One of my head pizzaiolos, Laura Meyer, has lived and studied in Italy and speaks Italian fluently. So when the world championships in Parma, Italy, rolled around, she was excited to give it a shot. We flew over together and planned her entry in the pizza in teglia (“pan pizza,” or what we would call Sicilian) division. I advised her not to go too off the wall—Italians don’t love that, especially from Americans—but to add a little twist that would be just creative enough. Laura settled on a classic pizza alla diavola, which is made with whole-milk mozzarella, tomato sauce, and slices of the spicy oblong salami known as soppressata piccante. Her clever addition was a scattering of arugula on top of the finished pizza. When they announced the final results, Laura heard the word vincitrice—the feminine form of “winner,” and, being the only woman in the finals, she knew she’d won before she even heard her name. I asked Laura to give it a name. “Now that I’ve been crowned,” she said, without missing a beat, “how about La Regina, Italian for ’queen’?”
What to buy: Look for flour with a protein content of 13 to 14 percent—All Trumps High Gluten Flour and Pendleton Flour Mills’ Power Flour are both excellent. The King Arthur brand of diastatic malt powder is fairly easy to find, though I highly recommend Central Milling’s Low Diastatic Artisan Malt.
Special equipment: You’ll need two pizza stones and a 12-inch-by-18-inch steel Sicilian pan that’s been seasoned.
Game plan: The tomato sauce can be made up to 3 days before using; cover tightly and store in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before assembling your pizza.
- Yield: 1 rectangular pizza (12 by 18 inches), 12 squares
- Difficulty: Hard
- Total: 4 hrs 20 mins, plus about 36 hrs for rising and resting the dough
- Active: 50 mins
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably Valoroso or DiNapoli brands, to yield 8 ounces (3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) hand-crushed tomatoes
- 17 ounces (2 cups) ground tomatoes, preferably 7/11 or DiNapoli brands
- 8 ounces (3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) tomato paste, preferably SuperDolce brand
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 fresh basil leaf, torn
For the dough:
- 6 grams (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 100 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) warm water (80°F to 85°F)
- 578 grams (4 1/2 cups) flour (see “What to Buy” note in recipe intro)
- 12 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) diastatic malt
- 305 grams (1 1/3 cups) ice water
- 12 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) fine sea salt
- 6 grams (1/2 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for coating the pans and drizzling
Assembling and finishing the pizza:
- 6 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 12 large slices (about 2 ounces) soppressata piccante (hot soppressata)
- Olive oil, for drizzling (if needed)
- Large handful of arugula leaves
- 12 thin slices (about 6 ounces) prosciutto
- Small piece Piave cheese, cold, for shaving
- Small piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, cold, for shaving
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
To make the Sicilian tomato sauce:
- Start by making the hand-crushed tomatoes. You’ll want to rinse your hands frequently as you work, so set up your station near the sink or have a bowl of cold water nearby.
- Put a strainer over a bowl. Working over a second bowl, lift a tomato, pinch off the head (stem end) and any unripe areas, and let those pieces drop into the bowl. Some tomatoes may not be deep red. I prefer not to use those, but it’s your call. Open up the tomato, remove any skins, seeds, or tough sections and add them to your discard bowl. Break the cleaned tomato into small pieces or strips and put them in the strainer. Keep in mind that these will not be blended, so if they look too coarse for your taste, run them through your fingers to make smaller pieces.
- Press gently on the tomatoes to strain as much liquid as possible. Discard the contents of the discard bowl and the bowl below the strainer.
- Continue cleaning and crushing tomatoes until you’ve finished the whole can—you’ll have a bit more than you need for this recipe; save and use for something else.
- To make the sauce, combine the ground tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, and salt in a deep bowl or other deep container and purée with an immersion blender. Stir in the hand-crushed tomatoes and basil. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.
To make the dough:
- 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 (i.e., inactive) and should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
- Combine the flour and malt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the salt and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute to combine. 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.
- 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.
- Working with wet hands, stretch and fold the dough. Cover the pan with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Using a dough cutter, lift the dough into a large bowl, press it down slightly, and rub a little water over the top. Cover with a double layer of plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and put it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the dough for 30 seconds on the lowest speed to de-gas the dough, removing any air bubbles.
- Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Form the dough into a ball. 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 hours.
To parbake the crust:
- Next day, 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.
- Pour the olive oil into the center of a well-seasoned 12-inch-by-18-inch steel Sicilian pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meanwhile, set up the oven with two pizza stones or baking steels and preheat to 450°F for 1 hour.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take the crust out of the pan and let rest on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- 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.
To finish the pizza:
- If you have turned off the oven after parbaking the dough, reheat to 450°F for at least 1 hour.
- Spoon the tomato sauce onto the center of the dough, then, using the back of the spoon in a circular motion and working outward from the center, spread the sauce evenly over the top, leaving a 3/4-inch border on all sides.
- Mound the mozzarella and provolone in the center of the pizza and use your fingertips to spread them out evenly over the sauce.
- Arrange the soppressata over the cheese, placing 4 slices lengthwise and 3 slices across, so that once the pizza is cut, each piece will have a slice.
- Place the pan on the top stone and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees, transfer it to the bottom stone, and bake for 6 minutes, until the top of the crust is a rich golden brown. 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. Keep a watchful eye so the cheese does not overcook.
- 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.
- Lift the pizza on 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), then make 3 evenly spaced cuts across the width of the pizza (to make 4 strips of equal width), to make 12 squares.
- Scatter the arugula over the top and drape a slice of prosciutto over each piece. Garnish with shavings of Piave and Parmigiano-Reggiano and finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.