What does Italy taste like? If you’re Williams-Sonoma Chefs’ Collective member Nick Anderer, it might include fried eggplant and heirloom squash with parmesan and lemon; crunchy kohlrabi with cashews and yogurt; and, for dessert, panna cotta with peach marmellata and oat cookie crumbles. Last night, chefs, entrepreneurs, media, and other influencers gathered at Marta, Anderer and Danny Meyer’s vibrant new midtown Manhattan pizza spot, for cocktails and dinner that were inspired by Italy for the first-ever Williams-Sonoma Chefs’ Collective Dinner Series.
For the meal, Anderer set out to celebrate fresh, seasonal ingredients, classic Italian flavors, and the rustic tradition of cooking alla brace — over open embers. In between offerings like fresh ricotta, whole roasted duck, and grilled nebrodini mushrooms, the chef brought out a series of airy, ultra-thin, Roman-style pies. Among them was a pizza made just for the occasion, cooked alla norma, with a topping of eggplant, grana padano, mozzarella, ricotta salata, basil, and chili.
The norma isn’t (pardon the pun) normally on the Marta menu. It is, however, available at the restaurant through this Friday, July 25, and between now and then, all proceeds of that menu item ($15) will go to Anderer’s favorite charity, Citymeals-on-Wheels. But if you’re not in New York and still want a taste of Italy, chef Anderer has shared the recipe with us so you can make a version of it at home.
Marta’s Pizza alla Norma
This pizza is a twist on Italy’s pasta alla norma, a traditional Sicilian dish of long pasta tossed with sautéed eggplant, tomato sauce, and grated ricotta salata.
6 oz. (180 g) eggplant, preferably Rosa Bianca
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 batch Jim Lahey’s dough recipe
1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g) pureed canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 oz. (60 g) fresh mozzarella (fior di latte), cut into small pieces
3 large basil leaves
2 Tbs. finely grated grana padano cheese
1/2 tsp. finely ground red pepper flakes
Ricotta salata for grating
Arrange a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C). Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.
Cut the eggplant into slices 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick and sprinkle with salt to taste. Set aside for 5 minutes so that the salt penetrates the flesh.
Using paper towels, pat the eggplant slices dry and arrange them on the prepared roasting pan. Drizzle the eggplant with the olive oil and turn the slices to evenly coat.
Roast the eggplant slices until they soften and turn lightly brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
Increase the oven temperature to 550°F (290°C) and place a pizza baking steel on the rack.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch (30-cm) round. Using a small ladle or large spoon, spread the pureed tomatoes evenly across the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch (12-mm) border uncovered, then top with the eggplant and mozzarella.
Transfer the pizza to the baking steel in the oven and bake until the crust is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Tear the basil into small pieces and sprinkle on the pizza. Sprinkle with the grana padano, and red pepper flakes. Coarsely grate the ricotta salata on top of the pizza.
Cut into slices and serve immediately. Makes one 12-inch (30-cm) pizza.
Adapted from recipe by Nick Anderer, chef/partner of Marta and Maialino, New York City