Sourdough Pizza Romana

April 18, 2021
12 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
  • Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes One pizza, the size of a half-sheet pan
Author Notes

Making pizza to rival those at your favorite pizzeria can be challenging in a home kitchen, but armed with a flavorful sourdough base, a super hot home oven, and your trusty rectangular baking sheet, we can get you there. And I might go so far as to say that this rectangular pizza is the ultimate comfort food. The dough takes relatively little in the way of planning: The mix of cheese, tomato, and spices fills the kitchen with a warming aroma, and each square slice cheers the spirit in a way only pizza can.

The timing for making this pizza is flexible: the entire dish can be made in a single day or spread over two. After mixing the dough and letting it bulk ferment, you have the option to continue to proof the dough on the counter to eat a pizza that day, or stick the dough into the refrigerator overnight and make your pie the next day for lunch or dinner.

To get a deeply colored and crunchy crust in a home oven, I’ve found it best to bake this pizza on a Baking Steel or baking stone preheated until sufficiently saturated with heat. When using steel, I like to preheat my oven to 500°F (260°C) for a full one hour. If using a baking stone, I can usually get away with 30 minutes at the same temperature. If you don’t have steel or stone, it’s OK; your pizza will still turn out excellent in the baking sheet.

I recommend brushing on a thin layer of olive oil before shaping your dough to fit the pan. It’s important not to have too much oil, just enough to help the pizza remove cleanly from the pan (and add a little extra crispness at the bottom, which is never a bad thing). —Maurizio Leo

Test Kitchen Notes

The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer-turned-bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker), Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather on a lot of butter. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Pizza dough
  • 470 grams all-purpose flour
  • 12 grams extra-virgin olive oil
  • 9 grams kosher salt
  • 325 grams water
  • 85 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • Sauce & toppings
  • 28 ounces (one can) whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), liquid drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 170 grams shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • Any other desired toppings such as pepperoni, pickled jalapeno, crumbled sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, etc.
  1. Mix the dough (10:00 a.m., or when your sourdough starter is ripe)

    Add the flour, salt, water, and ripe sourdough starter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on to speed 1 (STIR on a KitchenAid) for 1 to 2 minutes until everything is incorporated. Then, turn the mixer up to speed 2 and mix for 2 to 3 minutes until the dough starts to cling to the dough hook. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

    Add the extra-virgin olive oil to the dough in the mixing bowl and turn the mixer on to speed 1 for 1 to 2 minutes until the olive oil is completely absorbed into the dough. Turn the mixer up to speed 2 and mix for an additional 2 minutes until the dough is further strengthened and begins to smooth out and cling to the dough hook. This dough is soft and won’t completely come away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Transfer the dough to another bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
  2. Bulk ferment the dough (10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

    Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature (72 to 74°F) for a total of three and a half hours. You’ll give the dough three sets of “stretch and folds” to impart additional strength during this time. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let the dough rest, covered. After 30 minutes, give the dough its first set of stretch and folds.

    Use slightly wet hands to grab the dough farthest from you in the container for each set, stretch it up and over to the side nearest you. Then, grab the dough on the side closest to you and stretch it back up and over to the farthest side of the container. Repeat two more folds, one at the right side of the container and one at the left—you’ll now have a folded up square in the container. Let the dough rest, again covered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes, stretching and folding again. Repeat this process one more time for three total sets. After the third set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remaining time in bulk fermentation.
  3. Refrigerate the dough (2:00 p.m.)

    After three and a half hours, your dough should have smoothed out and risen in the bulk fermentation container. You might see a bubble or two on the surface or at the sides, and the dough should feel stronger, more elastic. At this point, you have a choice: proof the dough on the counter to be ready for baking in about 2 hours, or place the bulk fermentation container, covered, into the refrigerator.

    I prefer using the refrigerator. The cold temperature slows fermentation but allows it to continue just enough to further flavor the dough. Additionally, when the dough is in the refrigerator, it will enable me to sync the dough’s fermentation progress to match dinner time, either that same day or the next.

    Place the container into the refrigerator, covered.
  4. Proof the dough (4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the same day, or anytime up to 4:30 p.m. the next day)

    About 2 hours before you’re ready to bake the pizza, remove the bulk fermentation container from the fridge and place it on your kitchen counter. Let it warm up and come back up to room temperature for one hour.

    After the dough has been out for an hour, start preheating your oven, with an oven rack in the middle, preferably holding a Baking Steel or baking stone, to 500°F (260°C).

    At this time, also prepare any toppings for your pizza. To make the tomato sauce, add the ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.
  5. Shape the pizza (6:30 p.m.)

    After about an hour, once your baking surface in the oven is fully preheated, prepare your sheet pan t. Using a pastry brush, brush a very light coating of olive oil onto the pan, edge to edge. It’s important not to spread too much oil here—just enough to ensure the dough doesn’t stick.

    Uncover your dough, lightly flour the top, and scrape it out onto a floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough that’s now facing up, and using floured hands, gently press the dough out into a rectangle shape. Once you’ve pressed the dough out to about ¾ the length of the pan, transfer it to the pan by dragging it over its edge. Alternatively, you can use a thin cutting board or pizza peel to slide under the dough and then remove it from the peel to the pan. Once the dough is in the pan, finish shaping by pressing it out and reaching under the sides to stretch it to fit the pan gently.
  6. Top and bake the pizza (6:45 p.m.)

    First, bake the pizza only topped with sauce to help the base get a head start before adding the cheese and other toppings. Using a large spoon, spread about ¼ to ½ cup tomato sauce onto the dough in an even, light layer (you’ll have some leftover tomato sauce, which is excellent for pasta!). Slide the baking sheet into the oven, turn the oven down to 425°F (220°C), and bake for 10 minutes.

    After 10 minutes, use oven mitts to remove the baking sheet to a wire rack. Spread on your remaining toppings: shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, olives, etc. Slide the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is well-colored. Use a pair of tongs to lift the pizza and check the underside; it should be browned and crispy. If the bottom is still underbaked, continue to bake the pizza for another 5 to 10 minutes.

    When finished baking, remove the pizza from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • PSVic
  • Jeffrey Bittel
    Jeffrey Bittel
  • Smaug
  • liltrukr
  • Ruth Anderson
    Ruth Anderson
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.

48 Reviews

PSVic February 27, 2021
As with all of Mauricio's recipes, they are well tested and they work. Having a great same day bake recipe is mandatory when the urge hits to have a pizza. Do not be afraid to try this one.
Maurizio L. February 28, 2021
Thanks so much, I really appreciate that!
Rfm291 February 16, 2021
Hi chef! Thank you for the recipe, I follow your blog to make sourdough bread and it’s great! Just tried this recipe, but unfortunately the dough didn’t rise. I’m thinking it probably didn’t proof long enough, but I could be wrong. What do you think it could be?
Maurizio L. February 17, 2021
Thank you! Yes, sounds like it was under fermented. Make sure you use your sourdough starter when it's ripe (when you'd normally refresh/feed it), and keep the dough warm, around 76-78F would be ideal.
Epatsev January 29, 2021
Hi Maurizio!! Thanks again for an amazing recipe! I’m getting ready to give this recipe a go, but I have two questions please. 1. Can I leave the dough fermenting on the fridge for more than 24 hrs? 2. What would be the major impact in using some percentage, not all of 00 flour instead of 100% AP?? Thanks!!
Maurizio L. January 29, 2021
You're very welcome. Answers: 1) yes, that should be just fine, it's a really flexible dough. 2)Using 100% 00 would be fantastic, and I do this often. I didn't call for it in the recipe because it's not as widely available, but yes, 00 will work fantastic. Enjoy!
Smaug January 29, 2021
I've left it for 3-4 days without problem. There was an interesting article on Serious Eats a while back (don't remember what it was called) that involved some tests with a standard pizza dough; they concluded that the best results came with a cold ferment of something like 4-5 days, with a falloff after that.
Pickyeeee January 14, 2021
Hi Maurizio,

Since I do not own a pizza steel, would it be wise for me to place the baking sheet with pizza dough directly onto my oven floor or will this end horribly? I've read somewhere that this "hack" can be performed in home ovens where the heating element comes from the bottom. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Maurizio L. January 14, 2021
I've never tried this, but I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't work. I would say if your heating elements are exposed in the oven, that might not be a good idea, but if they're covered it should work just fine!
Smaug January 14, 2021
It works with some ovens for thin crust pizza, not others. I've found that I need to relearn pizza for every different oven. Haven't tried it with a thick crust pizza, but I think it would be prone to burn in most ovens- I've made this recipe on a sheet pan with no issue. There's been a Detroit pizza recipe (a similar creation) circulating on this site (I think they call it "crispy cheesy pan pizza") that cooks it in a cast iron skillet, with interesting results; you might find a look at that recipe worth the time.
Courtdm January 13, 2021
Hi, love the recipe - I came here from your Perfect Loaf site so I'm no stranger to your sourdough recipes.

Possibly a silly question but I thought I'd ask, when you place this in the oven does the baking sheet (with the dough in) go directly on to a baking stone/steel or on the rack directly above it? Thanks/diolch!
Maurizio L. January 13, 2021
Hey there! Yes, slide the sheet right onto the baking stone/steel—you want maximum heat 🙂
WillyVolk January 11, 2021
I made a double batch of this dough this weekend. The recipe was easier than "normal sourdough bread," which I appreciated. Also, the dough had a nice crumb, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, I left the pizza in the oven a little longer than the recipe suggested, because I wanted the crust to be more "golden." However, that just made the crust too crispy. Next time I make this recipe, I won't worry about the crust color as much. (We reheated the leftovers the following day, and the crust was softer and more enjoyable.) Thanks for the easy instructions, Maurizio!
Maurizio L. January 11, 2021
Happy to hear it turned out pretty well! Yes, it's a balancing act there with the bake time. What you could do is try to bake it at a slightly higher temp at the beginning (to promote coloring), then turn it down for the remainder. You're welcome and enjoy!
jayaymeye December 10, 2020
Seriously delicious recipe. Since it's colder here right now, my dough was pretty slow to come to temperature after refrigeration. Should the dough be left to rise a bit after coming to to temperature is it just needing a rest for shaping into the pizza form? I didn't quite have the air pockets like in the picture. Maybe my hydration was off? I did everything by weight. In any case, the recipe was fantastic and delicious nonetheless.
Maurizio L. December 10, 2020
Glad to hear you liked it! If the dough is stiff and resisting stretching/shaping, yes, letting it warm up can definitely help. It sounds like maybe the dough needed more fermentation time, that might have also helped open up the interior as well. You could try warming the mixing water to 76-78F to help speed up just a bit. Have fun, I’m making it this weekend myself!
Jeffrey B. November 25, 2020
I've made this pizza twice now. Probably the best pizza I have ever made at home. Better than 95% of any restaurant pizza I have ever had.

My only change on the 2nd go was that when I put the dough in the oven the first time, I did not add any sauce. After six minutes I pulled it out and flipped the dough on the sheet pan. Then I added sauce and all the toppings. Cooked for another 15 minutes and perfect.

When I cut the pizza, I heard the crust crunch twice. The insides were still soft.

Thank you for a great dough recipe!
Maurizio L. November 25, 2020
So great to hear that, Jeffrey! Interesting approach; I had not thought of doing that! What I tried in testing was to actually take the pizza out of the pan for the last 2-3 minutes and place it directly on the baking stone/steel, which adds even more crunch to the bottom. But for a double crunch, yours is the way to go. Thanks for the feedback, and happy holiday!
Smaug November 19, 2020
OK, made the pizza this time. I thought it might be on the bland side with just the sauce and cheese, but I must say it balanced very well and was quite good (I did sub in about 15% Parmesan)- if I were going to add toppings, I'd keep it pretty simple; maybe some onion or more herbs. I baked it without a stone, which worked fine (with some messing about with oven placements) but I think I'd use a bit higher temperature if I did it again. I also found that it reheats very well and makes for an excellent snack.
This is an extreme high hydration dough, which may cause problems for people not used to it, but this is a relatively simple application and will make good practice. A couple of hints; work fast, but if it's sticking (to your hands , bowl etc.) pull it away slowly- it will stick more to itself than to other things. you may find it easier to work on a silicone surface, such as a silpat- it'll still stick, but less. Wet hands may work better for you than floured hands. This is actually a pretty versatile dough (bread is bread, after all)- I've made thin crust pizzas with it, and I think it would make a fine baguette dough by omitting the oil and subbing in bread flour. When forming a rectangle, it will tend to want to get round- roundeed edges can be folded toward the center to produce a straight(er) edge.
Readers may find edification in a brief Wikipedia article on "Roman Pizza". Evidently there are two distinct types; pizza al taglio, or "pizza by the slice" (this one) and pizza tonda or bassa, a more familiar thin crust round pizza, which if you make it you will be able to refer to it's "scrocchiarella", a fabulous word if a bit difficult to work into everyday conversation
Maurizio L. November 21, 2020
Glad to hear it worked out well for you! Yes, Pizza Romana is typically higher hydration, at least that's how I've always made it 🙂 Makes for a tender pizza and helps offset the extreme drying with a home oven and extended bake time. Definitely don't be afraid to use a little more flour on the shaping table if necessary. Thanks for all the feedback, and yes, scrocciarella has to be one of the best words!
Smaug November 22, 2020
I don't suppose they pay you any extra for these followups, so I should probably leave you in peace, but it would be interesting to know what sort of baking protocol would be used in a Roman pizzeria for this type of pizza.
Maurizio L. November 23, 2020
No worries, I never tire of talking about bread (and pizza!). If you're interested in digging in a bit more, check out Bonci Pizza online, some incredible pizza Romana right there.
Smaug November 23, 2020
OK, thanks- in case anyone else is interested, Bonci Pizza is a Chicago based restaurant specializing in this style of pizza with a huge variety of toppings, and they ship nationwide ( Didn't find a lot of information useful to a cook, however; they use a proprietary blend of expensive sounding flours and don't rush their dough, and the pizzas are cooked in special ovens imported from Rome, but no real information on the type of oven or baking procedures.
By the way, re handling this dough, I forgot to mention that it becomes more manageable with a reffrigerator rest of at least overnight.
jayaymeye December 10, 2020
Gabriele Bonci is a Roman pizzaiolo...I imagine he's franchised/opened a restaurant in Chicago then! His Roman pizzaria is off the hook!
Smaug December 10, 2020
He has several restaurants and a bakery in Rome, but Chicago isn't a franchise; it's an independent organization that he seems quite committed to.
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Hi 👋 Maruzrio, di you say that you can use 100% of white wheat, it looks amazing 🙏🤩🤔🍕
Maurizio L. November 15, 2020
Thanks! Yes, I did use 100% white wheat (sifted to "all-purpose") for this and it turned out fantastic!
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Maruzrio the our says 470 grams, unbleached white flour, there is no white wheat, so are you saying to substitute for white whole wheat 🤔
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Oh ! You mean sifted the white whole wheat, "right "
Maurizio L. November 15, 2020
The recipe calls for all purpose flour (which is usually hard red wheat), and I used hard white wheat (not whole grain, though) that's been sifted to all purpose level.
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Oh ok Maurizio, so I need to buy (hard white wheat..thank you 😊 🙏🍕
Smaug November 15, 2020
OK, now I'm lost. I keep two types of AP around; King Arthur, which I use mostly for pizza crust (and used for this recipe) is more like bread flour; at 11.7%protein it is stronger than some bread flours, and also contains malted barley flour, typical of bread flour. It is made of hard red wheat. Gold Medal bleached white is 10% protein- neither the bag nor their web site specifies the type of wheat, but I suppose it's a mix, which I believe is typical of AP flours- I use it for pastry and the like. I don't get the comment about "sifting to all purpose level" at all- I don't see how that could effect protein content.
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Hi Maurizio said to me that the flour is (hard white wheat flour) and he sifted it to get all-purpose flour 🍕🙏👌
Maurizio L. November 16, 2020
Hey there! She was referring to a post I made on Instagram where I used my recipe here with a different flour than called for in the recipe (I used hard white wheat all-purpose instead of hard red wheat all-purpose as written above). Your King Arthur AP will work very well with this recipe!
Smaug November 16, 2020
But how would sifting it make it into all purpose flour?
Maurizio L. November 16, 2020
Sifted flour means some/most/all of the bran and germ are removed after milling, which gives you a more "white" flour. All-purpose is flour that's been sifted to some degree to remove the bran and germ, moving it away from "whole grain" toward "white."
Smaug November 16, 2020
Hmm- virtually every definition I've ever heard gives protein (gluten) content as the defining factor; It sounds more like you're attempting to turn whole wheat flour into white flour, which can still have a high protein content (such as white bread flour).
Maurizio L. November 16, 2020
The flour classification system we use here is very vague and confusing, IMO 🙂 In my experience, calling a flour "all-purpose" indicates a lower protein percentage compared to "bread flour," but it also designates that it's "white flour." The flour I was using is white flour that's made from hard white wheat—that's all I was trying to get across in my reply. She mistook what I said, I did not sift the flour to get to AP, that's how it came—it's white flour!
Maurizio L. November 16, 2020
Also, here's the flour if you're curious:
Smaug November 16, 2020
OK, I kind of get it, though I understand that modern milling methods produce whole wheat AP and even pastry flour . I'm interested, but the link doesn't work- Google opens up a lot of information (including that King Arthur has a "whole wheat white" flour). If that doesn't convince me that I'll never get a real handle on wheat flour, a look at Bob's Red Mills product list should.
liltrukr November 15, 2020
Hi 👋 Maruzrio, di you say that you can use 100% of white wheat 🙏🤩🤔🍕
Smaug November 6, 2020
I was going too make this pizza (or half of it); what with this and that, it didn't happen, but I did make a 10" thin crust pizza with half of my dough (1/4 this recipe, which makes it about half the thickness the author is using), and it worked quite well. I used my usual baking method (6-7 min. at 550 deg. on bottom shelf+ about 45 sec under the broiler). I also give the pizza some rise time after it's formed- traditional pizzeria pizzas are designed as fast food and that's not really what I'm doing; I find that it improves the final product to give it some time. Hint- if you're going to leave a pizza on a peel more than a few minutes, especially with a crust as soft as this, give it a shake every 10 min. or so to keep it loose- if worst comes to worst and it sticks, you can usually slide a metal spatula under and work it loose. A lot of people nowadays more or less demand exact instructions on recipes, but a lot of things- with sourdough leading the way- don't really work that way. Leading the way are differences in starters (I assumed, by the way, a 100% hydration starter, the most common) and ambient temperature, but everything from the humidity to the flour to the water can materially affect rise times.
Maurizio L. November 9, 2020
Love those changes. And yes, you're totally right, sourdough baking requires quite a bit of improv on the baker's part in the kitchen!
Smaug November 10, 2020
Update- I mad another pizza with the remainder of the dough after a 4 day refrigerator rest, and I do believe that the flavor was improved. Someone at "Serious Eats" did a study recently on various refrigerator rest times (there's a word for this, which escapes me at the moment) for pizza dough, and concluded- in an admittedly subjective study- that a 4-5 day rest was best.
Ruth A. November 3, 2020
Had this last night - delicious! Made the dough the night before using half AP flour half white whole wheat flour, left it in fridge till next afternoon. Was very worried at that point as it had not risen at all in fridge. Looked nothing like regular bread dough. However, it stretched out great and was able to get dough very thin which is what we prefer. Preheated oven and stone as directed while I sauteed some garlic with 2 T tomato paste, added crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes and oregano for sauce. Topped dough with 1/2 C sauce but will use more next time as in the 10 min. of 425 in convection oven sauce got pretty dry. Then topped it with grated mozzarella, mushrooms, red onion thinly sliced, Kalamata olives sliced and pepperoni. baked 10 more minutes. By that time pepperoni was getting pretty crispy but bottom was not done yet. Sprinkled more cheese on pepperoni to keep it from browning more and stuck it back in oven for 5 more minutes. topped it with fresh tomatoes & basil, sprinkled with some parmesan and baked it another 5 min.
We loved it - bottom was very crispy.
So here is how I will do it next time (remember - this is for convection bake)
3/4 cup sauce on pizza at start
Bake at 425 F for 10 - 15 min.
Add cheese and other toppings
Bake 10 minutes
Sprinkle with more mozzarella
Bake 5 minutes making sure bottom is getting brown
Add fresh tomatoes thinly sliced, basil and
Bake additional 3 minutes
Enjoy - worth the effort!!

Maurizio L. November 5, 2020
That's so great to hear, Ruth! Yes, this does need a bit more sauce when cooking in a dry oven—I usually add more sauce than I think, and ditto for the cheese. I also lift the pizza to check the bottom; if it's not well-colored, I'll actually (carefully) pull it out of the baking sheet onto a pizza peel and slide it directly onto the baking stone/steel for just 1-3 minutes. That'll color it super well!

Enjoy 🙂
Rajat D. November 2, 2020
I have yet to try making this but can already imagine being a delicious one. I love all things sour dough. The medley of sour dough, San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella would be a pizza lover's heaven
Maurizio L. November 2, 2020
It's a super tasty recipe, you're right! Let me know how you like it when you try. Enjoy 🙂