepper or a bowl of sauce for dipping. It is my favorite recipe for pizza crust. The recipe can be doubled easily to make a larger loaf.
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp quick-rising yeast
3/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
3 TBL olive oil
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp fresh rosemary, basil, or oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
Mix It Up
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.
2. In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir just until dissolved. Cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside in warm area for 10 minutes. Mixture will form a foam head about 3/4".
3. If using a food processor, add all dry ingredients: flours, potato starch, xanthan gum and salt, directly into the processor bowl. Blend in processor, about 1 minute. If using a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, and whisk together until well combined.
4. In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, eggs, and vinegar until blended. Add egg mixture and yeast mixture to dry ingredients; mix just until combined.
5. Blend dough in a food processor for 2-3 minutes. Dough will be sticky and soft. Add the ingredients for a focaccia variation at this point, and gently pulse or mix.
6. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula or your hands dipped in water or olive oil, shape dough into a rectangle or round shape about 1" thick for focaccia and 1/4" thick for pizza. Place covered in a warm draft-free area, or uncovered in a warming oven, and let rise 40 minutes. Dough should double in size.
7. Preheat oven 400 degrees. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt. Add your choice of seasoning, fresh herbs, or your favorite toppings. Bake 20–25 minutes or until light brown and crusty.
Makes one 9" loaf
Focaccia (Italian Flatbread Variations)
This Italian flat bread makes a great pizza crust. Simply follow the recipe for plain focaccia or any of the following variations, and shape the dough into a rectangular or round shape about 1/4–1/2" thick. When shaping your dough, make a small lip at the edge of the crust to keep you toppings from spilling over. Remember, your dough will almost double in size so you can stretch it pretty thin. Add your favorite toppings to the risen dough.
Parmesan Cheese Oregano Focaccia
Add 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese and 2 TBL chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt and 2 TBL Parmesan cheese.
Focaccia with Rosemary and Olives
Add 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary and 1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped, such as calamata or Italian olives in oil. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt.
How to Roast Peppers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease. Brush peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper, and lay skin side down on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn peppers and bake for another 10 minutes or until the peppers are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool.
This recipe has been in my family for generations. In my grandfather’s day, they harvested their tomatoes from yard-sized gardens, blanched them (removing the skins and seeds) and diced them fine to create this basis sauce. Today, with the help of my brother Mark’s recipe, I have substituted good whole tomatoes from a can to achieve a wonderful and very similar flavor. Making a great marinara sauce is an essential base for all tomato sauces. Many variations can happen from there.
2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes in basil
2 TBL fresh basil, chopped
1 TBL fresh oregano, chopped
1 TBL sugar
1/4 tsp or more salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Mix It Up
1. Run tomatoes through a food mill to remove skin and seeds, or push by hand through a colander, into a 6-quart sauce pan. Discard the tomato pulp left in the food mill or colander.
2. Warm tomatoes on medium heat, and add basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer until bubbles appear, releasing the water from the tomatoes and creating a paste. Cook 20 minutes or until the tomato sauce resembles a thin oatmeal. Stir frequently and do not overcook. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly, for example: add more herbs for more flavor, if it is too sweet add a pinch of salt and pepper, if it is too salty add a pinch of sugar.
3. In a small pan, heat oil and add minced garlic. Coo until lightly brown or just beginning to color. Add the oil and garlic to your sauce and stir.
Makes 4-6 servings