New Year’s Pizza

My Aunt Nellie in about 1970.

My Aunt Nellie in about 1970.

My Italian American grandmother was the true cook in our family, but once a year on December 31st,  her sister, my great Aunt Nellie, made her specialty New Year’s Eve Pizza.  We all converged on the Brooklyn home she shared with my maternal grandparents to celebrate well into the early morning hours.  It didn’t matter that we were children who should have been in bed.  The neighborhood came alive at midnight, complete with noisemakers, fireworks, and the aromas of late night meals being prepared in all the adjoining homes.   We all gathered on the front steps of the house, and zealously rang in the New Year with the rest of the neighbors.  

However, the real treat was when we went back inside to eat Aunt Nellie’s pizza.  It was a family favorite, but it was saved only for this special night.  Aunt Nellie made two types of pizza, “red” and “white”.  The red (recipe to follow) featured mounds of sautéed onions and grated Sardo cheese (a sheep’s milk cheese from  Sardinia, an island off Italy‘s western coast) atop a tomato sauced crust.  The white was served without tomato sauce and was flavored with anchovies and garlic.  Unfortunately, after many attempts to recreate it, I haven’t been able to do it justice.  Aunt Nellie loved secrets, and her few recipes were among her favorite things to keep to herself.  

Now that my grandparents and Aunt Nellie are gone and their house has been sold, I still make her red pizza.  To me, it is too good to make only once a year, so with some short-cuts (such as prepared dough and good-quality prepared tomato sauce) and substitutions (such as Pecorino-Romano for Sardo, which is difficult to find), it becomes an easy weeknight meal which my whole family loves.  I think Aunt Nellie would approve!

 Aunt Nellie’s New Year’s Eve Pizzajan-food-023

Serves 4-6

1-16 oz. bag prepared pizza dough (available in the refrigerator section at most grocery stores or your local pizzeria)

4 medium yellow onions, sliced

1 cup prepared basic tomato sauce (your favorite brand)

½ cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

 Saute the onions and oregano  in 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat, until lightly browned (about 15 minutes).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly oil a 12×18 inch jelly roll pan.  Stretch out the pizza dough  onto the pan so it reaches to each corner.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the dough.

Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, leaving a ½ inch border on all sides.

Spread the sautéed onions  over top of the sauce, and sprinkle all over with grated cheese. 

Drizzle with olive oil again, and sprinkle more oregano if desired.

Bake on lower rack of oven for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and baked through. 

Cut into squares and serve.


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