Under the Tuscan Sun: 65 pizzas, 75 guests, and 2 tired pizzaioli

As we prep for the celebratory Pizza Party (to celebrate 20 years of Frances and Ed in Cortona), I find myself in the kitchen with a sweet Italian man named Ivan and his robust and big-hearted mother, Domenica, who live just up the gravel road at the “House of the Sun.” Together, we make pizza dough with “00” flour, a good dose of Bramasole olive oil, salt, and water. No measuring. I’ve been making pizza since my return from Parma a few weeks ago. But here, I realize, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Ivan’s method suits me better for I am a cook who prefers not to measure, who is always tempted by the last-minute handful of this, and pinch of that.

Ivan teaching me the \”feel\” of the dough

Frances Mayes and my mountain of pizza dough, Tuscany

Ivan, with one hand constantly in motion, gently turns the flour and water into a beautiful paste. We knead it, cover it and let it rise. After an hour or so, I help pinch out moonballs of dough. Mine are not as smooth as Ivan’s but he assures me that they’re perfect. “OH KAY. Very good.” He gives me thumbs up as we toss and turn and flatten the balls to top with everything from torn basil, whole sage leaves, rosemary, and caramelized onion to fresh Italian sausage and mozzarella. Domenica squeezes my arms, tossing flour about me like fairy dust. Ivan and his mother are wizards in the kitchen yet make me feel that one day, I, too, can know the secret.

the first pizzas of 65….

Someone announces the arrival of a whole roasted pig. The porchetta! Kids squeal at the sight of the whole head, snout, eyes and all. A Korean-Australian musician arrives as well as a chef from Los Angeles, friends from North Carolina, and villagers who have gathered to celebrate 20 years of Frances and Ed here in Cortona. About 75 guests in all. A few hours later, Ivan and I take a break and he tells me we have made 65 pizzas in just a few hours. I am sticky from sweating, the back of my dress covered in Domenica’s large floured hand prints. What a brava ragazza you are, he keeps telling me. No sleep and 65 pizzas. Brava. Brava.

tired and happy, Ivan and I take a break after making 65 pizzas in one afternoon

10 comments... read them below or add one


  1. July 12, 2010 10:12 pm by Pierino Reply

    Kim, I’m looking forward to the porchetta. I’ll share my own recipe with you sometime. I still have very fond memories of sandwiches from trucks in markets or outside football stadiums. Just sliced right off of a big old spitted pig and stuck in a roll.

  2. July 13, 2010 8:58 am by Suzy Reply

    Pizza looks great! I’d love to have the crust recipe.

  3. July 15, 2010 5:22 pm by Elissa Reply

    OK. Next time, I’m going in your suitcase.

  4. July 25, 2010 6:05 pm by Deb Miller Reply

    Just got the followup book to “Under the Tuscan Sun”
    Can’t wait to start it!
    That pizza looks so good!

  5. July 27, 2010 7:50 am by Seung Hee Reply

    Wow…that’s a lot of pizza…any secrets of fresh yummy sauce?

  6. July 27, 2010 8:03 pm by kim Reply

    The “fresh yummy sauce” is really nothing more than fresh tomatoes, good extra virgin oil, sea salt, and fresh herbs…sweet and simple.
    You have wonderful produce at the farmers markets right now, in DC. I was at Dupont the other day and found squash blossoms, donut peaches, gorgeous mushrooms….Indulge and enjoy.

  7. July 28, 2010 5:20 am by Deb Miller Reply

    After reading Every Day in Tuscany…I SOOO want to experience Italy! Aside from the food….that “beauty farm” sounds mighty tempting!
    And..I LOVED Frances’ take on the Ezra Pound quote…I will quote her now..”To fall into grooves already well worn may be comfortable, but it’s hard to rise over the edges of what you’ve fallen into.” That is exactly how I am attempting to live life…staying out of the grooves! LOVED it!

  8. July 29, 2010 7:00 am by Sally Reply

    mmmm, porchetta reminds me of breakfast at il gottino! Your photos, as usual, leave me drooling!

  9. July 29, 2010 7:33 am by Donna Reply

    So when you get home (yes, HOME), we’ll have to have a pizza party. Should I order flour from King Arthur? I know it won’t be the same, but I’m sure we can make do. Lord knows, we have plenty of wonderful tomatoes right now. Maybe we can make a porchetta pit in my backyard. . . .

  10. August 5, 2010 7:52 am by yon richner Reply

    beautiful photos, beautiful Kim Sunee and friends…

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