UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Italian Cooking: Pizza

Buon Appetito! For all intents and purposes, this is our Italian final. The fire in the pizza oven on the patio pops and crackles, echoing in the snowy winter night. We are working the dough. Flattening it out, pressing from the pads of our fingers and rotating it in the air. We coax the dough into the correct form, adding a tear here and there and repairing holes by pinching the dough together before our professor notices.

Next is the sauce. We swirl the tomato sauce from the center to the outer edges of the raw crust. A drizzle of olive oil follows the path. The toppings follow suit, the pizza are aesthetically covered with chopped cherry tomatoes, perfect bundles of prosciutto, and a mountain of mozzarella. The house is warm and cozy with music playing that switches back and forth between English, Italian, and those that are a mix of both. We chat in Italian about our college experience and our after-graduation plans as our pizza toppings climb towards the ceiling.

Soon, we will be outside tending to our pizzas as they bake in the hot licks of flame. We learn how to slide the pizza in smoothly, without damage, rotate it when one side needs more heat, and how to tell when it is done. Two black labradors wiggle and dance enthusiastically between us, receiving pets and ear scratches. This part is exciting but it’s really what comes after that we are looking forward to, the final part of the final exam: mangia!

Unlike pasta, there is no official technique with eating pizza, which opens us up to a variety of options. Some people like to eat the pizza with a knife and fork, some fold it in the center like a taco, some eat it from end to crust, and some leaves the crusts behind, considering them more utilitarian than food. For our class, the technique was to devour the perfect steaming heaps of prosciutto, crisp baked dough, melted mozzarella, and toasty tomatoes. So, excited to eat, we almost forgot the most important part of the exam… il parmigiano! After adding a good dash a parmesan, it’s easy to wish all finals could be so delicious. Mangia tutti!