Pizza for Marsilio
By Tim Hazell
Renaissance astrologers and alchemists regarded medicine, magic, and religion as intertwined. Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) was an Italian scholar, Catholic priest, and renowned translator of the writings of Plato, one of the most influential humanist philosophers of his time. His concerns were for artful rituals that could add zest to daily routines. One of Ficino’s works, De Triplici Vita (Three Books on Life), published in 1489, consists of On Healthy Life, On Long Life, and On Obtaining Life from the Heavens, promoting proper diet, healthy habits, and drawing strength from celestial bodies. Simple, empowering decisions, personal choices about such things as foods, clothes, and travel, were his recommendations. Marcilio Ficino was a passionate advocate of every human being’s right to self-expression. Only a sound body and mind could produce rich, gilded states of awareness.
Writing in 1492, the visionary proclaimed, “This century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music.”
Marsilio Ficino left us recipes and seasonings for a banquet of temperament. Here is a simple, delightful centerpiece for a luncheon or light supper. Humble pleasures “make our lives agree with the heavens!”
Pizza with Anchovies, Tomatoes, and Capers
Pizza Dough (for two 13-inch pizzas):
3 cups flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. granulated yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
Place flour in a mixing bowl and stir in olive oil. Dissolve yeast in water. Stir into flour mixture, using wooden spoon and spatula to scrape so all flour is incorporated. Dough should be sticky. Scrape dough into compact mass. Cover with cloth and let stand in warm place 30 minutes or longer until risen.
8 tbsp. olive oil
8 tinned anchovies, drained and cut crosswise (use more for stronger flavor)
1/4 cup drained capers
1 cup well-drained canned tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
Salt to taste
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Pour two tablespoons olive oil into center of two 13-inch pizza pans. Spread oil around bottom and inner rim. Work dough into a ball using lightly floured fingers. Divide in half. Pat each half into a fairly thick circle. Add one circle to center of each pan and using fingers, press dough to cover entire bottom of pans, rim to rim. Cover and let stand in warm place for half an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Scatter equal amounts of anchovies over each pizza. Sprinkle with capers and tomato pieces. Dust with the oregano and a touch of salt. Toss the grated cheese all over and sprinkle generously with black pepper. Drizzle on remaining oil.
Place pizza on a rack in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Transfer the pans to bottom of the oven and continue to bake an additional five minutes until dough on bottom is crisp.