By Becky Krystal
Pizza Paradiso chef-owner Ruth Gresser has kept this pie on the menu since she opened her first Washington restaurant in 1991. The pizza takes its name from the Italian city of Genoa, the birthplace of pesto, which plays the role of the sauce here.
The recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas. You can use the second round for Gresser’s Cherry Pizza. You’ll have extra pesto, too. You’ll need a pizza peel, pizza stone and a pair of tongs.
We tested this recipe in an electric oven. If, instead, you have a drawer broiler, place the pizza stone on the top top shelf of the oven and preheat your oven on the broil setting for 1 hour. Check the temperature with an oven thermometer. If it reaches 550 degrees or more, bake the pizza on the top rack of your oven, with the oven set to broil for the complete baking process. If your oven does not reach 550 degrees or more, move the stone to the broiler drawer and set the stone on the broiler 4 inches from the flame, and follow the broil instructions. After the initial 1-minute broil step, move the broiler pan with the pizza stone on it to the top rack of the oven (the stone and pan will be extremely hot). Turn the oven to the highest bake setting and continue with the rest of the recipe.
If you don’t have a broiler, preheat the oven on its highest bake setting for up to 1 hour (making sure your oven does not have an automatic time or temperature shut-off) and then bake the pizza. You will most likely need to bake the pizza for 15 to 20 minutes rather than the 10 minutes in the directions.
Adapted from “Kitchen Workshop: Pizza,” by Ruth Gresser (Quarry Books, 2014).
6 to 8 servings
(makes one 12-inch pizza)
MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs to rise for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. It needs to undergo a second rise for 1 hour at room temperature or for 6 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator. The dough can be refrigerated overnight after its first or second rise. The dough can also be frozen for up to a month; defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Let refrigerated dough sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before using. The pesto can be refrigerated for up to a week; cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil (in addition to plastic wrap) to keep the pesto from browning. The potatoes can be cooked, cooled and refrigerated several days in advance.
For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound bread flour, plus more as needed
Cornmeal, for sprinkling
For the pesto:
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 1/2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
4 medium (about 2 inches) red potatoes, preferably of similar size
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Olive oil, for drizzling
For the dough: Place the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough-hook attachment. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Whisk the salt and oil into the water mixture. Add all the flour at once; beat on the lowest speed until a shaggy dough is formed.
Increase the mixer speed by one or two clicks; let the machine knead the dough until it has a smooth and elastic texture, about 5 minutes. To test the dough, turn off the machine and press the dough with your fingertip. When the dough begins to spring back, it is fully kneaded and ready for proofing.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
Lightly flour a work surface and two plates. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and divide it in half. Shape each portion into a ball by placing your hands on either side of the bottom of the dough, rotating the dough counterclockwise five or six times while exerting a little inward and downward pressure on both sides. Place one ball on each plate. Lightly grease two pieces of plastic wrap with cooking oil spray and use them cover the dough, greased side down.
Put one of the plates in the refrigerator for 6 hours or up to overnight (a second rise), then freeze for another use.
Let the remaining dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour at room temperature for room-temperature dough or 2 to 3 hours at room temperature for cold dough. Or let it rise in the refrigerator for 6 hours or up to overnight. (At this point, you may freeze the dough.)
For the pesto: Combine the basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add the cheese and pulse until just blended. With the motor running, gradually drizzle in the oil to form a fairly thick pesto. Add the salt and a few grindings of pepper. Transfer to an airtight container; the yield is 3/4 to 1 cup.
For the topping: Place the potatoes in a 2-quart pot. Cover with water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, yet still firm enough to slice easily. Drain and cool. Slice the potatoes into scant 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
When ready to assemble, place the pizza stone on the top rack of a cool oven. Preheat the oven to broil, leaving the door ajar by about 2 inches, for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, flatten the rested dough ball with your fingertips into an 8-inch round. Hold the dough between your fingers and your thumb on the left and right sides and stretch slightly. Lay the dough down on the counter and rotate it a quarter turn. Repeat the stretching on the new left and right sides of the dough. Rotate the dough an eighth of a turn. Repeat the stretching, make another quarter turn and stretch a final time. You should have a roughly 10-inch round.
Using your thumb and tips of your first two fingers, place them about 3/4 inch from the edge of the dough. Lift a section of the dough and stretch gently, proceeding section by section until you have made your way around the full circumference. You want to leave the outer edge thicker than the center to form a nice crust. The dough should now be a 12-inch round. If it’s misshapen, push or pull the edge until you achieve the desired round shape.
Sprinkle the pizza peel with cornmeal and lay the pizza dough on it. Spread 1/4 cup of the pesto onto the dough, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of dough uncovered around the outside edge. Arrange the potato slices in a single layer, covering the pesto. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt. Drizzle liberally with oil.
Give the peel a quick shake to be sure the pizza is not sticking. Slide the pizza off the peel onto the stone in the oven. Broil for 1 minute, leaving the door ajar again. Close the door, turn the oven temperature to the highest bake setting and cook for 5 minutes. Quickly open the oven door, pull out the rack and with the tongs, rotate the pizza (not the stone) a half turn. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Use the peel and tongs to remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzle with a little oil. Cut into slices and serve.
Nutrition per serving (based on 8): 200 calories, 7 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fibre, 1 g sugar