West Virginia Pizza and Dandelion Greens

Once upon a time, I made pizza every Saturday night.  Pizza was such a Saturday night tradition that on our two trips to Europe with our children, we had to find pizza on Saturday night – in England, Germany, France, and finally, two Saturdays in Norway.  Fortunately, pizza is an international food.  Later, life became too much, and we started getting take-out – never delivered – Robert went and got it.  This, however, caused Andy-our-neighbor-across-the-street (and indispensable friend) to kid us unmercifully about the delivery guy sneaking over the back fence to bring a “home-made” pizza.

Now that we are in West Virginia, an essential ingredient for traditional West Virginia pizza is easily available – Oliverio’s sweet peppers in tomato sauce.  (We used to carry jars back to wherever we were and hoard them.)  These are canned here in Clarksburg, the southern edge of the large northern West Virginia Italian community.  There are other brands of peppers, but these are closest to the ones Bobby Belcastro’s mother made.  I learned to make pizza from Bobby when we were college students.  He was from Fairmont, and on Sundays he would go home from WVU, come back with his mother’s canned peppers, and make pizza.

Homemade pizza is so simple, it hardly needs a recipe, but here is how I do it.


1 cup of whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast

Mix the salt and flour in a medium-size bowl.  Make a well in the flour and put in the yeast and water.  Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough gathers up in a ball.  Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes or more.  Knead briefly.  Put a little olive oil on a 9-inch pizza pan, turn the dough in it to coat, and leave it to relax a few minutes.  Stretch out to fill the pan.

Top with two cups of Oliverio’s sweet peppers in tomato sauce, Italian seasonings to your taste (I use basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, heavy on the oregano, which I think many commercial pizzas are short on), and 2 cups of shredded cheese – Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, whatever.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes.  This feeds the two of us with leftovers for lunch the next day, but your mileage may differ.

I picked a mess of dandelion greens one weekend in March, when they  were new and tender, and used a hot olive oil, garlic, and raisin dressing (fancy recipe from Epicurious).