My Brilliant Friend

The Food

 Flatbread with Tomato Sauce, Burrata Cheese, and Fresh Herbs

As I devoured the novel My Brilliant Friend, of course looking for ‘food moments’ that I could riff on, I must say the amount of times that Elena ate pizza made an impression on me. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised however, as Naples is home to the world’s first pizzeria. Pizza Margherita is the classic, so with that in mind, and also with the memory of her trip into Naples with her father, when he bought her “…a pizza melting with ricotta,…” I decided to prepare a flatbread for our book club.

First things first, you will need a good pizza or flatbread dough. You can use my favourite fool-proof recipe here, or maybe you just want to dash out to your local Italian Bakery and buy a ball of dough to save some time. That’s what I did!

Assemble your ingredients. This time of year there is lots of fresh local garlic at the farmers’ market, juicy onions, fresh herbs, and even grape tomatoes. I like using passata for my tomato sauces, as it makes a great, simple, unadulterated base.

I’ve topped this pizza with Burrata, my new favourite cheese! It’s this incredible combination of fresh mozzarella-like cheese on the outside, and when you cut into it a creamy rich ricotta-like cheese just oozes out. It makes a wonderful topping to this flatbread.

Finish off the flatbread with a generous sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs. Seriously, chopped fresh herbs elevate pretty much any dish from simple to superb.

Flatbread with Tomato Sauce, Burrata Cheese and Fresh Herbs

1 pound (454 g) Fresh pizza dough

Sauce ingredients:

2 Tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon (15 mL) dried basil

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried crushed chili peppers

2 cups (500 mL) passata, strained tomato sauce

1 cup (250 mL) grape tomatoes, halved

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Topping ingredients:

2 Tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil for brushing edge of flatbread, plus some additional olive oil for drizzling over top of finished pizza

250 gram ball burrata cheese – sliced up just before using

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh herbs, try Italian parsley, basil, chives

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce: heat olive oil in saucepan set over medium high heat. Add the onion, cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic, lowering heat to medium, cook for another 2-3 minutes, then stir in basil and crushed chilies. Stir in the passata, bring the sauce to a boil, stir in the grape tomatoes. Remove from heat, season to taste, let sauce cool.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to heat up.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, divide pizza dough into quarters, then roll out each piece into rough rectangles.
  4. Brush off any excess flour and place each piece of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Brush the edges of the dough with some additional olive oil.
  5. Divide the sauce equally to top the four flatbreads. Either place the flatbreads on a baking sheet, or pop them on top of the hot pizza stone in your oven.
  6. Bake in hot oven for 12-15 minutes. The crust will raise somewhat and turn a delicious golden brown colour. Remove from oven.
  7. Immediately top with sliced up burrata cheese, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs, drizzle with olive oil.
  8. Serve immediately.

Variation: you can top the flatbread with pesto instead of tomato sauce if you’d like to change it up. Here’s a good recipe for pesto.

Makes 4 flatbreads

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At my book club we always serve an appetizer and a dessert. I can’t even attempt to make any of the Italian pastries served at Gigliola’s party : “there was an abundance of cream puffs, pastries with cassata filling, sfogliatelle, almond pastries,…” but I am a good shopper, and I picked up a box of gorgeous pastries from a local Italian bakery. I actually gave the list of pastries to the woman in the store and she assembled them for me. Here’s what they looked like: