These chef Beppe De Vito-approved do-it-yourself kits are put to the test with our mediocre cooking capabilities.
*This first appeared in the July/August ‘Food History’ 2020 issue of Wine & Dine
With restaurants closed to keep the pandemic at bay, takeaway has become the de facto meal for birthdays and special occasions (or when we want to treat ourselves). Yet certain foods don’t keep in an eco-friendly takeaway box and survive the ride from restaurant to home; fries get soggy and food gets cold. It’s why Amò’s pizza and pasta kits seemed like a brilliant idea.
Dreaming of a slightly charred thin crust pizza, we got on the restaurant’s online store and keyed in our order of a San Marzano Tomato Pizza Kit ($21.40+) and Truffle Cream Pizza Kit ($29.95). One with DOP-certified San Marzano tomatoes and the other with truffle mascarpone pesto, these pizzas were definitely more austere than the cooked Signature Pizzas available.
According to chef Beppe De Vito, the kits are meant to be a blank canvas for our culinary artistic expression. In our haze of hunger, we forgot to put in our add-ons of two ingredients, which was quickly resolved with an email and phone call from Amò. We also ordered the Comforting Carbonara Pasta Kit ($18.20), hoping for an idiot-proof way to recreate the dish notoriously tricky to make.
When it arrived punctually the next week, it sat in the fridge until the evening. The dough, the result of temperature-controlled leavening and a mother starter cultivated five years ago, is required to be proofed for two hours at room temperature; a vital step we almost missed. As the smooth ball of dough warmed and puffed up, it signalled that it was time for us to put on our pizzaiolo hat.
Now, we’re typically more inclined to ‘go by feel’ but for the first one, we decided to play it safe. The San Marzano Tomato Pizza Kit didn’t come with an instruction card but help could be found online, together with a how-to video and a list of cooking equipment needed.
We found out there were two ways to go about it: one was to fry in a pan then finish it in the oven, and the other to cook it directly in the oven. Believers that the lesser the steps, the lesser the room for error, we choose the latter.
While we didn’t come close to the wood-fired beauties you’d get at Amò, the result was a well-seasoned, crisp-crusted pizza for two. We added a modest amount of mozzarella, guanciale and mushrooms that came with the kit, and threw on a couple of slices of chorizo, olives and a handful of arugula for prosperity.
It was a relatively quick and painless endeavour, taking us approximately ten minutes for preparation (not counting the proofing) and 15 minutes for cooking. We finished the entire pizza while standing in the kitchen, our G&Ts abandoned as we ravaged; a clear indication it was a winner.
Our second try with the Truffle Cream Pizza Kit, however, wasn’t as fortunate. An overload of truffle mascarpone cream and guanciale resulted in a greasy flatbread that we felt sorry for.
Things didn’t take a turn for the better with the Comforting Carbonara Pasta Kit. The instructions, once again found online, were simple enough to follow. Boil the gluten-free penne in salted water, fry up the guanciale then combine both with the carbonara cream sauce.
Our rendition of carbonara concluded as a plate of strong spice-flavoured penne, which wasn’t as creamy as we’d like. We’d learnt an important lesson that day: portioning is a science often taken for granted.
As simple as the pasta and pizza kits from Amò are, they definitely aren’t foolproof. It takes a month to become a certified pizzaiolo at Enzo Coccia’s pizza school in Naples, so it would’ve been a little naïve to think we would emerge unscathed.
Nevertheless, the ItaliAmò Kits are quick and non-intimidating options in times like these when staying at home is encouraged. Recreating that crunch when biting into a pizza crust is good enough reason to order a kit again. Although this time, when decorating the pizza, we’ll be sure to exercise some restraint.
Amò’s pasta and pizza kits are available on their website.
All reviews published under Incognito Eats are paid by Wine & Dine Magazine and are unbiased opinions of the journalist.