Pizza is tantamount to merrymaking and sharing – a symbol of Italy acknowledged worldwide. A dish boasting a history of over a thousand years, on behalf of which Neapolitan pizza makers would not hesitate to take up the cudgels (and switch on their ovens), pizza has never stopped evolving while sticking to tradition.
From the most famous pizza Margherita, named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who it was dedicated to by famous pizza chef Raffaele Esposito back in 1889, through to countless variations that have proliferated over time. In 2017 Unesco added pizza to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The pizza alla pala or pizza in pala proposed by Andrea is a version of the dish ideal to be shared, as well as easily stored: served on a long wooden peel, it can be enjoyed as a starter or a main course – cutting it with your hands and savouring it to the last bite. After baking the base – which, in the oven, develops the typical cell structure and crunchiness that set it apart – you can also store it in the freezer: a simple, convenient way to always have a soft pizza available, ready to be filled.
You just need to place a pizza in the middle of the table to immediately create merriment, which is often preceded by the moment when the toppings and fillings are chosen all together.
The pre-fermented dough should rest from 12 to 16 hours, so it is recommended to knead it in the evening and keep it in a container with lid in the fridge all night. The next day, leave it to rest out of the fridge for at least an hour and mix it by adding the flour, 50% of the water and the malt. Add the remaining water a little at a time: always wait for the dough to absorb it before adding some more. When there is little water left, add the salt and incorporate it while continuing to knead. As a last ingredient, add the oil.
Let the dough rest for another 5 minutes, knead it (even several times) until it is smooth and form a loaf. Ideally, close the dough at a 20-to-24-degree temperature. Place the dough in an oiled container, cover it with a wet cloth (it should not take air and form a crust) and wait for it to double in volume.
Once ready, turn the dough out onto the worktable and divide it into three parts.
For shaping, prepare a bowl with the same amount of “00” flour and semolina and put the dough in it. Stretch the outer edges and join them in the middle, move the dough onto the workbench and repeat the operation a couple of times. Finally, roll the dough on itself, close all the edges completely and leave it in a wide enough container with a lid or covered with a damp cloth, until it has more than doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the container, turn it out onto the table sprinkled with semolina and roll it out by applying pressure with your fingertips. Transfer the dough to the peel, placing it first on the back of your hand to remove any excess flour and then on the peel.
Preheat the oven to maximum temperature using the upper and lower heating elements. If you have an ILVE oven or range cooker, preheat the oven to 300 degrees in static mode with the refractory stone on the first rack, or select the Pizza function, which is ideal for this type of baking as it makes the most of three heating elements.
Sprinkle with olive oil (if you want to add the topping later) or add some tomato, then slide your pizza from the peel to the refractory stone and keep it in the oven for 5/7 minutes, until it begins to brown on the surface (make sure the bottom is well-baked). Once out of the oven, place it on a rack to prevent it from getting damp in the bottom. If you want to store it, wait for it to cool down before putting it in the freezer.
Add chopped tomatoes, diced mozzarella and topping to taste, before baking it in a convection oven at 220 degrees for another 10 minutes.