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Pugliese Potato-Crust “Pizza” with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

The Pugliesi are known for transforming simple vegetables into memorable dishes, and the pizza below is no exception. A supple crust is made with boiled potatoes and flour (much like gnocchi dough, but firmer) and baked in a well-oiled pan until the edges crisp and brown. Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and fresh thyme are a classic topping, but you can add Parmigiano, olives, even salame or artichoke hearts, whatever strikes your fancy or beckons at the market.

The dough, unlike classic pizza dough, doesn’t contain yeast, so it won’t rise in the oven. While the pizza can be baked immediately after shaping and topping, you can also opt to  shape it and top it up to 12 hours ahead, making it  a perfect dish for entertaining.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer

  • ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fresh Mozzarella, cut into 1/4 -inch cubes, drained in a colander 30 minutes and blotted dry

Place the potatoes in a 1-quart pot. Add cool water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes over medium heat, then drain, pass through a ricer, and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 425°F (preferbaly set on convection bake).

Mix the potatoes, flour, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt on a counter until a smooth dough forms, adding a little water if needed to help the dough come together; if the dough is sticky, add a little flour. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter.

Generously grease a non-perforated (and preferably nonstick) 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough. Drizzle the top of the dough with the olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with the thyme, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.

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Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, top with the Mozzarella, and return to the oven for 2 more minutes, or until  the Mozzarella melts. Serve hot.

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