Why our favourite pizza dough is Roman

lemon and anchovy pizza

My husband Marco has been on the search for his perfect pizza dough. He has long been the one in our family who loves making and experimenting with dough (like with this recipe for Bonci’s focaccia pugliese). You see, he loves pizza and bread and it’s no exaggeration to say he could happily live off them alone if it weren’t for the slightly negative reaction he gets when he eats it, thanks to a wheat intolerance. He has been managing it by eating bread and pizza sparingly (as sparingly as one can when it is your favourite thing to eat) and by choosing, when he does eat it, the best quality he can.

So making our own dough has been great as we can choose the flour (our favourite kind is a low gluten, semi wholemeal, stone ground ancient grain! That’s quite a mouthful but we are lucky to have a number of great options that we have access to here in Tuscany), we can give it a long, slow rise with a very small amount of yeast (which translates to easier to digest) and these things not only appear to help Marco eat pizza more more often, they’re fun too!

wood for pizzafavourite margherita pizza

Cue the arrival of our new pizza oven arrived — an Ooni Pro Outdoor Pizza Oven. A few small pieces of wood, half an hour and you have a wood burning oven that can run as high as 500 degrees Celsius (932 F) to bake delicious pizza in a minute or two. We’ve basically made pizza every other day. We are officially obsessed!

Marco’s ideal pizza for the home oven isn’t a Neapolitan style dough. It’s a Roman one (gasp!). The difference is a Neapolitan dough is firmer to handle, it is hand moulded into a circle with a thick crust which grows puffy and fluffy in the oven and has a good chew to it, while a Roman dough is a very wet, sloppy dough that often gets eased into a long, rectangular tray and is sold by the slice in bakeries (known as “pizza a taglio”). It’s usually thinner, with a crisp rather than chewy result, described with the wonderful, onomatopoeic Roman word, scrocchiarella.

The Roman dough masters are without a doubt Gabriele Bonci of Pizzarium and Stefano Callegari, the genius behind Trapizzino (what happens when you put a pizza and a tramezzino together) and Marco’s pizza dough is basically influenced by them both. I suggest anyone interested in delving in deeper having a look at the following videos (in Italian with English subtitles) for Bonci’s take on Roman pizza dough and Callegari’s Roman pizza dough.

A few things to take away from their explanations and techniques that we like to apply to our favourite dough too:

  • High water to flour ratio for a highly hydrated, wet and sticky dough.
  • Not too much yeast — just 2 grams for each kilogram of flour for this long rise
  • Sift the flour. It aerates the flour, introducing oxygen.
  • Use farro (spelt) flour. Bonci notes how it is a very hardy ancient grain and undergoes a lot less chemical treatment than regular wheat flour does, even on an industrial level.
  • Add salt towards the end of mixing (we like to use Callegari’s suggestion of 2% of the weight of the flour in salt; so 30 grams for 1.5 kg of flour, I know, it sounds like a lot but it isn’t)

And one thing that is Marco’s: Try a bit of white wine in the dough in place of some of the water — we use about 250 ml (a cup)

Our favourite Roman pizza dough
artichoke and ham pizza

La nostra pizza romana preferita
Our favourite Roman style pizza dough

Makes about 10-12 individual pizze

  • 900 ml lukewarm tap water (or try 650 ml water and 250 ml of dry white wine)
  • 3 grams of fresh yeast (about a hazelnut sized pinch; you can also use dry yeast, just use a tiny pinch!)
  • 1 kg organic farro flour (tipo 1 if you can), sifted
  • 500 grams organic wheat flour (tipo 00), sifted
  • 30 grams of fine sea salt (about 2 scant tablespoons)
  • a good drizzle of olive oil, plus some for greasing the bowl
  • extra flour of either type for dusting

Method:

Pour the water into a large bowl and dissolve the yeast in it. Add the farro flour (Callegari likes to tip it from a height to aerate it) and mix with a fork until you have a thick batter. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes then add the rest of the flour. When it becomes too thick to continue mixing with a fork, you can use a spatula or your hands and if you find it easier, you can tip it out onto a floured board to mix. When almost all the flour has been incorporated, add the salt and a generous splash of olive oil and continue mixing to combine to a very sticky dough. Grease the bowl with some olive oil and place the dough back into the bowl, with another splash of olive oil over the top and rub it all over so the dough won’t dry out. Cover with a tea towel and place in the fridge or a cool spot for a long, overnight rise (ideally 12 hours minimum).

About 3-4 hours before you want to cook the pizza, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Handle the dough carefully. Gently pry it from the edges of the bowl and tip the dough in one go onto a well floured board. Portion the dough into 200 grams pieces (you’ll be dealing with something roughly the size of a cricket ball or a fist), dust well with flour and shape into a ball and set to one side. Continue with the rest of the dough.

Heat the oven to the highest it goes.

When ready to prepare your pizza (see below for a few of our favourite pizza toppings), take a ball of dough, which should now be as soft as an earlobe and as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and on a well-floured board, flatten with your hands or a small rolling pin. Working from the centre outward, gently push and turn the pizza, (or hold it up perpendicular to the board and let gravity help you stretch it), coaxing it into the size of a plate. It should be quite thin in the middle and you may even get a hole or two — just patch it up and keep going gently, making sure you have enough flour underneath that it doesn’t catch and stick.

If using a pizza oven, place the flattened pizza dough on a well-dusted peel and then add your toppings. If baking in your oven, place the dough on a baking tray or stone and add the toppings. Bake until hot, puffed and the cheese is melted and bubbling. If you are cooking in your regular home oven and find the bottom isn’t baking quite as well as you’d like, try placing it on the lowest shelf possible for some time (I’d preferably do this for the first half of cooking, then move it up to get nicely golden on top for the second half).

Some tips:

I would suggest adding basil or other herbs fresh at the end after cooking; ditto prosciutto crudo or fresh cheese such as stracchino. We also love a simple margherita with chopped fresh cherry tomatoes and rocket (arugula) tossed with olive oil added after cooking.

Here are a few current favourite toppings. You’ll notice two of them are “bianco“, white, which is without the tomato passata base, but if you prefer, feel free to leave it in (Marco prefers the artichoke pizza “rosso” or with tomato, I prefer it bianco). Swipe the passata with the back of a spoon over the base of the pizza until covered — some parts will have more and some less, don’t be tempted to add more, 2 tablespoons is plenty. Then cover with your chosen toppings.

For margherita pizza:

  • 2 tablespoons of tomato passata seasoned with salt for each pizza
  • 70-80 grams of mozzarella for each pizza, torn or sliced
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves to add after cooking

For artichoke and ham pizza:

 For a vegetarian version simply leave off the ham:

  • 1/2 artichoke for each pizza (prepared this way)
  • 1/2 lemon for the artichokes, 1/2 lemon to squeeze over the pizza after cooking
  • 3-4 slices of prosciutto arrosto (this is roast ham, you can also use prosciutto crudo; I would suggest putting it on after the pizza comes out of the oven) per pizza
  • 40 grams mozzarella (or a few dollops of fresh stracchino), torn per pizza
  • 30 grams shaved parmesan per pizza
  • Splash of olive oil

For a lemon and anchovy pizza:

For a vegetarian version substitute the anchovies with capers or some delicious olives such as Ligurian taggiasche or large green Sicilian olives. Make sure to pit them before putting them on the pizza by flattening them with the side of a large kitchen knife — the olive pit should slip right out.

  • 1/2 organic lemon, thinly sliced, per pizza
  • 70-80 grams of mozzarella for each pizza, torn or sliced
  • 5-6 anchovy fillets per pizza
  • fresh mint, parsley or oregano (or all three!)
  • splash of olive oil
  • some dried or fresh chilli, finely chopped (optional)

These are just a few ideas. We did one with grilled asparagus and guanciale (which goes delightfully crisp and sizzles), one with a parmesan base and raw broad beans and prosciutto on top. We even made a blueberry pizza (the idea being it is a bit like a Florentine schiacciata all’uva but grapes not being in season yet, blueberries did the trick). The best part of doing a pizza party is to get all the ingredients ready in advance, have plenty of dough and have fun with each pizza and the topping combinations as you go!

asparagus and guanciale pizzaooni pizza ovenclassic margherita pizzapizza in the gardenpizza with blueberriespotato pizza

If you’d like to join me for a cooking class or a book signing, make sure to check the Events page for information and links to booking!

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Comments

6 Responses to “Why our favourite pizza dough is Roman”
  1. Christine Beveridge says:

    I agree with all your points for having a delicious, digestible crust. My husband has had no trouble digesting pizza since I started making sourdough crusts. I have several starters on the go, as all of our bread is sourdough these days. I sometimes use some spelt flour, that I’ve ground myself from whole spelt grains, but just as often I use bought bread flour. And yes, you have to have a high hydration. Thanks for the suggestions. We’ll definitely have to give the lemon and anchovy one a go!

    • Christine Beveridge says:

      Oh, and I forgot to say that I always use whey, left over from making ricotta, in all my sourdough breads, including pizza. I think it must help with the fermentation of the dough. Tastes good, anyway!

  2. This Pizza Looks too Good and yummy, thanks for the wonderful tips, and Two little girls looks too cute!!

  3. Robert W Ross says:

    Greetings Emiko, just back from several days in Settignano/Fiesole visiting some ownderful gardens (Villa Medici, Villa Le Balze, I tatti, Gamberaia, etc. ) and was fortunate to find your lovely website/blog. Just ordered ‘Tortellini at Midnight’ & looking forward.

    Looking forward to trying this wonderful pizza.

    Also made the opportunity ( offered by my garden’s guide ) to afford myself the venture to La Sosta Del Rossellino where I endulged in Damiano’s gnocchi! The best I’ve ever had.

    I’m so happy to have found your lovely blog/site.

    Robert Ros
    Landscape Architect
    Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

  4. Fred Rickson says:

    Sorry, but an intolerance to something (wheat) has nothing to do with quality….it’s medical.

    • Emiko Davies says:

      It may be a language thing that is confusing but a wheat intolerance is also known as wheat sensitivity and is quite different to an allergy — just to be clear. It is rather common. The main issue with this particular intolerance is being unable to digest wheat (and its products) happily. But quality absolutely makes a difference, as does the preparation (sourdough, or simply toasting bread), and many people find their tummies are happier if they make these changes. The UK National Health Services say even bread from a specialist bakery or wheat from France make a difference too and I think this indicates quality as well.

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