Recipe: The Tastiest Whole-Grain Pizza Crust

published Mar 15, 2016
Whole-Grain Pizza Crust with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta
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(Image credit: Karla Conrad)

Healthy and pizza aren’t words that often cohabitate well, but this dough — rich in the nutritional benefits of two types of whole-wheat four, and laced with the addition of semolina — tastes and behaves like a “real pizza dough” (not a this tastes like it must be good for you version). It is not as mild-mannered as a pizza parlor dough, but that allows it to stand up to and complement strong flavors, like bitter and garlicky broccoli rabe, salty pancetta, and scamorza cheese, a dried cousin of mozzarella that works exceptionally well on any pizza.

This dough also makes a killer calzone or stromboli filled with plenty of roasted vegetables and Italian deli “charcuterie.” These pies are far, far better topped just before sliding them into the hot oven, not in advance, even though that means serving them one at a time. No matter how I organize the cooking, I have a hard time batting the hungry fingers away the moment I cut the pizza. I am invariably getting the next one topped and into the oven, and the moment I turn around, the first pie has been scarfed down.

The dough can be wrapped well and refrigerated for a day, or frozen for up to two weeks, but any longer and — like most raw doughs and especially pre-cooked doughs — it will change in texture once it gets wet, and that includes ice from a freezer and the natural moisture in a refrigerator, too.

Whole-Grain Pizza Crust with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizzas

Nutritional Info


For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons warm water, between 100°F and 110°F

  • 1 1/2 packets

    (11 grams/3 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    (6 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1 cup

    (142 grams) whole-wheat flour

  • 1 cup

    (140 grams) white whole-wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup

    (84 grams) semolina flour from 100% durum wheat

  • 2 teaspoons

    (8 grams) kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup


  • 1 tablespoon

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • Cornmeal, for dusting

For the topping:

  • 8 ounces

    pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch to 1/4-inch pieces

  • 2

    large or 4 small shallots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 2

    small bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, stems included

  • 4

    cloves garlic, peeled, halved and grated, any green centers discarded

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 2 teaspoon

    Aleppo pepper (see Recipe Notes) or crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 cup

    good-quality jarred or homemade marinara sauce

  • 10 to 12 ounces

    thinly sliced scamorza or mozzarella cheese


  1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and process for 2 (1-second) pulses. Let stand for 3 to 4 minutes, until foamy.

  2. Add the flours, salt, buttermilk, and oil and process in 10 to 20 (1-second) pulses, until the dough forms a soft ball. Process for another 20 seconds; stop the machine and feel the dough with your hands. It should be soft and a little tacky at this point. If it is too dry, add another tablespoon of water and process another 40 to 60 seconds, until you have a soft, smooth, but slightly tacky ball. Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

  3. Just before baking, remove the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Line a platter with paper towels and position it near the stovetop.

  4. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a ball. Cover both lightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 25 to 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

  5. While the dough is resting, make the topping: Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, add the pancetta, and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the pancetta is fully browned and the fat has been rendered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to the prepared platter to drain. Reserve the pan and its contents.

  6. Heat the pancetta pan over medium heat until the rendered fat shimmers. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the stems are dark green and the leaves are completely softened. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  7. Place a large pizza or bread stone in the oven and preheat to 500°F or 525° F (the hotter the oven, the crispier the crust). Lightly coat a pizza peel or an unrimmed (preferably nonstick) baking sheet with cornmeal. Lightly flour a work surface.

  8. After the dough has rested, transfer it to the floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into into a 12- to 14-inch circle.

  9. Place the unbaked crust on the prepared peel or baking sheet and arrange so it lays flat and doesn't hang over the edge. Spread half of the sauce lightly over the dough (too much sauce will make a soggy pizza). Scatter half the cheese, the broccoli rabe, and pancetta evenly over the surface. Gently shake the pizza a little and make sure it will move off the peel (the cornmeal works as the equivalent of ball bearings), but don't let it fall off.

  10. Slide the topped pizza off the peel or baking sheet onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the edges are deeply browned, and serve immediately. When the first pizza is done, dust the peel or baking sheet with more cornmeal if necessary, place the second crust on it, and repeat the topping process. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, remove from the oven, and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Aleppo pepper is a hot chile pepper that is often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Named for a city in northern Syria, it is moderately hot with sweet, fruity notes that some compare to raisins or sun-dried tomatoes. It is most commonly available as crushed flakes.