Okay, before I even start with a brief historical introduction to this recipe I am going to start by telling you to take a deep breath and open your minds and hearts to potatoes on pizza. First of all, as North Americans or Britons or anyone else that lives outside of Italy, for that matter, we have no right to scoff at potatoes being served on pizza. Pizza is Italian food and potatoes are a quintessential Italian topping on pizza. So get over it and get ready to have your tastebuds blown and your cooking repertoire expanded. This is a beautiful recipe and the potatoes take centre stage! But before we get to slicing potatoes… let’s have a little bit of history first!
Pizza itself has become a favourite fast-food choice for many but what it has lost in it’s evolution in the western world is the simplicity and elegance it still boasts back in Italy. Pizza in the western world has managed to take the art, culture and history out of it’s preparation and presentation making it a high-calorie, cheese/meat-heavy serving of thick dough that simply does not reflect it’s humble beginnings and subtle presentation in an enjoyable fashion. This is one of my favourite personal recipes and one of the best pizzas to order on the go or in a restaurant in Italy as well. It’s simple, light, and absolutely mouth-watering.
Pizza, the word, derives from the latin word ‘pinsere’, to press or pinch. The modern pizza originated in Naples as a simple flat-bread with tomato sauce on it. Cheese was not added until many years later. Pizza was the original ‘street-fare’ and sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries; some Italian pizzerias keep this take-out, street-food tradition alive today.
Neapolitans take their pizza very seriously. Historically there were two basic pizzas that were considered to be the only two true originals: the Marinara and the Margherita — These two “pure” pizzas are still found in most Italian pizzerie to this day along with a myriad of other varieties including, my personal favourite, potato and onion.
Pizza making in Naples is governed by an official society that trains and judges pizzaioli on their pizza making skills: “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” (“True Neapolitan Pizza Association”). The association was founded in 1984 and has set very specific rules that must be followed to make true, authentic Neapolitan pizza. These include that the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven at 485°C for no more than 60 to 90 seconds; that the base must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin (we’ll remind you of this during the preparation of this recipe) and that the pizza must not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter or be more than one-third of a centimetre thick at the centre. The association also selects pizzerias all around the world to produce and spread the verace pizza napoletana philosophy and method world-wide.
The pizza bases in Naples are soft and pliable. In Rome they prefer a thin and crispy base. Another popular form of pizza in Italy is pizza al taglio (cut into squares) which is baked in rectangular trays with a wide variety of toppings and sold by weight. This is the variety of pizza that we will make today. This recipe will be made in a conventional oven and the heat required for this pizza won’t be as high as what’s required to make a pizza verace in a domed ceramic pizza oven. Stay tuned, however, as later this month I will be posting some authentic pizza recipes that are for domed ceramic pizza ovens. Blisters and bubbles and crunch, oh my! Can’t wait! So let’s roll up our sleeves and get started on this pizza Bianca. Here’s what you’re going to need:
Pizza Bianca con Patate, Cipolle e Fichi – Pizza with Potato, Red Onion and Fig
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp of granular yeast
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of salt
- 1 cup of water
- 2/3 cup of olive oil
- 2 tbsp dried or fresh rosemary (for dressing)
- 1 large potato
- 6 fresh figs (optional)
Step 1. Proof the yeast first by adding it to the water and oil with the sugar. Give it a stir, let it stand for 10 minutes and watch for bubbles or pockets of foam. When you see that the yeast is active add in the remaining ingredients and mix by hand or with a mixer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 2. Cover the dough with cling wrap or a damp rag, place it in a warm part of the kitchen and let it double in size.
Step 3. Line a rectangular baking sheet that is approximately 15″ (38 cm) x 10″ (25 cm) with parchment paper and pop the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the paper. Work the dough into a rectangle covering the parchment paper using just your fingertips. Don’t use a rolling pin or you’ll push too much of the air out of the dough. Put it inside the oven or proofing drawer to rise for 30 minutes more while you prepare the toppings. Do not turn the oven on yet! You’re just letting it rise with the warmth that is in the oven prior to heating.
Step 4. Take one large (clean/washed/peeled) potato and cut it in half long-ways. Using a mandolin (and a guard!) gently slice the potatos into thin half-moon slices. Place a dish or container underneath the mandolin to catch your slices. They should be almost transparent but not too flimsy that they fall apart. Do the same with the red onion.
Step 5. If you have access to fresh figs, grab a few of them and slice them along the middle into circles by hand with a sharp knife. They’re too soft for the mandolin so don’t bother making the same mistake that I did. If you don’t have figs, don’t fret! This pizza is perfect with the potatoes and onion alone.
Step 6. Remove the pizza from rising in the oven or proofing drawer to prepare it for dressing.
Step 7. Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C/Gas Mark 7.
Step 8. Dress the pizza evenly with all three toppings. **Don’t add tomato sauce on to the dough no matter how compelled you feel to do it!** Sprinkle some salt and the rosemary on top of the dressed pizza. Lastly, using your thumb to partially cork to the nozzle, sprinkle some olive oil on top of the pizza.
Step 9. Place in the oven once it’s reached the correct temperature and bake for 30 minutes.
Step 10. Let stand and then slice into squares and serve!
This pizza doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes in our house. One of my instagram followers, @beththefreerangechef, hit the nail on the head when she stated that ‘That’s the sort of thing you could accidentally devour in one sitting’. Bang on, sister. Once you make this recipe you’ll be converted to a repeat customer!
I use a pizza cutter to slice this into rectangular pieces. They go beautifully for lunches, appies or for a side-dish at dinner as well. The combination of the fig and the onion is absolutely gorgeous and those potatoes…. those little darlings… there’s nothing more pleasureable than crispy, thin, salted potato slices baked onto a pizza. Try it yourselves and you’ll see. Unless, of course, you’re Italian…. in that case you already know of this culinary joy.
Buon appetito and good eating to you!
Please feel free to rate and leave comments or suggestions about this recipe below.