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Pizza bianca with provolone and prosciutto

Updated: Tue, 10 October, 2023

Pizza bianca, the simplest pizza and the finest Roman flatbread, is a disc of perfectly charred dough drenched with olive oil and sprinkled with flaky salt. But you can fill it with ham and cheese if you like.

pizza bianca

What is pizza bianca?

Pizza bianca was something I once involuntarily created when I forgot to put tomato sauce on my pizza. Or so I thought.

I am not entirely serious but if you think there is more to pizza bianca than just neglecting to put tomatoes on it, you’re wrong. There’s actually LESS to it. You need to leave out the tomato sauce, the cheese, ham, olives and the (God forbid) pineapple. That’s right: pizza bianca is BARE.

It’s back to basics big time: it’s simply a flatbread, chewy and crispy, dripping with olive oil and crunchy with salt flakes. It’s a deconstructed focaccia. It’s pizza-bare-bones. It’s ‘sono romana’ pizza.

You can though, if you’re so decadent, slip a slice of prosciutto and/or cheese onto a torn square to fashion a sarnie alla romana.

Which of course, being a greedy and ignorant non-Italian, I can’t fail to do. My goodness, is it lovely.

roman pizza bianca

Forno a Roma

It is a classic Roman thing, with the most famous bakery, Forno Campo de 'Fiori, selling it to puzzled tourists: where are my toppings?

There are some very complicated instructions as to make the bianca dough but I figure that any good dough will do. The good bakers at Forno surely don’t bother to make special dough for the bianca, but rather use the same material they do for pizza rossa (the one with all the trimmings).

I sourced Heston Blumenthal’s recipe in this instance because it makes for very stretchy dough which is a distinct advantage, as well as being extremely good quality dough.

And so it is. Forget tomato sauce. Forget anchovies and peperoni and mozzarella, buffalo or not. Don’t even think about truffles. Viva la vita semplice.

plain pizza

Pizza dough or pizza oven?

Arguably, if you own a good pizza oven, the dough and the method of making it is secondary. A lot of people would agree with this claim, arguing that if the pizza emerging from an inferior oven is limp and pale, the best dough isn’t going to save it.

But, but, but. My pizza baking method, without any special wood fired ovens, is decent enough to produce gorgeous results. In which case you do want to ensure that what goes in is good enough to come out fantastic.

So even though I agree that the baking is critical, the dough is just as important. I have had crusty, charred and blistered pizzas that looked awesome but the taste let them down.

pizza with olive oil and salt flakes

The best pizza dough

I honestly don’t know if it is the best – it should be, since it’s Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from In Search of Perfection. But since then I have tried other dough recipes and they weren’t at all bad either.

Good dough should take time to ferment though: hence even my easiest recipe, frying pan pizza, is made the night before the pizza event. The dough is mixed and kneaded quickly but then it matures in the fridge overnight and into the following day.

My seventy-two hour pizza dough is rather self-explanatory. It’s a no-knead dough but it stands in a bowl, initially in the kitchen then in the fridge, for at least three days. So that’s the best for people without a standing mixer but who are good at forward planning.

The recipe below is in two parts: the night before the ferment or starter dough is made, with the main dough made the following day.

In each case just water and flour are mixed and left to rest or autolyse, in order to encourage good gluten development i.e. stretchy pizza. The two doughs are combined, using rather an enormous amount of yeast and salt, neither of which is discernible to taste in the finished product.

After shaping the dough into balls, it needs to proof for a couple of hours before it’s ready to stretch and bake.

pizza dough

What’s the pizza baking method?

The method which I call ‘frying pan pizza’ is particularly suitable for making pizza bianca because it’s a quick process: in this instance there are no toppings that take time to bake, so the whole task takes just a couple of minutes.

rolling out pizza

The best frying pan for the purpose will be a cast iron pan or griddle. A sturdy carbon steel can be used just as well, but even a non-stick or a crêpe pan, as long as it’s ovenproof, heavy and can be safely heated up to screaming hot, will be fine.

At the same time as the frying pan on the hob, also preheat your oven grill to the highest setting, with the rack positioned as high as it will go.

A stretched or rolled out disc of dough, brushed with olive oil, will hit the hot frying pan and hopefully start to char underneath immediately. You should drizzle the pizza with more oil and sprinkle with flaky salt before transferring the pan, carefully, under the preheated grill.

Two to three minutes, beautiful charring in spots and the pizza is ready.

making pizza on the hob

Topping pizza bianca

As said before, this is an austere pizza: it is sold au naturel in Rome, the salt flakes the only garnish, but the Romans magnanimously allow for it to be stuffed with fillings, ‘from Nutella to mortadella’.

So my favourite topping is prosciutto and sliced provolone or ricotta salata, with a leaf of fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan.

More pizza recipes

The best pizza dough recipe that makes the best thin crust pizza in the world, or at least this side of Naples. 72 hour, no-knead dough, perfect for a baking stone or baking steel.

Sicilian-style pizza cooked in a pan, with thicker, airy base and topping of caramelised onions and tomato sauce. Traditionally square, but a square frying pan is hard to come by!

Tomato and cheese scaccia, Sicilian flatbread filled and folded, is as much fun to make as delicious it is to eat. See the video showing how to fold thinly rolled out pizza dough.

More flatbread recipes

Plain focaccia with rosemary and salt flakes; easy to make, divine to eat, warm or cold. Authentic Ligurian recipe from Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat.

Bazlama, Turkish flatbread enriched with yoghurt is not only tasty: it’s absolutely spectacular when it cooks on a hot griddle, inflating like a balloon!

Fougasse with grated Emmental cheese, chewy and crispy French flatbread, the cousin of Italian focaccia. Make it with sourdough starter or bakers’ yeast – equally delicious and not at all difficult.

pizza with ricotta salata

Pizza bianca with provolone and prosciutto

Servings: 4Time: 4 hours plus overnight ferment


  • For the dough:
  • 330g strong bread flour (Italian type 00 if available)
  • 190g cold water
  • ½ tsp malt extract
  • 14g fresh or 6g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • For the pizza bianca:
  • pizza dough, from above
  • olive oil
  • sea salt flakes, like Maldon or fleur de sel
  • To serve:
  • sliced Provolone cheese
  • prosciutto crudo or Parma ham
  • grated Parmesan
  • fresh basil leaves


1. Start the pizza dough the night before you want to make the pizza; the dough can also sit in the fridge for a few days or be frozen.

2. First make the ferment: roughly mix 100g of the flour with 60g water and leave to stand for between 10 and 50 minutes. Add a third of the yeast and a pinch of the salt and knead in a standing mixer with dough hook attachment or knead by hand for at least 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap it loosely in cling film and refrigerate for 12-16 hours.

3. To make the main dough, mix the remaining flour with the rest of the water and the malt extract, and again leave for between 10 and 50 minutes. Add the rest of the yeast and salt and knead until smooth and elastic. Add the ferment and knead for 5 more minutes until it comes together in a smooth ball.

4. Divide the dough in four. Shape each piece into a tight ball, place them on a lightly oiled tray, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours, until they double in size. You can refrigerate or freeze them at this point, but make sure they come back to room temperature and have a couple of hours to proof before baking pizza.

5. Preheat the oven grill to maximum setting. Heat up a cast iron griddle or pancake pan, or a heavy large frying pan at least 26cm (10in) in diameter.

6. Flatten each dough ball with your hand and stretch it as thinly as possible without tearing, turning it 90 degrees every now and then on a lightly floured surface. If you struggle to stretch the dough by hand, use a rolling pin. It needn’t be perfect shape or very even thickness. Brush it with olive oil.

7. When the pan is smoking hot, transfer the pizza onto it and drizzle with more olive oil; if some leaks onto the pan, it’s fine - it will make extra crisp patches.

8. Sprinkle with salt flakes and immediately transfer the pan under the preheated grill. Cook for about 3 minutes until golden and lightly charred in places.

9. Slide the pizza onto a board or plate, arrange the provolone slices on it, followed by rolled strips of prosciutto, a sprinkle of Parmesan and basil leaves. Cut into halves or quarters and eat with your hands, folding each slice in half like a sandwich.

Originally published: Wed, 25 April, 2018

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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