Pizza con le patate (Rosemary Potato Pizza)

A stop by our local panificio, where bread is made and sold, nearly always ended in a piece or two of pizza al taglio along with our loaf of bread.

Rome is famous for its pizza al taglio, and there are pizza shops that sell literally dozens of varieties.  Panifici, however, typically sell just a few types – perhaps pizza bianca with no toppings at all except olive oil and sea salt, pizza rossa with just crust and tomato sauce, pizza con le zucchine with grated zucchini and mozzarella, and one of our favorites – pizza con le patate, or rosemary potato pizza.

We’ve recreated that pizza at home, and love to make it on a lazy weekend, for family gatherings or for parties.  It is delicious right out of the oven, but it tastes great at room temperature too, so it can be made ahead of time.

In our version,  paper thin slices of potato and grated fresh mozzarella cheese are layered on top of a thin pizza crust, and the whole thing is adorned with fresh rosemary leaves, sea salt and ground black pepper.  A drizzle of olive oil is the final touch.

The potatoes cook along with the crust, the mozzarella melts and turns golden brown on top, and the rosemary releases its fragrant aroma.  Gotta run – ours looks and smells done!

Ingredients
for one 9×13 in pan

Pizza crust
320 grams (2 and 1/2 cups) flour*, plus extra.
8 grams (1 and 1/2 tsp.) salt
20 grams (5 tsp) active dry yeast
250 ml (1 cup) warm water
olive oil

Potato Pizza Topping
1 and a half medium potatoes
1 tub of fresh mozzarella (226 grams, 8 ounces)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1-2 cloves of finely minced garlic (optional)
salt
ground black pepper
olive oil

* If possible, use Italian type 00 flour, found in specialty stores and online vendors.  We use King Arthur Italian Style flour.

Directions
Mix the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  In a separate container, add the yeast to the warm water.  Stir until the yeast is fully dissolved.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Slowly pour the water and yeast in, and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is well mixed.  The dough will probably be sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a smooth, well-floured work surface.  Mix the dough by hand, incorporating more flour as needed to keep it from sticking.  Knead by hand for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

Clean the bowl you mixed the dough in and drizzle olive oil inside it.  Gather the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, rotating it so that it becomes coated with oil on all sides.  Cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm location to rise for one hour.

While the dough rises, prepare your toppings.  Drain the mozzarella and grate it through the largest holes of a grater.  Wash the rosemary and pull the leaves off of the stems.  Peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly.  We use a vegetable slicer at 1/16th inch to help achieve thin, regular slices. Rub a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Preheat the oven to 350° F, 180° C.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Punch it down and stretch it into a rectangular shape.  Place it on the baking tray, and using your fingers and the heel of your hand, press it evenly into the baking pan, working it towards the edges and corners while maintaining a consistent thickness.

Layer the potato slices over the entire surface of the pizza, overlapping the slices only slightly at the edges.  Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top of the pizza. If you choose to use garlic, add it now.  Salt and pepper liberally, and then toss the rosemary leaves on top. Complete your pizza with a thin drizzle of olive oil on top.

Bake at 350° F, 180° C for approximately 20-25 minutes, until the mozzarella browns and the crust turns golden brown.

Download a pdf of the recipe Pizza con le patate

Pizzette rustiche, the perfect party food

It’s the season of parties – graduation parties, children’s parties, block parties, and, as Stefano reminds me, his upcoming birthday party.  It’s not until September, but we are already planning for it since he is turning 40 and, he says, he wants it to be memorable.

When we threw parties in Italy, we would place an order at our favorite neighborhood pasticceria.  We’d choose an array of cream filled pasticcini mignon, delicate triangle-shaped sandwiches made from white bread with the crusts removed called tramezzini, and an assortment savory rustici salati.  Included in the rustici salati were pizzette, or bite-sized little pizzas with a variety of simple toppings.  Upon arriving home, we could never resist sneaking a few of the pizzette before the party began.

While nothing compares to the pizzette from an Italian pasticceria, very good pizzette can be made, really quite simply, right at home.

Before we jump into the how-to, however, there is a confession to be had.  Not everything in this recipe is made from scratch.  These pizzette are made from puff pastry, which one could try to make, if one really wanted to.  But who really wants to?  One recipe we saw warns that it is a three-day process.  While that sounds like a fun adventure some time, it’s not particularly practical, and we opted instead for the puff pastry that Pepperidge Farm sells in convenient frozen sheets and that work just perfectly for pizzette.

As much as we love to cook and bake, and as much as we appreciate home cooking with fresh natural ingredients, we are also adults with day jobs and other responsibilities.  If you are like us, once in a while it’s okay to accept some help, this time in the form of ready-made puff pastry.

The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, puts it best in her book entitled Parties!:

“I can’t say enough about assembling food rather than cooking.  I keep telling myself that my friends won’t have any more fun if I spend two days making a daquoise for dessert than if I find a delicious pound cake at a bakery and serve it with store-bought lemon curd and fresh raspberries.   In fact, they’ll have more fun, because I’m relaxed and having fun, too.”

We brought pizzette to our block party tonight, and they were devoured within minutes.  We’ll make them again for Stefano’s 40th birthday party, and undoubtedly the same thing will happen.  We will use store-bought puff pastry each time, knowing that they will turn out great, and that we’ll enjoy each party to its fullest, just as Ina says.

Ingredients
1 box (2 sheets) of frozen puff pastry
1 small can or tube of tomato paste
Olive oil
Salt
Oregano
Optional: fresh mozzarella, anchovies

Allow puff pastry to thaw.  Unfold the pastry sheets onto work surface, and with a small, round cookie cutter with a 2″-3″ diameter, cut out little pizza shapes and set them onto a baking tray.  If you do not have a round cookie cutter, a small glass or a mason jar lid will work fine.

Place a small dab of tomato paste in the center of each pizzette, and with your finger or the back of a small spoon, spread the paste around the center without reaching the edges.  You only require about 1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. of paste for each pizzetta, depending on their size.  Too much paste will weigh down the pizzette and not allow the puff pastry to rise while cooking.

Using a cooking brush, spread a light layer of olive oil over each pizzetta, again using caution to not overdo with too much oil.  Next, toss a light layer of salt over the pizzette, and consider how you wish to complete the toppings.

For classic pizzette, sprinkle dried oregano on top.  Alternatively, you may add a small piece of anchovy to the top of the pizzette and then the oregano.  Or, some people prefer to omit the oregano and add a few small pieces of fresh mozzarella on top.  If you opt for the mozzarella, it’s best to use a denser, less liquid cheese, and very small pieces on top of the pizzette, again so that the puff pastry can still rise in the oven.

Bake at 400° F for approximately 8 minutes, or until the pizzette have risen and are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes; the pizzette will fall slightly.  Use a spatula to carefully remove them from the baking tray.

Makes approximately 20-24 pizzette