Forno star: Every recipe you need to throw an epic pizza party

Alongside these tasty recipes, there’s tips, tricks and even a soundtrack to get the party going  (Clémentine Passet)
Alongside these tasty recipes, there’s tips, tricks and even a soundtrack to get the party going (Clémentine Passet)

Friends arriving unexpectedly? Family descending en masse for the holidays? The answer is a pizza party.

From Big Mamma, the squadra behind restaurants Circolo Popolare, Jacuzzi, Carlotta and more, comes chef Filippo La Gattuta’s best-kept secrets to help you become the best pizzaiolo in your neighbourhood.

There’s red pizza with pesto, stracciatella and olives, pizza carbonara with guanciale and pecorino, pizza with courgette, provolone and mozzarella (also known as Pizza Rachel Green), and pizza with mushrooms, ham and mozzarella (Pizza Yas Queen!).

Alongside these speedy – and fun – recipes, there’s also incredible tips and tricks from the Italian team: such as how to make your own pizza dough from scratch, the top 10 Italian songs to round off the evening and a super secret recipe for spicy oil so you never have to buy it again.

So relax, breathe, open some wine and get kneading. Andiamo!

These recipes are from the group’s new book Big Mamma Italian Recipes in 30 Minutes: Shower Time Included (White Lion Publishing, £25).

A deep dive on Italian pizzas

Roman pizza

For fans of a super-thin, crusty pizza. How can you achieve this? With a baking temperature of 250-270C (480-520F) (lower than that of the Neapolitan version) and with less water in the dough, so you get an even texture. It’s sublime – it has to be tasted to be believed.

Big Mamma’s first 30-minute recipe book contains over 100 recipes (White Lion Publishing)
Big Mamma’s first 30-minute recipe book contains over 100 recipes (White Lion Publishing)

Neapolitan pizza

This is the most famous pizza of all. Distinguished by its puffy edges (we like to call this the cornicione – after the cornicing on old buildings) and a thinner dough in the middle. It is cooked at 400-500C (750-930F) very quickly. During this short time, hot air is pushed out to the edges of the dough. This explains why they are so beautifully soft and pillowy. Golden rule: eat your crusts!

Pizza al Taglio

Pizza by the slice, as found in food markets. This dough is very light and cooked at a low temperature (200-300C/390-570F). This is cool for a pizza(!), and it also makes it easier to reheat. Another perk, ordering by the slice means you get to try allll the pizzas.

How to make your own pizza dough

...or how to become the best pizzaiolo in your neighbourhood.

Serves: 4


1kg (8 cups) flour (ideally, type 55 flour with a minimum protein content of 12%)

2.5g baker’s yeast (4g if your yeast is fresh and not dried)

700ml (3 cups) water

30ml (1/8 cups) extra-virgin olive oil

25g (6 tsp) salt


1. Use a food processor to mix the flour and yeast, kneading for 8-10 minutes at speed no 1 (this is important – precision is crucial when it comes to dough). Slowly dribble in 560ml (2 cups) water over the course of the kneading. Once the dough is smooth, add the salt and move to speed no 2 (go go go!). Pour in the rest of the water gradually over the next 5 minutes or so. The secret for success here is to incorporate the water very gently, making sure that the dough has absorbed it fully before adding more. Then sprinkle the oil on the dough.

2. The dough is ready once it’s nice and smooth and doesn’t stick to the sides of the food processor. If you really want to become a professional pizzaiolo, then the ideal temperature at the end of the kneading process is between 23 and 25C (73-77F) – no more, no less.

3. Remove the dough from the food processor and mould it into a ball. Transfer this ball to a stainless-steel bowl, cover with clingfilm then leave to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Then transfer the dough to the fridge for a further 18-24 hours. This is the secret of true pizzaioli, the careful maturing of their dough, which also makes it much easier to digest. If you don’t have 24 hours to spare, double the amount of yeast and leave the dough to rest for around 2-3 hours at room temperature.

4. If you’ve opted for the 24-hour version (bravo! you’re making pizza just like us), remove the dough from the fridge and leave it to rest (with the clingfilm still in place) for a further hour. When your sleeping beauty has slumbered enough, divide it into portions, of whatever weight you choose, on a work surface covered with a sprinkling of flour or coarse semolina. Cover the portions and leave them to rise till double their size in a container before you roll them out (reckon on around 3-4 hours, as good pizza dough is a story of love and patience).

Now for some maths!

Let’s calculate the appropriate weight for your portions in grams. For a square pizza, multiply the size of the base by that of the height (in cm) and divide the result by 2. Example: for a container measuring 20 x 35cm (8 x 14in), you’ll need 350g (lb) of dough. And for a nice circular pizza (for around 4 people), put 250-300g (9-11oz) of dough in a round container around 24cm (10in) in diameter.

Tip: pizza dough is your friend. And like all real friends, it’s got a good memory. This means it takes on the form of the container surrounding it. So, if you want a square pizza, leave your dough to rest in a square container. When you unpack it, it will preserve its initial shape. The same is true for a round version.

No food processor? No problem

Knead by hand, sticking to the same stages. Begin with a stainless-steel bowl and, after adding salt, move to a wooden work surface, adding the water very gradually. Then follow the rest of the instructions. If the dough doesn’t fully absorb the water, pause for 10 minutes then resume your manual kneading.

How to roll out your dough

Sieve a little flour or fine semolina on a work surface. Place your portion of dough on top and spread it out with your fingers to obtain a circle around 30cm (12in) in diameter. Flip it over to ensure that it’s evenly spread over the work surface. Push the air out of the dough with your fingers, going from the centre to the sides, until you end up with a lovely white dough with plump edges.

Pizza Rossa Mania – red pizza with pesto, stracciatella and olives

Serves: 4


Pizza rossa is a Roman-style pizza (Clémentine Passet)
Pizza rossa is a Roman-style pizza (Clémentine Passet)

For the pizza dough:

One portion of dough (recipe above), but if you leave work exhausted after a long day, feel free to buy your ready-made pizza dough in a deli or bakery

1 tin peeled tomatoes

150g (5 oz) stracciatella

70g (scant cup) Taggiasche olives

100g (scant cup) pesto alla genovese

Extra-virgin olive oil QB

Basil QB

Note: QB means quanto basta, meaning “as much as needed”


1. Roll the dough out on an oven tray. Spread peeled tomatoes all over its surface, crushing them roughly with your hands. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil and cook the pizza in the oven at 230C fan/250C/480F/GM 9 (if your oven doesn’t go that high, take it as far as you can – just get it hot in there) for around 15 minutes, or until it has taken on a nice golden colour.

2. Cover the pizza in loadsa stracciatella and basil leaves. Then add a few spoonfuls of pesto and some olives, and we’re off! Serve in the centre of the table, slice and enjoy with your hands surrounded by loved ones.

A minute to spare?

Check whether there is any ice in the freezer. If not, save your aperitif by asking your guests to bring a bag of ice. PHEW!

Pizza 0 Carbo Mio – pizza carbonara with guanciale and pecorino

Serves: 4


Love carbonara and pizza? A match made in cheesy Italian heaven (Clémentine Passet)
Love carbonara and pizza? A match made in cheesy Italian heaven (Clémentine Passet)

Pizza dough (recipe above, or shop-bought)

150g (5½ oz) guanciale

250g (9oz) Pecorino Romano, grated

150g (5½ oz) mozzarella fior di latte

4 egg yolks

Extra-virgin olive oil QB

Fior di sale QB

Black pepper QB


1. Roll the dough out evenly onto an oven tray, drizzle on plenty of olive oil, add several pieces of mozzarella, a little bit of amore, and sprinkle on a few pinches of fior di sale.

2. Put in an oven at 230 fan/250 C/480 F/GM 9 (or at its maximum temperature if it doesn’t go that high) for around 15 minutes or until the pizza is nicely golden. Meanwhile, chop the guanciale into small matchsticks, brown them in a frying pan then set aside.

3. Put the egg yolks into a bowl, along with the pecorino, half a ladleful of warm/hot water (around 55C/130F) and plenty of ground pepper (remember that ‘carbonara’ means ‘coal’ in Italian) and whisk vigorously.

4. Add the guanciale and then drizzle the egg mixture over the cooked pizza. Delicately does it, she’s a special pizza, so no rushing. TO THE MOON!

A minute to spare?

Check you have everything you need before you start the movie or TV show. Nobody wants to get up for salt or more wine once it’s started.

Pizza Rachel Green – pizza with courgette, provolone and mozzarella

Serves: 4 (or 1, if you’re alone)


One for the veggies (Clémentine Passet)
One for the veggies (Clémentine Passet)

Pizza dough (recipe above)

4 courgettes, thinly sliced

1 shallot

200g (7oz) provolone (if not, Comté will do)

200g (7oz) mozzarella fior di latte

1 bunch basil

Sunflower oil QB

Extra-virgin olive oil QB

Salt QB

Pepper QB


1. Spread out the dough on a baking tray to obtain a disc around 30cm (12in) in diameter (if you don’t have a round tray, use one that is 32cm/13in wide). Leave to rest.

2. Meanwhile, brown half the courgette slices and the shallot in a saucepan with olive oil, along with salt and pepper and half a glass of water.

3. Once the courgettes are nicely golden, add a few basil leaves then blend everything to obtain a smooth paste. Leave to cool, and once the paste is lukewarm, spread it over the dough. Add slices of mozzarella and provolone then put the pizza into the oven at 230C fan/250C/480F/GM 9 (or the maximum that your thermostat can manage) for 15 minutes, or until it takes on a lovely golden colour.

4. Deep-fry the remaining courgette slices in a heavybottomed saucepan with piping-hot sunflower oil (around 170C/340F). Once the pizza is cooked, add the crispy fried courgettes, a few basil leaves and a good drizzle of olive oil – and it’s ready! At our casa we fold slices of pizza in 2 with our hands – give it a go. In any case, keep cutlery off the table – everything tastes better when eaten with fingers.

A minute to spare?

Don’t forget to put napkins or serviettes on the table before tucking in, as eating pizza can be a messy business – so, be prepared.

Pizza Yas Queen! – pizza with mushrooms, ham and mozzarella

Serves: 4


A classic, but make it bougie (Clémentine Passet)
A classic, but make it bougie (Clémentine Passet)

Pizza dough (recipe above)

200g (7oz) ham

300g (11oz) mozzarella fior di latte

150g (5½ oz) mushrooms (button and oyster mushrooms, although you can also use small ceps or porcini if you’re feeling fancy)

Marjoram leaves QB

Extra-virgin olive oil QB

Parmigiano Reggiano QB


1. Roughly chop and brown 2⁄3 of the mushrooms in a saucepan with olive oil.

2. Roll the dough out evenly on an oven tray. Drizzle on plenty of olive oil and arrange several pieces of mozzarella and ham on top, along with the cooked mushrooms. Put into an oven heated to 230C fan/250C/480F/GM 9 (or the maximum that your thermostat can manage) for around 15 minutes, or until the pizza has taken on a nice golden colour.

3. Remove from the oven and, using a mandoline, finely slice the remaining raw mushrooms on top, scatter on some marjoram leaves, and add another drizzle of olive oil.

4. As an extra treat, shave over some Parmigiano and add a few grinds of black pepper. Your father-in-law will praise your culinary skills until the end of time – so it’s worth the effort!

A minute to spare?

Try to sneak away a slice (or 2) for tomorrow’s lunch. It’s going to be far more tasty than that shop-bought sandwich.

Top 10 Italian songs to round off the evening

1. ‘Caruso’ by Lucio Dalla

“Te voglio bene assaje” (meaning “I love you no end” in Neapolitan dialect).

2. ‘Una Lacrima Sul Viso’ by Bobby Solo

A perfect accompaniment to slow dancing and romance.

3. ‘Amore Che Vieni, Amore Che Vai’ by Fabrizio de André

This singer was also a poet in his own right, as evident from this seductive love song.

4. ‘Sotto Le Stelle Del Jazz’ by Paolo Conte

The smooth voice of Maestro Paolo will carry you away under a starry sky.

5. ‘Guarda Che Luna’ by Fred Buscaglione

An ode to the moon and the sea – not to mention love: 3 ingredients guaranteed to add spice to any meal.

6. ‘Io Che Amo Solo Te’ by Sergio Endrigo

The ideal soundtrack for a carefully rehearsed marriage proposal. The title proclaims “I love only you”, so play it if that’s really the case.

7. ‘Sapore di Sale’ by Gino Paoli

Or “The taste of salt”. If the guests themselves seem a little salty, now is the time to improvise a little joke.

8. ‘Unica’ by Antonello Venditti

Just in case your guests are still unsure on what you think of them.

9. ‘La Cura’ by Franco Battiato

“Because you are a special person and I want to take care of you.”

10. ‘Con Il Nastro Rosa’ by Lucio Battisti

This song just works. That’s all we can say.

Spicy oil

DON’T BUY SPICY OIL EVER AGAIN, as we’re going to make it together…


1 litre (1qt) extra-virgin olive oil

150g fresh chillies (NB: real ones that make you cry, preferably from Calabria)

150g (5 ½ oz) dried chillies (also from Calabria!)


1. Chop the fresh and dried chillies into even slices and put them into a jar.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan but make sure it doesn’t smoke or burn.

3. Once the oil is hot, pour it over the chillies. Close the jar and leave it to rest for at least 2 weeks. The longer it rests, the spicier it becomes.

4. You could wait for months or even years, if you think you can stand the heat. It will be, without question, the best vintage in your kitchen.

Big Mamma Italian recipes in 30 minutes: Shower Time Included (White Lion Publishing).