Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An education in pizza...that won't blow your waistline

If you thought all pizza was off-the-wagon when it comes to "healthy eating," think again. Just last week, I had the culinary pleasure of receiving a private pizza education from one of NYC's most esteemed Neopolitan masters, Roberto Caporuscio, the owner of Keste Pizzeria (271 Bleecker St).
Our afternoon of pizza schooling began with Roberto's historical run-down of pizza, it's origins and why
it's wrongly labelled as a calorie-laden food that can pack on the pounds:
- In the 16th century, pizza first came onto the scene in Naples after Spanish occupation. The original pizza, known as the "Mast'Nicola," was topped simply (and somewhat surprisingly) with lardo (bacon fat), pecorino romano cheese and basil. Obviously bacon fat in mass quantities isn't exactly a shining example of health, but keep reading. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
- In the 18th century, the infamous "Margherita" pizza was born, named after the queen of Spain at the time. The Margherita was and still is adorned with just basil and water buffalo mozzarella -- simple and delicious.
- The first official pizzeria in Naples opened in 1757 and the revolution took off from there. Today, according to Caporuscio, nearly 5,000 pizzerias exist in Naples -- a town of 2 million people. That's one pizzeria for nearly every 400 people! Neopolitans eat pizza like it's their job...an average of 4 times a week. How do they maintain their trim figures? Get ready for the health and nutrition SHOCKER with this American v. Neopolitan pizza comparison:
  • Average American 12" Margherita pizza = 1,600 calories (think your national chains, heavy, grease-stained, plasticy-cheese dripping pizza) all thanks to a much heavier dough which contributes more carbs and less protein (which means you're left hungry and may end up eating that much more). We all know what happens when you eat too much bread/bready products and it ain't pretty.
  • Average Neopolitan-style 12" Margherita pizza = 800 calories! That's a huge difference and makes for a much more reasonable and healthfully indulgent meal, particularly when you split the pizza and start with a salad. Why is Neopolitan pizza so much lighter? "It's all in the pizza," states Caporuscio. The best ingredients, the most simplistic and light/airy of doughs, fresh, quality toppings, the hands of a skilled pizza maker and finally, a hot, hot oven (it's imported from Naples and made from volcanic stone). Pizzas are cooked for a mere 45-60 seconds at over 800 degrees! To make their well-received pizzas, Keste starts with the dough, allowing it to rise at least 8 hours -- this allows the yeast to fully rise, gives the dough a more airy, light texture and keeps overall carbohydrates (and that lovely post-pizza bloated whale feeling) to a minimum. I had the chance to make my pizza and hand-flip the dough and it definitely takes a delicate, skilled hand. Too much kneading or pulling and you're left with a chewier, heavier dough.
Now for the good stuff...what to eat at Keste? Caporuscio delighted our taste buds with a tasting of Keste's most popular pizzas. First and foremost, the simple Margherita -- dough + fresh tomato sauce (just good quality canned, crushed tomatoes with a touch of salt) + a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.
Next up was the "Barolo" -- made with a robust wine-soaked
cheese, radicchio and grape seeds. Sounds like an odd combo, but wow. One slice of this pizza and that's really all you need - very rich, decadent and satisfying.
My favorite of the afternoon was Keste's special "Halloween" pizza made with butternut squash, a chestnutty-flavored cheese, thyme and buffalo mozzarella. Seriously amazing.

Caporuscio even gave us the scoop on his secret recipe for making pizza at home. Here's the basic dough recipe and measurements. Remember, the key here is letting it rise for at least 8 hours and then using the freshest of the fresh and best quality ingredients. Simple, fresh, healthful and incredibly tasty!

Keste's Homemade Pizza Dough
makes 10 - 12" balls of dough

1 liter water
3.78 lb flour *Caporuscio recommends the brand Antimo Caputo flour from Naples which can be purchased at Di Paolo's on Grand and Mott St.
2 oz salt
1 oz sugar
.17 oz yeast

mix all ingredients together, split into 10 balls and let that dough rise!

If you're still skeptical about how to fit pizza into the picture so you're getting a balanced, healthy meal, here's your go-to order:
Start with a salad to pack in greens/veggies and keep portions right on track. Depending on the size, 2 medium-sized slices of pizza (3 for dudes) and you should be perfectly full. Toss on some veggie toppings or go with fresh buffalo mozzarella (better quality cheese and generally less of it). If you're a pepperoni or sausage lover (I admit, I love good sausage), order on occasion - if it comes overflowing with meat, take some off so you can still indulge without going overboard on excess calories or driving up cholesterol levels!
The bottom line message driven home by Caporuscio (and surprise, one that you'll frequently find on this blog) is this: good quality, fresh, whole ingredients = great tasting AND healthful food. Plain and simple. Now go eat some good pizza!


Anonymous said...

Nice blog. For being healthy, that pizza looks amazing!

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