At every birthday party I ever attended as a child, Italian mothers invariably served the same staples: salatini (tiny puff pastry rolls filled with either ham and cheese or anchovy paste); panettone salato (a dome-shaped tower of different sandwiches purchased at the pasticceria that had its monopoly for years); and my favorite, la pizzetta.
Pizzetta was also what my mother would shove in the oven on those rare occasions when there were no leftovers in the fridge and she had to go out for the evening. It couldn’t be simpler and my sister and I loved it. To this day, sometimes I crave it and make it, although, when I introduced it to my stepkids eons ago, neither was particularly impressed. Maybe it’s my Proustian madeleine.
I know that every Italian my age will recognize pizzetta instantly. I thought of it as I sat down to plan my birthday lunch menu – I will not be making it but, all of a sudden, I really wanted one.
As I was going through the web looking for a photo that resembled the pizzette of my youth, I realized that, while mothers all over are still making them, they have become really fancy: fresh basil, olives and all manners of other toppings. What we ate was really basic.
Top them with tomato sauce (or puree out of a can), a bit of mozzarella cut into small cubes, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkle of dried oregano. Drizzle with some olive oil and put in the oven until crisp.