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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Melissa Clark’s go-to pizza recipe for busy nights

Sheet pan pizza al taglio. Toppings can be added either before or after the pizza is baked, opening the door to possibility. Food styled by Samantha Seneviratne. (Kelly Marshall/The New York Times)

By Melissa Clark

For years, as soon as the craving for homemade pizza struck me, it was very easy to gratify ... four days later.

My family’s favorite recipe for slow-rising dough isn’t difficult, but it does need attention on consecutive evenings and a couple of overnight stints in the fridge. Those logistics are often more than our busy household can manage, and while perfectly leopard-spotted, puffy-edged pies are well worth the wait, we’re not always that patient for pizza.

So here is the gotta-have-it-now recipe for the hungry and impatient. Based on an easy, no-knead focaccia dough, it’s simple and speedy. It requires no resting time in the fridge, and barely any shaping. The whole thing can be made in under three hours, with pantry staples you probably already have, no Italian “00” flour needed.

What this crust loses in long-risen tang and chew, it more than makes up for with a delightful bouncy-soft texture, crisp edges and a savory, olive oil-imbued character. It’s far puffier and more flavorful than any premade pizza dough you can buy, and making it from scratch is faster than defrosting that ball of dough you may have stashed in the back of your freezer. It’s become our go-to for spontaneous weeknight pizza, regardless of how harried we are.

The inspiration for it comes from Roman pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), a rectangular pie usually sliced to order and sold by weight. Unlike the round, blistered pizzas of Naples, pizza al taglio tends to have a lighter crust that’s crunchy at the edges and airy in the center.

What I love most about pizza al taglio are the toppings, which change seasonally and can be added either before or after the pizza is baked, opening the door to possibility. At home, this means using whatever you have on hand, whether that’s a classic tomato-mozzarella pairing; cooked vegetables (asparagus, artichokes, roasted peppers); sliced prosciutto or mortadella; salad greens; fresh cheeses (goat cheese or ricotta); tinned fish (anchovies, sardines, tuna); or some improvised combination thereof. And if there’s nothing in the cupboard, do as the Romans do: Make pizza bianca, topping the dough with olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt.

Still, this is not a traditional pizza crust. Streamlined and endlessly adaptable for home cooking, it’s made for the spontaneous, the seasonal and the last-minute — perfect, in fact, for tonight.

Sheet-pan pizza al taglio

Popular in Rome, pizza al taglio is a rectangular pizza that’s sold by the slice and is often eaten on the go as a salty, savory snack. The dough tends to be crisp-edged and light rather than chewy, and the toppings, which can vary widely, are often seasonal. This quick, untraditional version can be made on a sheet pan in less than three hours. It has a puffy, no-knead crust that’s imbued with olive oil (like focaccia) and extremely easy to make. Feel free to play with the toppings. Cooked vegetables (thinly sliced potatoes, artichokes, roasted peppers), sliced prosciutto or mortadella, olives, other cheeses, or tinned fish like anchovies or tuna can all be added after the pizza is baked.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 2 hours 40 minutes


For the dough:

2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

7 tablespoons/104 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

2 3/4 cups/390 grams bread flour

2 teaspoons fine sea salt, more for sprinkling

1 small red onion or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional)

Dried oregano, red-pepper flakes or flaky salt (optional)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces (optional)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves or 2 cups arugula, for topping

For the tomatoes:

1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups/354 grams lukewarm water with the yeast and the sugar. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, then add flour and salt. Mix on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and ropey. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

3. Grease a 13-by-18-inch sheet pan with a little oil, then line with parchment. Drizzle 4 more tablespoons oil in the pan. Scrape dough onto the pan but don’t spread it out. Leave it where it flops. Top the pan with another, overturned sheet pan to cover the dough without touching it. Let dough proof in a warm place until it spreads out in the pan and puffs slightly, about 1 hour.

4. Transfer the overturned sheet pan that was covering the dough to the oven (still overturned) to heat (if you have a pizza stone, you can use it instead). Turn oven to 450 degrees.

5. Oil your fingers, then gently pat and press the dough into an even layer to cover most of the bottom of the sheet pan, oiling your fingers as you go. Take your time with this: The dough is sticky. Let rise uncovered until dough fills the pan and puffs slightly, 35 to 45 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes: Drain and coarsely chop them. Add them to a bowl and stir in the oil and salt.

7. Spread about 1/2 cup tomato mixture over dough in a thin layer. Sprinkle red onion or garlic over the pizza, if using. Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with oregano, red-pepper flakes and flaky salt, if you like.

8. Place the pan onto the heated sheet pan in the oven. Bake pizza until lightly golden brown on top, 22 to 30 minutes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle with mozzarella, if using. Return to the oven until the cheese has just melted, about 5 minutes. Top with torn basil leaves or arugula, and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

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