Guest post: Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza

Ciao a tutti! My name is Anna Larkin. I’m half Italian, half Irish, if my name alone didn’t already give that away. I’m good friends with Francesca and Gloria, and I am happy to contribute to their amazing new blog! I look forward to sharing many posts with you, and would like to start by telling you a little bit about myself. To start off, I’m a picky foodie. I understand that may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s true. “Foodie” because I love food, but there are also many foods and flavors I do not like (hence, “picky”). Some of these are olives, capers, blue cheese, anchovies, and parsley. However, I can tolerate these ingredients in small quantities; i.e. mild blue cheese dressing as an accompaniment to buffalo wings, or an anchovy flavor in a Caesar salad. 

I think I’ve always been pretty picky but according to my mom, my pickiness got worse after my year abroad in Bologna--the gastronomic capital of Italy, and, incidentally, where I first became friends with Francesca and Gloria. The deliciousness of Bolognese food was beyond anything I had ever tasted before, and have yet to taste since, though some meals have come mighty close. Thankfully New York City is full of great restaurants for us foodies, if you know where to look. In fact, Francesca and Gloria even visited me in New York, where I had the honor of introducing them to my favorite cupcake place--Magnolia Bakery. The vanilla-vanilla (vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream) cannot be beaten, but Gloria fell in love with the red velvet, which I have now come to appreciate as well. 

Going back to the whole, “Bologna has the best* food in the world so it’s been hard to find any Italian food that has come close to such perfection” thing, I do have to say that my mom and grandparents do make the best** Italian food. My grandparents are from Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, in southern Italy. Everything they make not only tastes delicious, but seems effortless. My family will routinely walk into my grandparents’ house, see nothing on the stove, and like magic, a three course meal will appear on the table. When it comes to Italian restaurants in New York, however, I prefer ones with a modern, unique twist, for example, Polpettina (literally, little meatball) in my town of Eastchester. I also love Mexican food (taco day in elementary school was always a good day), and I also love to modify recipes to make them my own. For example, I watch the culinary stars Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, and Giada DeLaurentiis on the Food Network the way an apprentice watches a surgeon perform--with focus, and with the intention to replicate the recipe in my own way. I also try and recreate recipes from my favorite restaurants. 

Remember “Polpettina?” Well, they make this amazing pizza with figs, goat cheese, arugula pesto, and pancetta--it’s easily their best pizza on the menu. I’ve made it at home several times with my sister, and I must say, it has a strong chance of beating Polpettina in a fig pizza throwdown. Finally, it is important that you know that I have a sweet tooth. (I guess taking Francesca and Gloria to Magnolia Bakery may have already revealed that fact, but I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.) I also love to make cupcakes of all kinds. My sister and I even started a small business making cupcakes and other baked goods. I recently had my first real order--a Communion cake for 50 people. Just learning how to make buttercream flowers took up a couple of my evenings, but it was so worth it, and I look forward to more orders as we expand our business. We are hoping to start selling at farmer’s markets this summer. 

In my future posts, I hope to share with you the wonderful food tour and restaurant experiences I have had, as well as some of my favorite recipes I like to create at home. I look forward to sharing with you! A presto!

*=best restaurant food
**=best home-cooked meals

1 ball of pizza dough
¼ cup fig spread
2 cups baby arugula
2 cloves garlic
¼ -½  cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces prosciutto, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 oz. goat cheese
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Honey, for drizzling
Prepare arugula pesto. You can use a blender, but I use my heavy duty mortar and pestle to do the job. Grind two cloves of garlic with the kosher salt using the pestle. Add the arugula a little at a time, along with a little olive oil, grinding it until it has a pesto consistency. Stir in the grated cheese.

Roll out pizza dough onto a greased sheet pan (you can use your favorite pizza dough recipe or simply buy it from the store). Spread the arugula pesto onto the dough, followed by the fig spread. You can use fresh figs instead of fig spread like Polpettina does, but I like the sweetness of the fig in each bite so I use the spread. Add pieces of prosciutto (or pancetta) and dollops of goat cheese. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, along with a light drizzle of olive oil.

Cook in a 425°F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Drizzle lightly with honey after removing from the oven. Mangia!


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