The Italian heritage is very strong here in the French Riviera. Nice was part of Italy just 150 years ago and many Italians have continued to migrate to the region ever since.
And Yes, I am one of many!
It is amazing how many last names in the region are of Italian origins.
As a result, Italian lessons are very popular among the local French population and many are looking to learn more about the Italian culture and heritage.
Beside’s the heritage aspect, speaking a little Italian comes in handy when you venture out to the Italian market in Ventimiglia, for Italian flavours at Italian prices.
My friend Eliana is an Italian teacher here in the region. She is originally from Naples and as many Italians loves to cook.
Very often her students would ask questions about cooking, and as food is an integral part of the Italian culture, she decided to dedicate some of her lessons to teach about Italian cuisine.
The commune of Villeneuve Loubet couldn’t miss this opportunity and enrolled her to run 5 classes at their Professional Kitchen Classroom at the Mediathec Pole Culturel Auguste Escoffier: Eliana en Cuisine
Not surprising, the courses were all sold out within days!
Who could miss this opportunity of learning Italian while eating?
(if you can't, you will find more at the end of the article)
Each class is dedicated to an Italian region; she talks about the regional flavours and the history of their recipes.
First lesson “Cuisine Napolitane”, her hometown.
I couldn’t miss this opportunity and proposed to help out, just so I could attend her class and eat one of my favourite dishes: Pizza !!
The kitchen at the Pole Culturel Auguste Escoffier is magnificent, you feel you are in a Gordon Ramsey Master Class or at the British Bake off show.
6 cooking isles for the students, and the main isle for the teacher. The room is surrounded with glass windows opening into a theater for an audience to watch the class.
All set with their paper chef hats, the class starts.
Here are 10 golden nuggets we learned from Eliana:
1. Why fried pizza?
After the second world war, food was scarce. Many houses were destroyed and wooden ovens to cook the traditional pizza were scarce.
On the streets, some women started lighting up fires with large pans of frying oil and fried the pizza dough to earn some extra money.
So it started as street food and was very successful.
Here is how to make them.
2. How to make the dough
Eliana showed how to prepare the dough from scratch. It is exactly the same as the regular pizza dough.
Water at room temperature to dissolve the yeast, mix it with the flour and fold it.
The best flour to use is what here in France is called ‘Type 55’.
During the class, the students made the dough themselves, placing it in a bowl to rest covering it with a cloth.
But they did not use it!
3. Why did they not use it?
Eliana explained that the pizza dough should rest overnight;
If not, the pizza will keep rising in your stomach, giving a sense of heaviness and thirst!
The students on each isle had two prepared pizza dough from Leclerc (and the fresh mozzarella).
That is what they used to make the pizza during class, the other they brought back home to use the next day.
4. How we used it?
Eliana made 4 balls with the dough.
Covering them to rest for 30 minutes under a kitchen cloth.
In the meantime, the students prepared the tomato sauce with garlic and basil and let it simmer away.
While waiting for the dough to rise, Eliana moved to the Caprese Cake
5. What is the Caprese cake
The Caprese Cake is a flourless chocolate cake, where the flour is replaced by grated almonds.
It takes the name from the island off the coast of Naples, as does the salad. Its story, however, is a fortunate mistake!
The chef forgot the flour but the flavour was so good that it became very famous.
It was delicious, you will find the the recipe here below.
6. How to fry the pizza
Eliana flatten the balls into circles, with the centre thinner than the sides.
The pizza dough were placed into the frying oil and turned on each side for 2 minutes
7. How to serve it?
Once cooked, the pizzas were seasoned with the tomato sauce that was simmering, slices of fresh mozzarella and basil.
She then sprinkled them with fresh parmesan cheese.
They can be eaten immediately (which we did) or warmed up before serving
8. What else?
Beside the classic mozzarella tomatoes and basil, Eliana also cooked a Calzone with ricotta and cooked ham.
The pizza is filled with the ingredients, folded in half and fried in the hot oil.
The secret for a perfect calzone is to make sure all the air is taken out before frying it.
10. So why should you fry the pizza?
The advantage of frying the pizza is that it does not have to be eaten right away, like a pizza that has been cooked in a wooden oven.
You can warm it up in the oven just before you serve it.
In Naples, it is the perfect meal when the family is reunited to watch a football match.
They make it ahead of time and during half time, it is warmed up and served.
Would you like to know more about Italian cooking culture?
All the classes at the Pole Culturel Auguste Escoffier are fully booked but Eliana is organizing 2 extra classes for her students:
- Mardi 25 avril de 10H00 à 13H00: Boulettes à la ricotta et aux épinards – Pâtes et pommes de terre – Tiramisù 34€
- Samedi 29 avril de 16H30 à 19H30 : Médaillons d’aubergines – Risotto aux artichauts – Gâteau mimosa 36 €
If you don’t want to miss this opportunity email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime you can find the recipes below: