Pizza al forno di legno (Wood-fired pizza)

This summer, Stefano finished our outdoor kitchen, complete with a wood-burning pizza oven.  It was a long-awaited addition, because for years we’ve longed for a wood-burning oven.  Because try as we might, we simply haven’t found authentic Roman pizza anywhere here.  The obvious solution, therefore, was to make our own.

Pizza al forno a legno

Due Spaghetti's back yard pizza ovenIn Rome, there are pizzerie on every corner.  When Stefano was young, it was a special treat when his parents Andrea and Maria took him, his brother Marco and his sister Debora out for pizza.  They’d sometimes go to a pizzeria in the Centocelle neighborhood of Rome, with family friends Mario and Vincenzina.  Other times they stay closer to home and go to Pizzeria la Ruota, or “the Wagon Wheel.”  Andrea’s favorite pizza was the capricciosa, a classic pie with mozzarella, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, olives and a hard boiled egg in the middle.  Maria always ordered a pizza with funghi, a simple, light pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and mushrooms.  The kids usually chose a traditional margherita, or perhaps a pizza with salciccia, or sausage.

In later years, when Stefano and I were first married, our regular spot was Pizza e Fichi, in the Giardinetti neighborhood of Rome.  We’d sit at a table on their patio, where our son Sean would fall asleep in his stroller and we’d enjoy our pizzas long into the evening.

We’ve been wanting to blog about our wood-fired pizzas all summer long, but It’s taken a few attempts to get the dough just right. The much acclaimed pizza napoletana that has taken the world by storm sports a thicker, yeastier and chewier crust. While admittedly delicious, it also makes for a heavier, more filling pizza. Romans at heart, we prefer the lighter and thinner Roman-style pizza crust.

We’ve settled on a recipe given to us by our friend Luigi, a baker from the Puglia region of Italy. Be prepared to plan an entire day ahead – the dough needs to rise and rest for over 24 hours. This recipe will make enough dough for about 10 individually-sized pizzas.  When we fire up the wood-burning oven, friends and neighbors always seem to make their way to our back yard, and we’ve never needed fewer than ten. But, halve the recipe if you want fewer pizzas.

Finally, we didn’t convert this recipe from grams to cups, as we usually do.  There’s simply too much room for error.  It’s worth investing in a food scale if you don’t already have one.

Fiori di zucca con alici

1 kilo flour
8 grams of active dry yeast, such as this.
20 grams of salt
20 grams of olive oil
600 grams of water.

Add the yeast to 600 ml of warm water.  Stir to dissolve, and set aside.  Weigh out the flour into a mixing bowl, and add the salt.  Return to your yeast and water.  Stir again to ensure the yeast is completely dissolved.  Add 20 grams of olive oil to the yeast and water mixture.

If you have a kitchen mixer with a dough attachment, place the mixing bowl with flour and salt onto it. Lock the bowl in place, and turn the mixer on the lowest speed setting.  Gradually pour the water, yeast and oil into the flour and salt mixture.  Continue to mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball.

If you do not have a kitchen mixer with a dough attachment, follow the procedure above but use a wooden spoon to stir the water into the flour.  Once mixed, turn the dough out onto a smooth work-surface sprinkled with flour, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough comes together in a smooth ball.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  In the meanwhile, line two baking trays with parchment paper.

After 20 minutes,turn the dough out onto a large, floured cutting board.  Using your food scale, cut pieces of dough that weigh 150 to 200 grams each.  Take each piece of dough in your hands and work it into a ball, pulling the loose ends together at the bottom.  Place five balls of dough onto each baking tray.  Cover the trays with plastic wrap, or, slip your baking trays into these large 13 gallon kitchen food bags and wrap the ends of the bag under the trays to prevent air from getting in.

Let the dough rise for 3 hours at room temperature.  Then, place the covered baking trays in the refrigerator for about 20 hours.  The next day, pull them out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking and let them return to room temperature.

If you are using a wood-fired oven, bring the oven up to temperature of about 900° Fahrenheit, or 480° Celsius.  If you are using your home oven, preheat it to it’s highest setting, with a pizza stone inside.

On a floured work surface, roll your dough to about 1/8 inch, or about 3 millimeters thick. Top your pizza with San Marzano tomatoes passed through a food mill, diced fresh mozzarella (after dicing, let your mozzarella sit in a strainer on top of a bowl, so that the extra water drains off), and the toppings of your choice.  A few of our favorites are below.  Slide it into the wood-fired oven, where in just 2 to 3 minutes it will be done.  Or, place the pizza on top of the hot pizza stone, and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until done.

Pizza Menu