Pizza Fritta

When I visited Pepe in Grani—Franco Pepe’s hilltop shrine to Naples-style pizza—this is the first pizza he served. The dough was light, airy, crisp, and topped simply with paper-thin mortadella, buffalo ricotta, and lemon zest. It was perfect. The frying method couldn’t be easier. Instead of baking the pressed-out dough in an oven, you fry it on the stovetop in a frying pan. If you prefer, you can use the Roman dough with this method. It just won’t puff up quite as much. This pizza has its own special toppings because you add the toppings after the dough is completely cooked.

Makes 1 round 10- to 11-inch fried pizza

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 dough ball, preferably Naples Dough at 60% Hydration, about 250 grams/8.8 ounces
  • Toppings of your choice
  • Flour, for dusting

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok (at least 12-inch diameter) so that the oil is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F (177 C).

Let the dough warm up at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. As it warms up, the dough will relax and become easier to shape.

Meanwhile, get your toppings prepped and ready to go.

To shape the dough: The goal is to stretch the dough to a 10- to 11-inch circle with an even thickness across the entire surface. There are lots of ways. Here’s how I usually do it. Lightly flour a work surface and a wooden pizza peel. Use a dough scraper to scrape the dough ball from the tray to the floured surface. Gently poke your fingers around the edge of the dough ball to begin forming a modest rim. The center should look thicker like a hat. Leave the rim alone and press your palm gently into the center of the hat, moving your fingers and thumb outward to begin stretching the dough away from the center. At this point, you should have a disk of dough about 5 inches in diameter. Slip one hand under the disk and quickly flip it over. Repeat the poking and pressing process on the other side, poking your fingers around the edge first to make the rim and then stretching outward with your fingers and thumb to stretch the dough from the center outward. As you work, keep your thumb against the rim.

The dough should stretch easily on the work surface. If you need to stretch it more, transfer the dough from the work surface to the backs of your hands: just quickly grab the far edge of the rim and flip the dough onto the opposite hand, and then flip it again on the back of the other hand. Keep both hands loosely closed as fists under the dough near the center. With the dough on the backs of your hands, essentially repeat the process of stretching the dough from the center outward: move your hands gently away from the center while rotating the dough around the backs of your fists. It helps to angle the dough downward slightly so it’s not perfectly horizontal, which causes it to drape too quickly around the backs of your fists. Carefully and gently continue to stretch the dough until it is an evenly thin 10- to 11-inch circle with a modest rim. For the most even crust, I like to stretch both sides of the dough in my hands. To do that, flip the dough over on the backs of your hands by flipping it over much the same way you did when flipping it from the work surface to your hands. Of course, there are other ways to stretch the dough. Some people twirl it up in the air. Use whatever method works best for you to create an evenly stretched circle with a modest rim. If the dough tears a hole, patch it by pulling a little dough from one side of the hole and pressing it over the hole with your thumb.

Lay the stretched dough onto the floured peel. The easiest way is to simply drape it over the peel and then remove your hands from beneath the dough. Reshape the dough round as necessary and then give the peel a quick shake to make sure the dough can slide easily.

To fry the pizza: Slide and shake the pizza from the peel into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on each side, 2 to 3 minutes per side, and turn with tongs. It will puff up. Use the tongs to lift the edges and make sure it cooks evenly. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady oil temperature of 350 F (177 C). When the dough is browned and firm, transfer the fried pizza shell to paper towels to drain briefly. Transfer again to a cutting board and cut into 6 pieces. Quickly divide the toppings among the pieces and serve.

Options

Mortadella Ricotta: On each slice, place some thinly sliced mortadella (about 6 oz total), a dollop of ricotta, some finely grated lemon zest, chopped fresh parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Melon and Speck: On each slice, layer on thinly sliced speck (about 6 oz total), finely chopped cantaloupe, shaved red onion, and olive oil.

Caprese: On each slice, layer on a few pieces of fresh hand-torn buffalo mozzarella (about 2 oz total), a slice of fresh tomato, a fresh basil leaf, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Caesar: Make a bagna cauda dressing by steeping 2 large garlic cloves and 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 3/4 cup grapeseed oil. Let it steep over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to brown lightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Discard 1 garlic clove and then pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, gradually stream in 3/4 cup whole milk. Then blend in 1 egg yolk until the mixture thickens slightly. Season with about 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, some sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Top each slice of fried pizza with julienned strips of fresh romaine lettuce, a drizzle of the bagna cauda dressing, an oil-packed anchovy fillet, a quarter of a soft-boiled egg, and some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Delicious! You’ll have some bagna cauda dressing left over. Use it as a warm dip for croutons or crudités. It keeps for several days in the fridge. Just warm it up a little before using.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering Pizza, copyright 2018. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone” by Marc Vetri and David Joachim ($29.99).
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