The word pizza in Italian has a broader meaning than it does in English. Besides the savory disk we all know and love, it also refers to both savory and sweet confections that we would likely call ‘pies’ in English, including Angelina’s pizza dolce, which doesn’t even have a crust. Then there’s the classic pizza rustica, usually made for Easter, filled with cheeses and cured meats. One particularly good variation on the theme is the pizza di scarola, or escarole pie. It is, quite simply, a nice batch of scarola aglio e olio, with ‘the works’—olives, capers, anchovies, pine nuts and raisins—laid between two layers of pizza dough and baked in a moderate hot oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown. This pizza is associated with Christmas Eve dinner in Naples (which is meatless) but it’s so good you’ll want to have it all year ’round.
We’ve gone over the components for this dish before, in other guises, so our recipe can be quite short today:
Makes one pizza, enough to serve 4-6 as an appetizer or snack or as part of a buffet
Take half of the pizza dough and lay it out as flat as you can in a well-greased pie plate, making sure to cover the entire bottom and (if you can) the sides as well.
Spoon the sautéed escarole on top of the dough, making sure to leave a border of at least 3cm/1 in all around the edges.
Flatten out the other half of the dough into a roughly round disk, and lay it over the escarole. With your fingers, attach the edges of the bottom and top rounds of dough, squeezing and twisting the dough to seal it well.
Oil the top of your ‘pie’ and prick it with a sharp knife to make some air holes.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (190C/375F) for a good 30-45 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden brown. Let the pizza cool before eating it; it taste best either slightly warm or room temperature. It tastes fine made ahead of time as well.
The traditional recipe for pizza di scarola actually calls for unleavened dough rather than pizza dough. I really like using pizza dough, which is quite common these days, but if you want to try the original, mix 300g (10-1/2oz) flour with 30g (1-1/2 oz.) of lard, salt, pepper and the add enough warm water to make a dough. Then proceed as above. Some sources even indicate that the dough should be slightly sweet, with a bit a sugar added to the dough.
In her classic La cucina napoletana, Jeanne Caròla Francesconi, has a recipe for pizza di scarola, also called Gattò di scarola from the incomparable Ippolito Cavalcanti, perhaps the most famous Neapolitan chef of the 19th century. His version has no dough at all. It consists of mackerel fillets braised in tomato sauce with olive and capers, baked between two layers of escarole sautéed aglio e olio style, with anchovies, then topped with breadcrumbs. Sounds delicious—and it illustrates perfectly how flexible the term pizza really can be.