Take it Straight from an Italian Girl… Bread and Pizza Dough

My daughter-in-law comes from a large Italian family. When I watched her whip up a loaf of fresh bread, I was taken back by the ease at which she went about it. It was a hot summer day, so she would have no problem with the yeast rising. We went hiking in the Arboretum while the dough rose and when we got home, she stuck it in the oven. We had fresh bread for dinner.

When I bake bread, I make four loaves. It is a big deal and consumes a lot of my day and my time. But today, when I pulled out an Italian cookbook and looked up pizza, I found my answer. The recipe calls for one cup of warm water and one pound of flour. I looked up the equivalent of one pound of flour and found that it was only two cups. I got out a big wooden bowl and prepared the dough. It was so much easier than the eight cups of flour I usually have spilled over my kitchen counter. The recipe was for pizza dough but I can use the same simple recipe for making one little loaf of bread at a time. Here’s the pizza recipe:

2 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cake yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast granules

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl mix the salt, yeast, honey, olive oil and lukewarm water. (I used a rubber spatula.) Add the flour. Mix and knead it for about fifteen minutes. Shape it into a ball and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set it in a warm spot on your counter for about three hours until it doubles in size.

After it has risen, oil a cookie sheet (or pizza pan if you have it) and spread the dough onto it. Add your toppings, sauce and cheese and bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you like it browned, lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake another ten to fifteen minutes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Minestrone Soup… Also Called Italian Vegetable Soup

When I was young my father always took us to the best Italian restaurants. One of my favorite dishes was hot Minestrone soup. The red beans and saute’d onions cooked in fresh tomatoes along with other vegetables and topped with grated Parmesan cheese … well, makes my mouth water just thinking of it. Here are the ingredients that you need to make a great Italian vegetable soup:

dried beans (my favorite are red beans)

olive oil for sauteing herbs and spices: garlic, onions, green and red pepper, celery, parsley, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and a little salt.

Vegetables like cooked potatoes, zucchini, cabbage and of course those fresh tomatoes I mentioned above.

You’ll need to soak and cook your favorite beans, using lots of water. You’ll saute your herbs and spices separately. Drain the beans after they have been cooked, leaving enough liquid for the vegetables to cook in and to have a soupy consistency, being careful not to dilute the flavor with too much water. Throw a huge spoonful of cooked macaroni in with the beans and veggies (one cup each vegetable) and add the herbs and spices. Simmer long enough to cook the vegetables. I suggest you let it cool then put it in the refrigerator overnight, it will be much tastier the next day. After reheating, don’t forget to add the Parmesan cheese on top unless you’re going Vegan.  Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:


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