Pizza al taglio is the best way to eat pizza in Roma. There are shops everywhere (and it is even starting to become popular in the US). It is the best kind of ‘fast food’ – you simply go up to the counter, admire all of the choices, tell the server what type (or types, if you want to really have an experience) you would like and how much (by weight – which is what al taglio means) and you are instantly served with a large rectangle of deliciousness. Plus, as I mentioned in my story, it makes a great vegetarian meal.
Last summer in Roma, I had pizza al taglio several times a week. Potato pizza with rosemary is a perennial favorite, mostly due to my high school Latin teacher (the great William Prueter) introducing me to it on an earlier trip to Roma. However, I am now particularly fond of the pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli, which happened to be about twenty steps from the apartment I lived in last summer. They had one pizza there that was topped lightly with tomato sauce and then finished with roasted eggplant, fresh mozzarella and basil. It was addictive.
To recreate it, I’ve turned to my favorite American pizza maker, who trained in one of the best bakeries in Roma – Jim Lahey. His book My Bread totally revolutionized the way I made both bread and pizza. His recipe was also the first I was ever able to find for pizza al taglio that tasted correct. I’ve used his base for the pizza and a modification of his basic red sauce from his other book, My Pizza, which specializes in Neapolitan-style pizzas. The rest of the toppings I’ve written up based on my memory of that favorite Roman lunch. Buon appetito!
Pizza al Taglio with Eggplant, Mozzarella & Basil
- The recipe makes enough for two pizzas (13″ by 18″ rectangles), so either half it or make two pizzas – I would go with the two pizzas, personally.
- Use best quality ingredients here – it really makes a difference.
- The recipe for the sauce makes a lot more than you need. You can use it as a base for a marinara sauce if you would like to use up the extra. It will keep a few days in the fridge.
- The dough takes about 2-3 hours to rise, so plan accordingly.
3 3/4 c. bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/4 tsp. table salt
3/4 tsp plus a pinch sugar
1 1/3 cups room temperature water
Extra virgin olive oil, for the pans
1 14 oz. can whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano is preferable)
1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. table salt
2 large globe eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 bunch basil, leaves only
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
- First, make the pizza dough. In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and mix together gently with your hands or a wooden spoon until it comes together. Don’t overmix – just until the flour and water have come together. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour – too stiff, more water. The dough should be a bit stiff in the end.
- Shape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature until the dough doubles in size (this could take longer in the winter, shorter in the summer.
- After the first rise, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and shape both halves into rounds. Cover the rounds with damp towels or plastic wrap and let rise for another half hour.
- Meanwhile, roast the eggplant. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay cut eggplant on sheet pans as close together as possible, but not overlapping. Brush generously with oil on each side. Salt & pepper each side as well. Roast in oven 5 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Set aside.
- Next, make the sauce. Place the canned tomatoes in a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze the tomatoes and break them apart into small pieces (this can get a bit messy, so you may want to do it in the sink). Add the oil and salt and stir to combine. Set in the fridge until pizza dough is ready.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If making two pizzas, lightly oil two half-sheet pans until coated in a thin layer of oil (13″ by 18″ inches each). Take each dough round and place onto a separate baking sheet. Gently stretch and press the dough until it fills the pan evenly. Pinch closed any holes in the dough.
- Cover each pizza with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sauce, leaving about an inch uncovered around the rim. The sauce should be light on the pizza – do not cover heavily. Place the roasted eggplant onto the pizza – they can overlap slightly. Cook the pizzas for 20-25 minutes (watch them closely beginning at 15 minutes). They are done when they are lightly golden brown and the edge of the crust begins to pull away from the pan.
- Remove the pizzas from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Add the mozzarella and basil to the pizza. Cut into large rectangles (approximately 8 slices per pan). Devour.
Makes two 3″x18″ pizzas, with 16 generous slices.