Pizza alla pala is a classic in Rome, but it’s popping up as the new trend throughout Italy and abroad.
Pizza alla pala is cooked in electric ovens and is crisp, yet also soft and chewy. Neapolitans shudder at the mere thought, accustomed to the classic round pie with its typical billowing crust, but pizza alla pala is among Rome’s oldest foods and yet one of the city’s newest food trends beyond borders. It’s a portable snack and can be purchased in squares, choosing between different toppings.
The term “alla pala” derives from the fact that this pizza is placed on a elongated wood or aluminum pizza peel used to transfer the pizza to the oven where it is baked for 7-8 minutes.
This pizza can also be prepared and cooked directly in a square or rectangular pan, a bit like you would at home, or as it is normally baked in many pizzerie al taglio.
One of the pizza chefs specialized in pizza alla pala is Angelo Iezzi, owner of the pizzeria “Angelo and Simonetta” in Rome, located on Via Nomentana. Iezzi started making pizza at the age of 13 and during his career has won titles in the World Pizza Championship, coming in first place in 1992 and 1993. Currently Angelo Iezzi is the president of API, the Italian Pizzeria Association.
We’re partial to other pizza alla pala bakers in Rome such as Antico Forno Roscioli, Forno Campo de’ Fiori and in Testaccio, at the small family-run Casa Manco shop. Their sesame pizza is habit forming.
Recipe for pizza alla pala
This recipe can be prepared at home, using a stand mixer and baking it on a sheet pan or––even better––on a refractory stone. The leavening time can vary from 18 to 48 hours.
Ingredients for 2 pizza alla pala (8 portions)
800 g “0” type flour (W 350)
4 g brewer’s yeast (for a 48-hour rise, otherwise use 6 g)
640 g water
16 g sea salt
30 g extra virgin olive oil
8 g diastatic malt (containing with active enzymes)
Put the flour, the crumbled yeast, 580 g of water and the malt in the stand mixer fitted with a leaf hook. Operate the machine at low speed, when everything is well blended, increase the speed so that the ball of dough starts to attach to the hook.
Switch off the machine, remove the dough from the hook and turn it upside down, reassemble and continue kneading, adding half of the remaining water in one constant stream. Unhook and reassemble again to detach the dough from the bottom of the bowl, add the rest of the water and salt, unhook and reassemble, add the oil, unhook and reassemble.
After 3 times, switch off the mixer, turn the dough to your work surface, and knead for 3-5 more minutes.
Place the dough in a bowl with an airtight seal, letting it proof for 45 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 18 hours (in which case 6 grams of yeast should be used), and for a maximum 48 hours (in which case 4 grams of yeast should be used).
Take the ball of dough out of the refrigerator, cut it into two parts, folding each in three at least twice, and then forming a slightly elongated, flat loaf. Cover and let the dough stand until double in volume, at room temperature (this will take about 3 hours).
Stretch out the dough and press your fingertips to create dimples.
To bake plain pizza with no topping, put the pizza in the pan, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 250° C in the lower part of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until it begins to color slightly. Take it out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes, put it back in the oven and finish baking for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and rosemary needles.
To bake the pizza with toppings: put the pizza in the pan and bake at 250° C in the lower part of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until it begins to color. Take it out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes, season with tomato and mozzarella (or whatever other topping you like) and bake in the upper part of the oven for an additional 5 minutes before removing from the oven.
pizza alla pala stuffed with prosciutto and fresh figs
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.