Just an hour’s drive away from Assisi sits Cortona, a charming walled town in the Valdichiana Valley in southern Tuscany. After exploring its shady Medieval vicolos, inspiring artisan food stores and the beautiful duomo, we settled at the street-side table of a tiny local pizzeria. There we slowly sipped delicate glasses of an ice cold Italian rosato whilst we chatted over the menu and watched the world go by. We finally decided on a mountain of tomato and basil salad, a plate of mixed olives and a simple pizza bianco which consisted of a sourdough base topped with fior di latte – a semi-soft, fresh cheese made in the style of Italian mozzarella – liberally sprinkled with fresh rosemary leaves. Up until this point in my life, pizzas had come with tomato sauce so the simplicity and freshness of this version was a revelation to me, so much so that I’ve never looked back. Here’s another version of a pizza bianco topped with beautiful marinated ribbons of courgette, piquant dolcelatte and succulent sun-dried tomatoes.
For the dough:
400g pizza flour, I recommend Divella 00
100g fine ground semolina flour
Half tbsp fine sea salt
x1 7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tbsp natural unrefined golden caster sugar
For the topping:
2 large courgettes, sliced into ribbons (I use a speed peeler to do this)
1 lemon, juiced and zested
x2 balls of fior di latte, drained and cut into cubes (you can also use regular mozzarella)
120g dolcelatte, crumbled
Small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
60g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
Lemon oil and chilli oil, for drizzling (you can also use extra-virgin olive oil)
A handful of fresh mint leaves, for garnishing
A handful of toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnishing
How I make it
To make the dough, mix together the flours and sea salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast and sugar to 325ml lukewarm water, mix together and leave to bubble for a few minutes, before pouring into the well. Mix everything together until you get a rough dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise to double in size (I usually leave it out all day and then let it ferment in the fridge overnight).
An hour before you’re ready to make the pizzas, combine the courgette ribbons and lemon juice in a large bowl, season lightly and set aside to marinate.
When you’re ready to bake, heat an oven to 275C.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two to knock out most of the air. Divide into two or four balls (see note below). Roll out each ball into a large circle. Place each circle on a pizza stone or a perforated metal pizza pan and brush with extra virgin olive oil.
Scatter each pizza with the fior de latte and crumbled dolcelatte. Bake in the oven for around five minutes until the edges start to turn golden.
Remove the the pizzas from the oven and arrange the marinated courgette and the sun-dried tomatoes over the top. Return to the oven and continue to bake for a further five minutes minutes scattering the parmesan over the top two minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Remove from the oven and drizzle with the lemon and chilli oils before garnishing with the pumpkin seeds, the lemon zest and mint leaves.
Serve with a lemony salad.
A note on the dough: This quantity yields enough dough for four large pizzas, so I freeze half of it and leave it to defrost and rise again in a warm room when I’m ready; I love doing this because we get all the pleasure of fresh pizza with zero effort.