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Purple Potato and Pancetta Pizza

Photograph by Sara Remington

We adore pizza. When The Pizza Bible came across our desk, we were ecstatic to take 11-time world Champion Tony Gemignani's Master Class in all things pizza. Not only are we experts now, we're making it in nine different regional styles. From Chicago deep-dish to cracker-thin, the book's spectrum is wide and wonderful, with something to suit every mood and occasion. If you've ever wanted to make pizzeria-style pizza at home and succeed at it— you absolutely must check it out.

This nontraditional Sicilian is my own creation, and it’s a big seller at my takeout Slice House. The purple potatoes need to soak for a full hour to remove some of their starch, so start them soaking when you preheat the oven. They’ll get a bit paler as they cook, but they still add a cool splash of color. For this pizza, I like smoked pancetta, a northern Italian specialty also known as pancetta affumicata. It’s a bit harder to find than regular pancetta, which is cured but not smoked. Smoked pancetta is fully cooked and has a mild, sweet-smoky flavor. It doesn’t crisp when it bakes on top of the pizza. Buy it sliced, like bacon, and freeze the slices for about 20 minutes to make cutting it easier. If you can’t find it, substitute a good thick-cut smoked bacon.

RECIPE: Purple Potato and Pancetta Pizza

Yields 1 12 by 18-inch pizza; 12 squares


  • 1 parbaked Sicilian Dough (see accompanying recipes)
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) small purple potatoes (about 3), about 1-1/2 inches in diameter
  • 3 ounces (85 grams) sliced smoked pancetta
  • 10 ounces (285 grams) whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) minced garlic
  • Olive oil, for drizzling if needed
  • 2-ounce (55-gram) piece feta cheese, preferably water-packed Greek
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup (120 grams) Basil Pesto (see accompanying recipe), at room temperature


  1. If you have turned off the oven after parbaking the dough, reheat it to 450°F for at least 1 hour.
  2. While the oven heats, using a mandoline, cut the potatoes into paper thin slices and drop them into a bowl of very cold salted water. Let soak for 30 minutes, drain, and repeat with a new batch of salted water. Drain again and dry on paper towels.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the pancetta into lardons (matchsticks) about 1 inch long and 1/8 inch wide and thick. Don’t worry about cutting them perfectly; a bit of irregularity is more appealing. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, until most of the fat is rendered and the pancetta is partially cooked. Set aside without draining.
  4. Mound the mozzarella in the center of the dough and use your fingertips to spread it evenly over the top, leaving a 3/4-inch border on all sides. Scatter the garlic over the cheese. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer across the top, and distribute the pancetta over the potatoes.
  5. Place the pan on the top stone and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees, transfer it to the bottom stone, and bake for 5 minutes. Taste a potato slice. If it isn’t tender, return the pizza to the top stone to bake for 1 minute, until the potatoes are tender. Using a wide metal spatula, lift a corner of the pizza and peek at the bottom. If you want it darker and crunchier, transfer the pan to the top stone to bake for 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Run the spatula around the edges of the pizza to make sure it has not stuck in any area. If you suspect a problem, drizzle a bit of olive oil down the side of the pan and work slowly to loosen in that area.
  7. Lift the pizza onto the spatula and transfer it to a cutting board. Make 2 evenly spaced cuts the length of the pizza (to make 3 strips of equal width) and make 3 evenly spaced cuts across the width of the pizza (to make 4 strips of equal width), to make 12 squares. Hold the piece of feta over the pizza and crumble it evenly over the top. Finish with a sprinkling of the rosemary and serve with the pesto in a bowl on the side.

RECIPE: Basil Pesto

Makes 2-1/4 cups (355 grams )


  • 8 cups (140 grams) lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 6 cloves (18 grams) garlic
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cups (280 grams) olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup (80 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) agave syrup
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (.5 grams) freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put half of the basil in a blender. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and oil and blend to combine. Scrape down the sides of the jug. Add the remaining basil along with the cheese, agave syrup, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary.
  2. Pour the pesto into a bowl. If you would like a thinner pesto, mix in additional oil.
  3. Use the pesto immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

RECIPE: Sicilian Dough with Starter

Makes 39 ounces (1.1 kilograms )


  • 3 grams (1 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) warm water (80°F to 85°F)
  • 578 grams (4-1/2 cups) flour with 13 to 14 percent protein, preferably All Trumps, or Pendleton Flour Mills
  • Power
  • 13 grams (1-1/2 tablespoons) diastatic malt
  • 296 grams (1-1/4 cups) ice water
  • 116 grams Poolish (see accompanying recipes)
  • 13 grams (2-3/4 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 7 grams (1/2 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil
  • Olive oil, for coating the pan


  1. Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the warm water, and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. The yeast should dissolve in the water and the mixture should foam. If it doesn’t and the yeast granules float, the yeast is “dead” and should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
  2. Combine the flour and malt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  3. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, pour in most of the ice water, reserving about 2 tablespoons, followed by the yeast-water mixture. Pour the reserved water into the yeast bowl, swirl it around to dislodge any bits of yeast stuck to the bowl, and add to the mixer. Mix for about 15 seconds, stop the mixer, and add the poolish.
  4. Continue to mix the dough at the lowest speed for about 1 minute, until most of the dough comes together around the hook. Stop the mixer. Use your fingers to pull away any dough clinging to the hook, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a bowl scraper or rubber spatula.
  5. Add the salt and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute to combine.
  6. Stop the mixer, pull the dough off the hook, and add the extra virgin oil. Mix the dough for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping the mixer from time to time to pull the dough off the hook and scrape down the sides of the bowl, until all of the oil is absorbed. The dough won’t look completely smooth.
  7. Coat a half sheet pan with a film of olive oil. Using the bowl scraper, scrape the dough onto the prepared pan. The dough will be extremely sticky—too sticky to knead.
  8. Working with wet hands, stretch and fold the dough (see Stretch-and- Fold Method, page 121).
  9. Cover the pan with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  10. Use a dough cutter to loosen the dough and move it to the scale. Weigh the dough, adjusting the quantity of dough as necessary for the recipe. You will need 35 ounces (990 grams) for making any of the pizzas.
  11. Form the dough into a ball or balls and return the ball(s) to the oiled sheet pan (spacing them 3 inches apart if you have made 2 balls). Wrap the pan airtight with a double layer of plastic wrap, sealing the wrap well under the pan. Put the pan in a level spot in the refrigerator and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

RECIPE: Poolish

Makes 90 grams


  • 0.12 gram (one-third of 1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast or 0.36 gram fresh yeast, broken into small pieces
  • 47 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) cold tap water
  • 47 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour used in dough recipe


  1. Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the water, and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. The mixture should bubble on top. If it doesn’t and the yeast granules float, the yeast is “dead” and should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
  2. Add the flour and stir well with a rubber spatula to combine. The consistency will be quite thick, resembling a thick pancake batter.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 18 hours. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool slightly before using.
  4. If you are not using the starter right away, you can store it in the refrigerator, though I suggest keeping it for no more than 8 hours. Bring to cool room temperature before using.

Parbaking Sicilian Dough:

  • 1 (35-ounce/990-gram) ball Sicilian Dough
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  1. Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and leave wrapped at room temperature until the dough warms to 50°F to 55°F. This should take 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Pour the oil into the center of a well-seasoned 12 by 18-inch steel Sicilian pan.
  3. The dough is very sticky, so the easiest way to remove it from the sheet pan is to hold the sheet pan upside down over the Sicilian pan and use a bowl scraper to release the dough, letting it fall into the pan. Using the bowl scraper, flip the dough over to coat both sides with the oil.
  4. Using flat, fully extended fingers of both hands, press the dough outward in all directions, extending it toward the corners to make an even layer. The dough may be stretched toward the corners. If you work gently, the dough should stretch without tearing Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t reach the corners. Set, uncovered, in a warm spot and let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. After resting, the dough is ready to push outward a second time. It will not be degassed, so use a light touch to push the dough, rather than pulling it, repositioning it in the pan as needed to achieve an even thickness and to reach to the corners.
  6. Let the dough rest again (still uncovered) for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until it has risen almost to the rim of the pan. The timing will depend on the temperature of the room. At this point, do not touch or press on the dough again, even if it has pulled away from the edges, or it may not rise properly.
  7. Meanwhile, set up the oven with two pizza stones or baking steels and preheat to 450°F for 1 hour. While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings for the pizza as directed in each recipe.
  8. Keeping the pan level, gently set it on the top stone and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and transfer it to the bottom stone. Bake for another 7 minutes, until the top of the crust is a rich golden brown.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and use a wide metal spatula to lift a side of the crust to see if it is sticking to the pan. If it is, drizzle a little oil around the sides of the pan to help loosen it. Now run the spatula around the edges and under the entire crust to be sure it isn’t sticking and has completely released from the pan.
  10. Take the crust out of the pan and let rest on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours (for longer storage, see note).
  11. It is not necessary to wash the pan or add more oil to it. But if any bits of dough are stuck to the pan, remove them.
  12. When ready to finish the pizza, if you have turned off the oven, preheat it to 450°F for 1 hour. Return the parbaked crust to the pan before topping and baking.

Note on Longer Storage of Parbaked Sicilian Dough: The parbaked crust can be held for up to 10 hours. To keep it moist, wrap it in a large plastic bag and tie securely. Clean and reoil the pan before baking.

Stretch-and-Fold Method:

  1. To stretch and fold the dough, first put it on an oiled half sheet pan or work surface.
  2. Stretch it out slightly to form a rustic square measuring roughly 10 to 12 inches on a side. Visualizing the numbers on a clock, fold in 9:00 and 3:00 to meet in the center, pressing down on the seam to lightly to seal the dough.
  3. Repeat the folding, this time folding in 12:00 and 6:00 to meet in the center
  4. Fold in each of the four corners to meet in the center and press the center to seal
  5. Turn the dough over and repeat the process, folding in 2:00 and 8:00, sealing the seam, and then repeating the folding, this time folding in 10:00 and 4:00.
  6. Fold in each of the four corners and turn the dough over. Tuck under all four sides and use the palms of your hands to shape and round the sides of the dough.

Reprinted with permission from The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Sara Remington.

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