Tuesday, September 2, 2014

pizza sfoglia

Pizza Sfoglia
Zia Vincenza and I made a pizza sfoglia in my grandmother's old house. The house was locked up ever since 2009 when the earthquake took place in l'Aquila. It hasn't fallen apart, but nearly. Its kitchen, reign of the women in our family, strangely remained intact. It felt good to open the window and welcome the light back in.

After so many years, stepping into nonna's house touched me with a profound sense of emptiness that I still carry with me today.  Certainly not what we were used to when each summer, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents filled the house with laughs and good hearty meals. Nonetheless, in all its empitness, those memories are still there. Alive. Echoing across the walls, and now cracks of a home that was once our little kingdom of happy summer days.  

The women I've lost in my life, including my dear mother, were all there, in that very kitchen and in that very moment when zia Vincenza and I were making the pizza sfoglia.  I don't know why, but I felt they were there. Had it been the nostalgic feeling, or the consciousness of how time flies so quickly, I felt, in a moment of bliss, that they were all there.  I like to believe it's true.  I feel good if I believe it's true. I hope I'm not a lunatic :)
Pizza Sfoglia
Pizza Sfoglia
So this summer, I convinced my 92 year old aunt to teach me how to make pizza sfoglia in the kitchen where my nonna used to make hers. The task wasn't as easy as you may think. She doesn't go by the book, forget about the dose, it will never be the exact same. It's all by the eye, with the exception of a handful of this, a little bit of that, accompanied by a brief comment of encouragement "with some practice you'll get it right".  

If there's a food I can say that marks a memory in my childhood, this is probably it.  I grew up with this pizza sfoglia, first in Toronto with Zia Angelina's version, my grandmother's sister. Then, when I moved to Italy, it was my grandmother's version, and when she passed away, it was Zia Vincenza's version, my grandmother's cousin.  That's the history.  

All versions were good but also different at the same time.  I think it's that "handful of this and that" thing that gave the personal touch.
Pizza Sfoglia
Pizza SfogliaPizza Sfoglia
This traditional pizza sfoglia has origins in Campotosto, far back in time.  Nonna Elvira, my grandmother, always said, that her grandmother used to make it, so I'm guessing waaaaay back in time.  It's something you can't buy in a store, you need to have a grandmother from Campotosto that makes one for you. Uh!...or a friend like me, that can teach you how  :))

It was nice to see this little 92 years old lady, knead the dough with all her strength, just to show me how to make a pizza sfoglia. Thank you zia.  Pizza Sfoglia
What makes this pizza sfoglia so good is the use of lard, it can't be substituted in any way, it won't have the same flakiness and crispiness.  It will lose fragrance and the aroma will change.  I tried to make a healthier version using olive oil, it was a waste of time.  

Serve when it is warm, not hot, not cold.  It needs to rest about 10 minutes from when it is removed from the oven.

Don't cut it with a knife, break it with your hands.  Don't ask why.

Serve with anything that's cheese and cold cuts.  Typically it's served with pecorino cheese and mortadella from Campotosto.

Recipe - Pizza Sfoglia di Zia Vincenza 

500g flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup of melted lard (shortening)
1 tbsp olive oil
a cup of cold water

Make a well in the flour and add the salt, olive oil, baking powder and a few tablespoons of cold water, add the water a little at a time, enough to gather the flour and form a dough similar to a pasta dough.  Knead until elastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in 8 pieces and roll out each piece with a pasta machine. Make 8 thin strips.

Lay each strip on the your working surface, slightly overlapping the edges of each so to form one full sheet.  Pour the melted lard on the pasta sheet and with a pastry brush spread the lard on the whole surface.

Roll the sheet longwise starting from the edge closer to you. Roll to form a cylinder shape, like a long snake.  Hold the cylinder shaped dough on each end and twist. Roll it once again, this time inwards, to form a flat spiral. Lightly poke with a fork, brush some more lard on the surface.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 30 minutes or until lightly golden.


  1. This is such a lovely, poignant post, Elvira. I know that feeling of being in the kitchen and feeling the presence of others who are long gone. Beautiful, words and pictures. Thanks for sharing the recipe and the story.

  2. This is probably your best post ever....Even more than the ones with lil chubby...Maybe because I am so close to what you wrote....I am touched :-)

  3. Se ti dico di essermi commossa per i ricordi che hai condiviso con questo post non esagero! So bene cosa è successo a L'Aquila e il tempo non ha cancellato le brutte sensazioni e la paura dopo il terremoto.... ed è così vero che a volte un luogo, una stanza oppure un semplice oggetto sono in grado di farci sentire vicino un proprio caro, come se fosse lì con noi.... davvero bello Elvira questo post, davvero! Così come le foto (mi piacciono tutte) Un abbraccio

  4. Such a beautiful post my friend! I know all about "quanto basta", I cook like that most of the time! ;) I will definitely have to try this. Xoxo

    1. A Chef like you knows what she's doing! Thank you sweets xxoo

  5. Che tenerezza queste parole... E le foto sono anche bellissime! Ricorda, sono angeli, e vegliano su di noi

    1. Grazie Eleonora. So bene quanto apprezzi le tradizioni e le cose semplici. Ti seguo molto su instagram, sai?! :) E visto che ognitanto fai delle capatine in Abruzzo, devi assolutamente passare per Campotosto. Li' troverai un bellissimo lago, alte montagne, ricotta fresca, mortadelle di Campotosto e una piccola bottega...dove c'e una talentuosa ragazza che fa la tessitrice con un telaio antico. Cresce e raccoglie il lino, lo fila, tinge i tessuti con erbe, fiori e frutti. Insomma, ti piacera' xxoo

  6. What a lovely experience. You'll remember it as long as you live.

  7. What a touching story and wonderful recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Mi hanno davvero commosso sia le parole che le fotografie di questo bellissimo post!
    Stasera ti ho scoperta così per caso e penso proprio continuerò a seguirti con molto piacere!

    un caro saluto

    1. Ciao Iulia!
      Sono felice che tua sia passata di qui. Spero ti continuerà a piacere questo mio piccolo spazio. A presto :)