It’s the season of parties – graduation parties, children’s parties, block parties, and, as Stefano reminds me, his upcoming birthday party. It’s not until September, but we are already planning for it since he is turning 40 and, he says, he wants it to be memorable.
When we threw parties in Italy, we would place an order at our favorite neighborhood pasticceria. We’d choose an array of cream filled pasticcini mignon, delicate triangle-shaped sandwiches made from white bread with the crusts removed called tramezzini, and an assortment savory rustici salati. Included in the rustici salati were pizzette, or bite-sized little pizzas with a variety of simple toppings. Upon arriving home, we could never resist sneaking a few of the pizzette before the party began.
While nothing compares to the pizzette from an Italian pasticceria, very good pizzette can be made, really quite simply, right at home.
Before we jump into the how-to, however, there is a confession to be had. Not everything in this recipe is made from scratch. These pizzette are made from puff pastry, which one could try to make, if one really wanted to. But who really wants to? One recipe we saw warns that it is a three-day process. While that sounds like a fun adventure some time, it’s not particularly practical, and we opted instead for the puff pastry that Pepperidge Farm sells in convenient frozen sheets and that work just perfectly for pizzette.
As much as we love to cook and bake, and as much as we appreciate home cooking with fresh natural ingredients, we are also adults with day jobs and other responsibilities. If you are like us, once in a while it’s okay to accept some help, this time in the form of ready-made puff pastry.
The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, puts it best in her book entitled Parties!:
“I can’t say enough about assembling food rather than cooking. I keep telling myself that my friends won’t have any more fun if I spend two days making a daquoise for dessert than if I find a delicious pound cake at a bakery and serve it with store-bought lemon curd and fresh raspberries. In fact, they’ll have more fun, because I’m relaxed and having fun, too.”
We brought pizzette to our block party tonight, and they were devoured within minutes. We’ll make them again for Stefano’s 40th birthday party, and undoubtedly the same thing will happen. We will use store-bought puff pastry each time, knowing that they will turn out great, and that we’ll enjoy each party to its fullest, just as Ina says.
1 box (2 sheets) of frozen puff pastry
1 small can or tube of tomato paste
Optional: fresh mozzarella, anchovies
Allow puff pastry to thaw. Unfold the pastry sheets onto work surface, and with a small, round cookie cutter with a 2″-3″ diameter, cut out little pizza shapes and set them onto a baking tray. If you do not have a round cookie cutter, a small glass or a mason jar lid will work fine.
Place a small dab of tomato paste in the center of each pizzette, and with your finger or the back of a small spoon, spread the paste around the center without reaching the edges. You only require about 1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. of paste for each pizzetta, depending on their size. Too much paste will weigh down the pizzette and not allow the puff pastry to rise while cooking.
Using a cooking brush, spread a light layer of olive oil over each pizzetta, again using caution to not overdo with too much oil. Next, toss a light layer of salt over the pizzette, and consider how you wish to complete the toppings.
For classic pizzette, sprinkle dried oregano on top. Alternatively, you may add a small piece of anchovy to the top of the pizzette and then the oregano. Or, some people prefer to omit the oregano and add a few small pieces of fresh mozzarella on top. If you opt for the mozzarella, it’s best to use a denser, less liquid cheese, and very small pieces on top of the pizzette, again so that the puff pastry can still rise in the oven.
Bake at 400° F for approximately 8 minutes, or until the pizzette have risen and are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes; the pizzette will fall slightly. Use a spatula to carefully remove them from the baking tray.
Makes approximately 20-24 pizzette