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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Pizza ai Frutti di Mare #FoodieReads

I decided to make a seafood-topped pizza after reading the sixth Armstrong and Oscar Cozy Mystery, Murder at the Leaning Tower. Then I realized that I hadn't mentioned anything about the previous five book in this series by T A Williams. And given that these are set in Italy, there is quite a bit of food to inspire me. So, here we go...



On the Page

In Murder in Tuscany, recently retired DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Dan Armstrong is in Tuscany to attend a creative writing course. After the instructor turns up murdered, Armstrong teams up with Commissario Virgilio Pisano to solve the case. And, by the end of the book, Armstrong inherits a dog - Oscar -, decides to settle in the suburbs of Florence, and hangs his shingle as a private investigator.


Through the course of the series, he crisscrosses Tuscany, solving murders in Murder in Chianti, Murder in Florence, Murder in Siena, and Murder at the Leaning Tower. Murder at the Matterhorn takes Armstrong and Oscar to Northern Italy where they are searching for the murderer of a UFO enthusiast.


These cozy mysteries live up to their name. They are breezy reads that you can read while curled up in front of the fireplace in a single afternoon. The characters are fun and I am looking forward to the seventh installment of the investigator and his dog's adventures, Murder on the Italian Riviera, which will be released just before my birthday in May.


As I mentioned, because these books are set in Italy, there is a lot of Italian food on the pages.


"The meal was excellent. It started with a selection of traditional Tuscan antipasti including bruschetta: slices of white bread topped with luscious chopped tomatoes smothered in thick green olive oil. Along with this was hand-carved cured ham and orange-fleshed melon from the garden. I suddenly realised how hungry I was after only a cup of tea and a Kit Kat on the flight over, and I tucked in with gusto. This was followed by panzanella: a salad made of a mixture of tomatoes, cucumber, onions and what Maria told me was stale bread, all soaked in olive oil and wine vinegar. Straight from the fridge, this was pleasantly refreshing. The main course was roast lamb accompanied by little cubes of potato roasted with rosemary. Finally, Antonio presented us with a fruit salad made up of peaches, apricots, strawberries, and other fruits from the villa’s own gardens, accompanied by succulent little meringues and sumptuous vanilla ice cream that tasted homemade. It was a terrific meal" (pg. 35, Murder in Tuscany).


"In true Tuscan tradition, there was a pasta course of pappardelle alla lepre – and the pasta and the rich gamey sauce were miraculously still hot when they reached us – and this was followed by cold chicken with a mixed salad of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and local pecorino cheese. Finally there were slices of traditional Castagnaccio tart, made with chestnut flour, raisins, and pine nuts and flavoured with rosemary." (Murder in Chianti)


"...the restaurateur insisted on giving everybody a taste of his special gnudi. These weird green gnocchi were completely new to me, and Virgilio explained that they were made using spinach and ricotta, but with semolina instead of potato. The little dumplings were about the size of Brussels sprouts and were tasty but immensely filling." (Murder in Siena)


On the Plate


But the passage that inspired me to the kitchen was this one from Murder at the Leaning Tower. "Although Anna offered to prepare food – she had already sampled my attempts at cooking and had very sensibly taken over most of the duties in the kitchen as a result – I insisted on taking her out for a pizza. We went to our familiar pizzeria, in a tiny piazza just across the Arno...I ordered a pizza ai frutti di mare while Anna opted for a mixed salad with prawns and olives."


I made a clam-topped pizza, but I have shared pizza topped with octopus before.


Ingredients


Crust

  • 1 cup sourdough starter, unfed/discard

  • 1 cup sourdough starter, recently fed (within 8 hours)

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 5 cups flour plus more for kneading

  • oil for the bowl


Toppings

  • fresh mozzarella

  • shaved or grated pecorino

  • smoked baby clams

  • cubed pancetta

  • fresh clams, scrubbed clean and dried

  • fresh herbs


Procedure


Crust

Place starters and water into a large mixing bowl. Stir gently to get rid of any lumps from the unfed starter; mine is always a thick lump. Spoon the yeast over the top and let bloom for 10 minutes. Add in the flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon to combine to a shaggy dough like the photo above.


Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic. Mine takes about 10 minutes of kneading.


Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise for as long as you can - or at least until it's doubled in size. I usually do my dough before I go to work and leave it till dinner time, so about 8 or 9 hours.


When you're ready to cook, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut your dough into six pieces. Hand-stretch the dough into a round shape and place it on a baking stone. Or, if you have someone more adventurous, you can toss them. 



Sprinkle the grated asiago onto the crust. Scatter smoked clams and pancetta cubes over the top. Place a few fresh mozzarella rounds, then nestle three fresh clams into the toppings. 


Place pizza in the oven for 16 to 18 minutes. You want the crust crisped and browned and the cheese gooey and melted. The clams should be open at this point. Top with fresh herbs and serve hot.


 I am adding this to the February #FoodieReads link-up.

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Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
Feb 23

I am two books behind. Three if we count the one due to be released. I need to get these ordered up. Thanks for the reminder. They are fun, breezy, easy reads.

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