Co-hosts Joey Nigro and Jim Battaglia showcase the charm of Italian American traditions and the music of Italian American and Italian songbooks. You’ll hear selections from Dean Martin and Tony Bennett; rock-era artists like Frankie Avalon and Neil Sedaka, Italian classical melodies by Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli and contemporary Italian singers like Gigi D’Alessio, Antonio Venditti and Laura Pausini.
Joey Nigro-Nilsen has entertained audiences as a singer most of her life in musicals, clubs and concerts. Her recordings and original songs have been featured on numerous radio and CD compilations.
Nigro graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Joey worked in New York City before returning to Central New York. She was raised on Syracuse’s old North Side Italian American community where she interviewed and wrote about immigrant forbears and second-generation Italian Americans in her family. She is a charter trustee of the Landmark Theatre and has worked in workforce development for more than 30 years.
Jim Battaglia was born in the Southern province of Calabria and raised in an Italian American enclave on Syracuse’s Near Westside, where his parents established their home when he was two-years-old. He is fluent in the Italian Calebrese dialect and has toured Italy many times.
Jim graduated from CCBI with a degree in business and has been manager of Nojaim’s Market on the Near Westside for more than 40 years. He is president of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.
Tomato Pesto Pizza (Winter Tomato Pie)**
Dough (makes 2 ¾ lb. dough or 2 pizzas/leftover dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days)
½ oz. fresh yeast or 1 (¼ oz. envelope active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2 cups warm water (“warm like the sun”)
1 ½ lbs. unbleached flour
1 tablespoons salt (Kosher or sea salt)
Put 2 cups of warmish tap water (Grandma said “warm like the sun” as if the water was sitting in the sun) into pot you will use to start making your dough. Add the yeast and pinch of sugar, stir and set in a warm place until it turns milky.
Add the flour to the water/yeast mixture while working it with your hands to prevent clumps from forming. When you have a solid hunk of dough, you can move to the board. I flour the board before I begin kneading and keep it floured by adding about a handful of flour two or three times more as I’m kneading so the dough doesn’t stick to the board.
Knead dough for about 15 minutes, let it rest for 3 minutes and knead 5 more minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic. I believe that kneading with your hands is the “secret” to making superior dough, and, for me, it’s a connection to my grandmothers who were fabulous Italian cooks. I put a lot of weight into kneading and squeeze the dough with my hands as I turn and fold it over. Once dough is smooth and pliable, place it in a roomy pot slightly oiled on the bottom and sides. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let dough rise in a warm place until it doubles at least 3 hours. I have experimented with letting the dough rise in a cool place or in the refrigerator overnight and like that method better.
28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes (plum or pear tomatoes)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of pesto
3 cloves garlic
Chop garlic and sauté in olive oil until soft. Add 3 tablespoons of pesto and crush the canned whole tomatoes into bits as you add them to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Grated parmesan or Romano cheese (3/4 cup to taste)*
Mozzarella cheese (3/4 lb. to taste)*
1 tablespoon of pesto
Assembling the Pizza
Spread vegetable oil (1-2 tablespoons) over top of pizza tin and weigh 1 ¼ lbs. of dough* and carefully stretch dough making sure that you move the dough around so there are no thin spots or holes. When dough is stretched along the sides and corners of the tin cover with towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Brush dough with pesto, top with tomato sauce and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Bake in hot oven 400 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to make sure underside of pizza is browning and not close to burning. Top with grated or slices of mozzarella the last 5 minutes so mozzarella until it melts without bubbling or burning.
*One of the pizza tins made by my grandfather was passed down to me. It measures 14 x 14 inches. You can use your judgment on these measurements and adjust them if your pizza tin or stone is smaller.
** I call this Winter Tomato Pie because I use canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes which are best in late summer and autumn.
Ciao! airs Sundays at noon on WCNY-FM.