This pizza is my absolute favorite, whether it’s a Frank Pepe’s New Haven Neapolitan pie or this original Sicilian-style variation, created just for this book. When I was a kid, my dad’s favorite appetizer was something called clams casino, which consisted of whole or chopped clams, Italian herbs, bacon crumbles, a shot of Tabasco, and a small amount of seasoned breadcrumbs. The crumbs were kept to a minimum. Unlike the New England “stuffies” (stuffed clams) I ate when I lived in Providence, Rhode Island, which are way too bready for me, the Philly version had just enough crumbs to hold the mixture together and keep the juices in. For clams casino, everything is packed into a half shell, baked or broiled, and then slurped with great gusto. I think my dad would have flipped over this pizza version of his beloved clams casino. This one is for him.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Add all of the water and mix on slow speed for 30 seconds or stir with a large spoon to form a coarse, shaggy dough. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil, increase the speed to medium (or continue mixing with the spoon or with wet hands), and mix for another 30 to 60 seconds to make a wet, coarse, sticky dough. It may seem too wet to form a cohesive dough at this stage. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high (or continue mixing by hand) and mix for another 30 to 60 seconds to make a smooth, sticky dough. It should be soft, supple, and sticky to the touch, and offer a little resistance when pressed with a wet finger.
- Use 1 teaspoon of the extra oil to make a 15-inch-diameter oil slick on the work surface. Rub some oil on a plastic bowl scraper and on your hands and use the scraper to transfer the dough to the oil slick. Flatten the coarse dough with oiled hands. Life one end, and fold in in to the center. Life the opposite end and flip it over the folded end. Fold the two wide ends in the same manner, to make the dough into a loose ball. Flip the dough over so that the smooth side is up. Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold (rub more oil on the work surface as needed), cover the dough, and let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Then repeat the stretch and fold, cover with the bowl, and again let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Perform a fourth and final stretch and fold to make a smooth ball of dough. The dough will have firmed up after each stretch and fold and will now be soft, smooth, supple, and somewhat sticky but firm enough to hold together when lifted. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 72 hours.
- Three hours before you plan to bake your pizza, oil a 12 x 17-inch rectangular sheet pan or pizza pan, using 3 tablespoons olive oil.
- Place the dough in the center of the oiled pan. Rub the surface of the dough with olive oil and use your fingertips to begin dimpling and expanding it in all directions. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough relax at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes.
- At 20-minute intervals, dimple from the center, with fingers angled toward the edges and corners. Each successive dimpling will expand the coverage over more of the pan.
- By the third or fourth dimpling, the dough will evenly cover the whole surface of the pan. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow 2 hours for the final rise.
- After a 2-hour rise, preheat the oven to 500°F (450°F for convection). Brush the surface of the pizza with an additional tablespoon of olive oil and give it a final, gentle dimpling through the middle—but not at the perimeter—of the pizza. Place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for 5 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the dough is slightly firm and springy to the touch and just lightly browned and caramelized. It will spring up as it bakes and might even reach close to the top of the pan and form a rim by the time it’s done, but it will have a cell structure different from that of a fully raised focaccia. At this point, remove the pan from the oven and set it aside to cool. You can also top it and return it to the oven immediately, if you prefer.
- While the dough is rising, toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in a small bowl and set aside. Drain the clams, reserving the juice. Pour the clam juice into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until reduced to about ¼ cup. Set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the clams, oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, hot sauce (if using), and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice. Then stir in the crumbled bacon. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until well combined. Season with salt.
- Brush the par-baked crust with bacon fat and top with the mozzarella cheese. Spoon the clam and bacon mixture over the cheese.
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven at 500 degrees for 6 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking 5 to 6 minutes longer, or until the crust turns golden brown, the cheese melts, and the clams and bacon begin to crisp and brown.
- Transfer the baked pizza to the stovetop or to a heatproof counter and let cool for 10 minutes. Using an offset spatula or bench blade, carefully slide it around the edge, between the crust and the side of the pan, and then lift the pizza out of the pan and slide it onto a cutting board. Drizzle the pizza with the reduced clam juice and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Garnish with the parsley. Let cool for 2 minutes, then cut into 3- or 4-inch squares and serve.