Is there anyone out there in the world who wouldn’t rather be in Rome right now? I didn’t think so.
Not when Italian sunshine and sun-drenched piazzas and Vespas and Pizza al Taglio exist.
Let’s talk pizza for a minute (I could talk pizza for an eternity, but I’ll try to keep it short). The pizza that I think of as original, real deal, Pizza with a capital P, comes from Naples.
The crust is thin, chewy and blistered from being baked in a wood-fired oven. The toppings are sparse, and the classico is the Margherita made with nothing but tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella – perfect in its simplicity.
This is not that pizza. That kind of pizza in Italy is eaten in a restaurant, sitting down, and with a knife and fork. And as much as I love that kind of pizza, this is not restaurant-food Monday. This is Street Food Monday.
Which brings me to Pizza al Taglio. THIS is Italian Street Food Pizza.
This is the kind of pizza that you buy from a little hole-in-the-wall place where they hand it over the counter to you, wrapped in paper and ready to eat. This is by-the-slice pizza, Italian style.
When you’re lucky enough to locate a spot for Pizza al Taglio in the absolute maze of Rome’s streets, I highly suggest you stop in for a slice.
You will see that the pizza comes in long rectangular slabs with different toppings, all waiting behind a glass counter. The crust is thick – maybe just over half an inch. You make your choice, and the friendly Italian will gesture as to how much they should chop you off (My suggestion? Get a little taste of a few).
They will then take to your chosen pizza with a pair of scissors and deftly sheer you off a slice. They pass the magical pie over the counter on a piece of paper and away you go to find a sunny spot to enjoy your pie.
Aaaaaaand if you’re not in Rome, you thank your lucky stars that Pizza al Taglio is so beautifully suited to being recreated at home. No wood-fired oven required (although if you’ve got one, be my guest), the crust is baked in a tray, and the ingredients are easily sourced from the local deli.
I like to top mine with oil-preserved artichokes, which I think of as a quintessentially Roman ingredient, along with Mozzarella, fresh prosciutto and rocket. And I like to make my own sauce; it takes about 5 minutes and it will take your pizza to the next level. This is one of my very favourite things to eat of all time, and always takes me straight to Rome. What’s your favourite food or travel memory?
- 2 + ½ cups (375g) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dry active yeast
- 1½ cups (375ml) warm water
- 14oz (400g) can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper
- oil-preserved artichokes
- rocket (arugula)
- To make the dough, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Work on a low speed until the dough comes together, and then increase the speed to medium, and knead for about 2 minutes. This is a wet dough, so don't worry if it doesn't form a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic in leave to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, make the sauce. Drain the can of tomatoes and discard the liquid. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the finely sliced garlic. Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds, and then add the drained tomatoes, oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is basically dry and looks very rich. Set aside to cool.
- When the dough has nearly finished rising, turn the oven on to preheat to 425F/220C and line a sheet pan with baking paper. Scrape the dough out onto the baking paper and, using wet hands, push and spread the dough out to cover the base of the tray.
- Top the dough with the cooled pizza sauce, and then add a light covering of mozzarella and pieces of artichoke. Bake the pizza for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, and the topping is bubbling and melted.
- Scatter over the prosciutto and a sprinkling of rocket, and then serve.