Grandma Pie

Rectangular, pan pizza, grandma-style! Every time I make this dish memories of my Great Grandma Marion and Uncle Alphonse pop into my head. I will never forget visiting her and my uncle at their apartment in Newark, NJ over 45 years ago as a little boy. You could see the Sacred Heart Cathedral from her kitchen window.  

While walking up the stairs you could smell the pizza cooking in the oven. My uncle Alphonse, who was a deaf former boxer, would greet my father and me at the door insisting we punch him as hard as we could in the stomach before he would allow us!! 

I remember vividly Grandma Marion pulling the rectangular masterpiece out of the oven. The tomatoes smelled so good because she put them on raw and only let them cook in the oven. There was just a modest amount of mozzarella. The crust was beautiful. It was just so good. Words can’t describe it. 

This whole scene could be a painting on canvas. The apartment, the stove, and the setting were so simple and frugal from another era. Picture Grandma Marion pulling the pizza out of the old stove while her seven-year-old great-grandson watched in awe. The pizza came out like no other I have ever tasted!

This is not Grandma Marion’s recipe because I don’t know it. It is inspired by her and Italian great grandmothers everywhere!

For the dough . . . 

This dough recipe is good for two 12” x 18” rectangular baking sheets with a 1” depth. See ingredient breakdown below. 

Just a few things about pizza dough. . .

A lot of people get frustrated with it. They can’t get it to cooperate. Or, once baked it comes too thick or doesn’t rise and tastes like a cracker. Or, it doesn’t hold up to the topping. The alternative, go to your local pizzeria or supermarket and buy some already made dough. 

I love the refrigerated supermarket dough. My mother uses it and her crust comes so nice and crispy and chewy every time. The reason why that premade supermarket dough is so good is that it’s been sitting around for a little while. The flour, water, and yeast are really getting to know each other in the fridge. And, when you bring it back up to room temp and let it rise a bit, it’s a joy to work with. Well . . . you have to do the same with your dough you make at home. 

Regarding measuring dough, the way it really should be done is by weighing it. But, you can make excellent pizza dough by measuring it out in cups just to get started, and then make adjustments with flour and water once it feels right in your hands. Many factors in the environment affect the dough. One day may be different from the next so I like this “feels right” approach. 

In a mixing bowl pour in the room temperature to lukewarm water. Add the cane sugar and stir it in until dissolved. 

Now add the yeast. I like to gently whisk it in. Wait for the yeast to start reacting a little with the water. You will start to smell a sweet alcohol type smell or see the yeast start to multiply.

At this point start stirring in your flower. Just stir it around in the bowl until it starts getting pasty and forming into a solid mixture. At this point add the salt. Do not add the salt in the very beginning as it can have a negative effect on letting the yeast and sugar do their work. 

Once all the ingredients are added just keep working the dough and adding flour until it is a very moist but pliable dough ball. In my opinion, the wetter and stickier it is the more light and crispy the crust will be. Once your dough is formed pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of a glass mixing bowl. Roll the dough ball in it, covering all of it. Place a piece of saran wrap on top and let sit in the fridge overnight. 

The next day before making your pizza, take the bowl with the dough in it out of the fridge and place it in a warm area. Let it come to room temperature and double in size. Flour a working surface and dump the dough out onto the floured surface. If it’s very sticky and wet that’s fine. Split the dough into two even pieces, coat with flour and gently work with your hands until dough becomes a bit dryer and less sticky. Roll into two dough balls. Lightly coat with flour and place under a cloth for about 30 minutes to rest and rise some more. 

At this point preheat your oven to 475. If you have convection use the fan. 

Now, liberally grease your two rectangular pans with a liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil using a paper towel. We are talking a healthy thick coat of it. We are looking to create that crispy super tasty pan pizza bottom everyone loves so much. 

You can get your dough onto the pans one of two ways.

One way is to roll it out on a floured surface roughly the dimensions of the baking sheet. Then to get it in the pan without ripping it, fold it in half onto itself, place it onto the bottom half of the pan and fold the top half onto the rest of the pan. 

Or, put the dough ball in the center of the pan and stretch it out as evenly as you can into the four corners using the rolling pin and / or your hands. 

I like the first way. It produces a more consistent crust. 

Once the dough is stretched out on the pans and the oven has been at 475 for at least 30 minutes we will add the raw tomato. I like using Cento crushed tomato. It’s high quality, a time-saver, and the perfect consistency for this type of pie. Or you can keep it real and use the whole peeled tomato and break them up with your hands. Both ways are going to create partially cooked chunks of tomato that are going to result in that unique taste and texture associated with the classic grandma pie. We are going to use at least half the can on each pizza.

Once the tomato is spread over the crust salt and pepper it. Now, evenly distribute the finely minced garlic over the top. Add a pinch of oregano and a small handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Now add your cubed mozzarella sparsely. Drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Add some coarsely chopped basil. 

Bake in the oven at 475 for about 25 minutes or until desired doneness. 

Remove from oven, add more fresh chopped basil. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for visiting!



Ingredient Breakdown

Serves 6-8

For the dough:

1 ½  Cup of water

3 Cups of Caputo “00” flour imported from Naples, Italy

Non-bleached all-purpose flour for dusting work surfaces.

2 teaspoons of granulated cane sugar

2 packets of dry yeast. (do not use instant yeast)

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the topping: (Amounts are for two pies. Use 1/2 amount for each pie)

One (1) 28oz can of high-quality whole peeled plum or crushed tomato.

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

10 cloves of finely minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for greasing pans)

2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggianno

16 oz of cooking mozzarella cubed

2 pinches of dried oregano

2 small handfuls of fresh basil leaves (then coarsely chopped)

Published by mruglio

I'm a third-generation Italian American cook that is passionate about Italian food and all that surrounds it.

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