Our last leisurely family dinner before school goes back this week. A very special Neapolitan treat. Pizzette Fritte. Flash fried rounds of pizza dough topped with a simple tomato, oil and basil sugo and a sprinkling of mozzarella or grated Parmigiano cheese. Legend has it that this is how the very first ever pizzas were made. Back in the day when food was scarce and money was even scarcer, necessity was the mother of invention. The resourceful nona’s and mama’s of Naples most likely served pizzette fritte straight from their frying pans. Without sauce or cheese. Just a sprinkling of salt. True cucina povera.
They may have their roots in more frugal times but pizzette fritte are the lightest, crispiest pizzas I’ve ever eaten. Best served straight away. Hot from the grill. With any number of combinations of delicious toppings. Tonight I served my pizzette with a simple sugo and mozzarella topping. It didn’t take long for the hordes to descend upon a huge platter of these delicious morsels. A real crowd pleaser.
Fortunately pizzette fritte are quite straight forward to put together. All that is needed is a quantity of pizza dough, a tin of tomatoes, some aromatics and a little cheese. It is no coincidence that the best recipes always use the simplest ingredients. For my pizza bases I departed from tradition and used Annabel Langbein’s impossibly fluffy Flat Bread recipe. It’s one of my newest discoveries and worked incredibly well in these pizzette. For the purists I have included a link to a fabulous and more traditional pizza dough recipe I have used for decades. Although something tells me that Annabel’s recipe is going to become something of a stalwart in our house. We celebrated the start of these school holidays with pizza and focaccia made using her Flat Bread recipe and here we are revisiting the recipe again, albeit in a slightly different form, as we mark the return to school.
And all those scraps of leftover pizza dough? I gathered them together and shaped them into golf sized balls. Fried them in oil and dusted them with cinnamon and sugar as any thrifty Italian mama would do. Instant doughnuts. In the eyes of my children I was the best mum in the world.
Pizette Fritte. Fried Miniature Pizzas.
For the Topping
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
400 ml diced tomatoes, tinned
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1 generous pinch of sugar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
mozzarella, sliced or coarsely grated
PREPARE the pizza dough according to your preferred recipe. Allow to prove until it has doubled in size.
WHILE the dough rests, prepare the tomato sauce topping. Sauté the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt in extra virgin olive oil. When soft and translucent add tomatoes and sugar. Cover and cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the basil and set aside.
ROLL or stretch the rested pizza dough on a floured bench until it is about 1 cm thick.
USING a glass tumbler or 8 cm biscuit cutter stamp out circles from the dough. The flat bread pizza dough made about 40 pizzette.
PLACE circles of dough on baking paper lined trays. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes.
POUR about 2 cm of olive oil into a deep fry pan or wok. Heat oil. To test if hot enough break off a small piece of dough. If it immediately begins to sizzle and brown, the oil is ready. Do not heat the oil to smoking point. The pizzette will brown too quickly and may burn.
CAREFULLY lower 4 or 5 circles of dough into the hot oil at a time. Within a few seconds they will puff up and bubble. When golden, turn and cook other side. Remove and drain on paper. Cook the remaining pizzette in batches.
TOP fried pizzette with tomato sauce and mozzarella while still warm. Transfer to an oven tray and place under a hot grill until the cheese bubbles and melts. Serve immediately.