Pizzaiola is a classic and very simple Neapolitan dish: young beef, ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, garlic, seasoning and parsley.
These are the simple flavours of Naples, the home of pizza (Campania region of Italy) and like a well made Neapolitan pizza the ingredients are simple and few. There may be some complimentary variations when i napoletani (Neapolitan people) make this dish, for example the addition of basil or some finely chopped anchovies.
If you look for a recipe on the web, you may be grossly misinformed. And if you want the real thing, pizzaiola is cooked on the stove, no mushrooms, bacon, cheese slices, capers, olives or any other embellishments.
I have always made pizzaiola as my mother made it and was interested to compare her recipe with those of others. I have varied resources about Italian regional cuisine but because it is a Neapolitan dish it is not widely represented by all of the classic food writers, for example it is not in The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well (La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene –Pellegrino Artusi 1820–1911), nor in any of my resources by Marcella Hazan or Bugialli. However I was pleased to see that some of the old, celebrity lions and lionesses (e.g. Waverly Root, Ada Boni, Elizabeth David, Anna Gosetti della Salda) include the recipe in their collections.
In some of the recipes, the steak is sealed quickly in hot oil before it is added to the rest of the ingredients. My mother always added the steak raw (as in some of the older recipes) – this results into a much lighter and fresher flavoured dish.
Like my mother, I like to add potatoes to pizzaiola (patate all pizzaiola is also a classic Neapolitan dish and often the two are combined) and the potatoes and the meat cook at the same time. Usually in Italian cuisine dry oregano is preferred (because it is stronger tasting), but for pizzaiola the fresh oregano is also liked – use a generous amount of fresh oregano and cut it finely.
Lean, young beef, sliced thinly is best. I use thinly sliced topside (as photo above) or girello (as in the photo below) and I vary the amounts of tomato I use, for example I used 4 fresh tomatoes (photo above) whereas I used about 600g of canned tomatoes when I cooked the pizzaiola as in the photo below.
This dish is assembled in layers and then cooked. This recipe is for 4 people:young beef/yearling steaks, very thinly sliced, trimmed of all fat (4- estimate one per person)
tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, 400g (1 can or fresh)
potatoes, peeled, then cut into thick slices, estimate 1 or more for each guest
extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup garlic 3-4 cloves cut finely salt and pepper to taste fresh parsley cut finely, ½ cup oregano, fresh ½ cup (or dried, 2 teaspoons). Begin with a dribble of oil, herbs, garlic and seasoning.
Next, add a layer of tomatoes .
Continue with the layers and ensure that the ingredients are just covered with some tomato. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the meat is tender. This is not a dish to eat the meat rare.