Pizza Bianca, which translates to 'White Pizza' in Italian, is basically a pizza prepared without tomato sauce. My favorite version has a topping of thinly sliced new potatoes and gets its flavor from two kinds of cheese, one mild (mozzarella) one deliciously salty (parmesan), then delightfully woodsy rosemary from my garden and a lovely topping of peppery winter purslane. If you cannot find fresh Winter Purslane, of course, you could substitute with fresh arugula (aka rocket) here or other seasonal winter greens that you like.
As far as the pizza base is concerned, we all know that nothing beats making your own pizza dough but, particularly at this rather busy time of the year, there is no shame in using a good quality store bought pizza dough. Whether you make the dough yourself or not, just remember to make sure that your oven is rather hot as you are looking for a crust that will be crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle, maybe charred in spots, giving your Pizza Bianca that slightly smoky flavor that you love from brick ovens.
Pizza Bianca with Potatoes , Rosemary & Purslane
Ingredients for the Toppings
- 1 pizza base* (use your favorite recipe OR use a good quality store bought one)
- 4 to 5 fingerling potatoes, cooked, cooled, skins on or off, slice as thinly as possible (although a mandoline works best here, you could use a sharp knife)
- good olive oil (about 2 tbsps)
- freshly ground black pepper and salt
- 50g mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (if you grate the mozzarella yourself and it is rather soft, freeze briefly before grating, making your life a lot easier when you make this recipe)
- some parmesan cheese, finely grated
- small rosemary twigs OR use thyme
Winter Greens Topping (optional)
- fresh purslane, washed, picked through and dried (OR use other winter greens)
- some good olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 240° C (464°F) or as hot as it will go.
- Transfer the dough directly onto an upside-down oiled baking sheet OR use a pizza stone.
- Flatten the dough into rough pizza shape.
- Prove the dough for a good 5 minutes while you prepare the toppings.
- Pat away any excess moisture from the potatoes and carefully toss the potato slices in the olive oil and season with pepper and salt to taste.
- Top base with the mozzarella and parmesan.
- Lay the potato slices on top and drizzle with any remaining olive oil from the bowl.
- Top with rosemary.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes OR until the base is puffed and golden and the potatoes are crisping up around the edges. Set aside for a moment while you prepare the winter green topping.
- Top with purslane or other greens, as is, or tossed with a bit of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and salt.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Ingredients for the Pizza Dough*
For the biga
- 150g flour, plus extra for dusting (please note: for pizza making it is best to use (strong) white bread flour or Tipo '00' flour available at most Italian supermarkets or online)
- ½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
- ½ tsp fine (caster) sugar
- 150ml lukewarm water
- 275g flour
- 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- about 200 to 220ml lukewarm water
Preparation of the Pizza Dough
- Make the biga the night before: mix the flour, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Slowly add 150ml lukewarm water and stir to create a thick batter.
- Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and leave in a warm place overnight to ferment.
- The next day: add the flour, yeast, olive oil and 1 tsp salt to the biga, then gradually mix in enough water to make a soft, wet dough that still holds its shape.
- Cover and leave to rise for 2 to 4 hours or until tripled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, punch the dough to knock the air out, then tip out onto a heavily floured surface. Knead in the flour until the dough stops sticking to your hands – it should be very soft and springy, but not so wet that it sticks to the surface.
- Divide the dough into two balls. Roll one out to make a large pizza base OR divide in half again to make two smaller pizzas (NOTE: double the toppings to make two pizza bianca or freeze one portion).
Enjoy for lunch or dinner, just as is or maybe with a warming bowl of soup alongside.