There’s a black and white photo hanging in our hallway, a family snapshot, of an anniversary party from the 1950’s. In it, my mother was a little girl in fancy dress, my grandparents smiling young parents, and my great-grandmother Anna and great-grandfather Gaetano in the center, married fifty years, stout, stern and proud. There were a lot of occasions like this in twentieth century Italian-America. Children of immigrants who went to war, or stayed home and went to work, while younger than I was when I graduated from college. They were newly married and setting up housekeeping, getting pregnant and learning to drive, writing letters to overseas sweethearts. My grandmother and her two sisters lived in a three-story house on Parallel Street when they were newlyweds with young children. They shared meals and a car and babysitting and cigarettes and hair curlers and pantyhose. They went out dancing with their husbands on Saturday nights. And on Sunday after Mass at St Patrick’s there would be a party at a hall, for Freddy and Angie Antidormi’s kid’s First Communion or a going away bash for Jimmy Beaks. There would be jugs of strong Paisano wine and a jazzy band in which my handsome Uncle Joe played drums. And, of course, there would have been food. Trays of ziti, eggplant, and chicken parm, sausage and peppers, pepperoni bread, and meatballs. I wasn’t there, mind you, since I wouldn’t be born for another twenty more years, but I bet the stromboli went a little something like this:
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for coating dough
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3-3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 oz thinly sliced pepperoni
- 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded Asiago
- Marinara sauce for dipping
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water. Stir in sugar and olive oil and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Add salt and using a wooden spoon incorporate 2 cups flour, about 25 strokes. Measure in the rest of the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead until the dough feels supple and elastic. Rub the dough ball with olive oil and cover bowl with a damp cloth, letting it rest for at least an hour.
Fold the dough over on itself and let it rest another 10 minutes while you grate the cheeses and prepare a baking sheet with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12 x 14 inch rectangle. Arrange overlapping rows of pepperoni and sprinkle the cheese over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Tightly roll the dough, pinching the edges and tucking under the ends. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes, then let the stromboli rest, 20 minutes. Slice and serve with marinara sauce.