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While other food bloggers are posting glorious holiday recipes around the net and social media, I’m all over here like…”Hey, look at me, I’m posting a pizza recipe!” I can’t help it really. If you are reading this, it’s because you probably live too far away from a Di Carlo’s Original Pizza and were craving the unmistakeable Ohio Valley pizza sooooooooo so badly. They pretty much put Ohio Valley Pizza on the map. Literally, hands down, the best pizza I have ever eaten.
Have you ever noticed that people are territorial about their pizza no matter where they are from? Well, I’m from the Ohio Valley, and yes, Ohio Valley has their own Regional Style. Let me first describe what Ohio Valley Pizza is. What it isn’t is your typical run of the mill circular pizza pie. It’s square in shape, the uncooked toppings are usually added on top of the sauce out of the oven as it’s sliced and slightly cooled. The sauce is more of a stewed tomato type sauce, and it’s typically sold by the slice.
If you are from the Ohio Valley, Wheeling, WV and Pittsburgh area, then you know this is one of the most highly coveted pizzas around. If you ate this pizza as a kid growing up, (like I did, in the Mingo Junction/Steubenville Ohio area.) and have since moved away, you will inevitably make time to stop in and order some when you go back home to visit just to get a taste of the goods again. Oh, and they didn’t deliver. At least not back in the day.
There’s no other pizza like it in the world. If you have ever eaten this pizza, then you understand that you can’t even wait to get home to eat it. You tear into the box in the car. Pizza in one hand and other hand white knuckling the steering wheel. It might be worse than texting and driving. I don’t text and drive…and I plead the 5th on eating and driving. Oh, and one slice is never enough!
You can refer to more history on their About Page on the Original DiCarlo’s Pizza website regarding the first DiCarlo’s ever opened.
Primo Di Carlo was the son of Michael and Caroline Di Carlo, who immigrated to the United States from Italy. They owned and operated a grocery store in Steubenville Ohio. My birth town. They later expanded to a bakery as well. Primo decided he wanted to get in the pizza business when he returned from serving in the military during World War II. While stationed in Italy, he noticed that the locals were making a crispy bread, topping it with tomato sauce and cheese and selling it. He believed he could make a similar concept succeed in his home town. He was right.
When he returned home from Italy, he and his brother Galdo adapted the Italian recipe. They opened their first pizza shop in Steubenville, Ohio in 1945 and sold pieces of their pizza which they called “poor man’s cheesecake” for 10 cents a slice. They basically put pizza on the map in the Steubenville, Ohio and the Wheeling, West Virginia area. When most people think of Ohio Valley Pizza the automatically think of Di Carlo’s.
Factoid: Crooner Dean Martin’s hometown was Steubenville, Ohio and it is said he was “gumbas” with the Di Carlo family.
The creamy stringiness of the cold provolone cheese is almost indescribable. Yes, you heard me right. I said cold provolone. It’s sprinkled over top of the cooling sauce out of the oven and layered with room temperature pepperoni. The steam of the box melts the cheese and warms the pepperoni to sheer perfection. I swear I can smell it just talking about it. The crispiness of the outside crust combined with the light & airy inside will have you hooked after the first bite. People have been known to fist fight over corner slices! I exaggerate, but you get my drift.
There really are no words. You simply have to try this pizza for yourself at least once in your life.
And if you can’t? Well, I feel sorry for you. So here is my very own tribute adapted recipe interpretation that is reminiscent of that distinct Ohio Vally pizza.
I called upon my memory of the flavors and adapted and substituted ingredients I thought would work for me to come close enough to give me that feeling of nostalgia and satisfy my insatiable cravings for this pizza. And I do mean insatiable! Please, puh-lease understand that I am not claiming this to be the original recipe. I have no idea what it is. I’m sure that is under lock and key.
1 packet active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon organic honey OR 3 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
3 cups bread flour (can use all purpose, I prefer bread flour)
1 cup warm water
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon EVOO (plus more for rising dough and baking sheet)
*****Update 03/15/14- After making this several times and receiving comments and suggestions through emails, I have made some slight adaptions to the dough recipe and technique. For best results, I recommend that you make the dough ahead of time (if you’re able) and do a slow cold ferment in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Or you can let it stay out on the counter, and let it rise longer. 6 hours is usually sufficient. After the six hours or so, punch the dough down and let it rise again for another couple of hours.
By making a slightly wetter dough and giving it either a cold rise or longer rise on the counter you will get an airier, tastier crust. I promise! Read all about a cold ferment here.
If you are pressed for time, the original way that I posted will do in a pinch. But depending on how well I plan, I will do either the cold ferment or longer rise on the counter.
FOR THE DOUGH:
In small ceramic or glass dish, add honey, yeast, and 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes to activate yeast. It should look like this after about 5 or 10 minutes. (* I prefer to use honey as it makes the dough much easier to work with, just make sure it’s unfiltered and uncooked honey, not that crap in the cutesy squeeze bear that they sell on the store shelves made of genetically modified high fructose corn syrup. Blech!)
Meanwhile in standmixer, add 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and salt.
When yeast is activated, pour into standmixer bowl and add remaining 1 cup warm water. (Note in the above video I mixed up the pictures, but you probably didn’t even notice.) It should look like this after you pour in the yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 cup warm water.
Mix on speed 2 with whisk attachment until frothy as above in video.
Switch over to hook attachment and add two more cups flour.
Mix on low speed until dough becomes smooth and elastic. About 8 to 10 minutes.
If dough is too wet and sticks to your fingers add flour in 1/2 tablespoon increments.
If dough is too dry, add more water in small increments until you get the consistency you see in the video above. Smooth and elastic.
In a glass or ceramic bowl coat bottom and sides with EVOO.
Place dough ball in and coat well in the oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and clean towel and set in warm area free of drafts.
Let dough rise for about an hour.
The sauce is really simple. It’s made with very few ingredients. I did try to keep it as simple as possible, but it tasted slightly bland, so I did add a little salt and pepper and a bit of organic brown sugar to slightly cut some of the acidity.
*I have since adapted to using Imported whole San Marzano D.O.P. Certified tomatoes. I blend the tomatoes in a food processor. A blender will work also. You can find whole San Marzano imported tomatoes at your local super market. The idea behind the whole tomatoes is that the integrity is preserved and this draws out more flavor in your sauce.
Once I opened up a can and tasted the tomatoes, I knew I had found THE ONE! They make all the difference.
Two 28 oz. cans of imported italian San Marzano D.O.P. certified tomatoes
(Using whole tomatoes preserves the integrity of the tomato and draws out more flavor.)
1.5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons of oregano (can add more to liking)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped or dried basil (optional)
1 Tablespoon of chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons sweet green pepper finely chopped (you may use more if you wish)
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
2 tablespoons brown sugar or other sweetener (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
The longer you let the sauce simmer the more flavorful. I did let my sauce cook down for about a couple of hours, but I couldn’t wait anymore and made a pizza. I had plenty left, so I let that finish cooking for a full four hours. I’ll freeze it for my next craving. Which I’m sure will be very soon!
In a blender or food processor, process the tomatoes to your desired consistency. Set aside. In a medium pot on medium heat add your extra virgin olive oil. When a piece of onion sizzles in the hot oil, add the rest of the onion, pepper, and garlic. Sweat out the flavors for about 4 minutes. Add processed tomatoes, basil, oregano, and brown sugar. (I use fresh basil and oregano when available. I also use organic brown sugar.) Salt and pepper to taste. *Red pepper flakes are optional if you prefer a little spice. Now let your sauce cook down. An hour should be fine, but the longer it cooks, the more flavorful.
You can prepare your sauce the night before if you wish, which is usually what I do. I have plenty left over and I freeze it for the next batch.
While the sauce is cooking slice up your provolone cheese. Unless you can find it shredded. I could not. Take a stack of provolone slices and slice it as thin as you can with a sharp knife.
Separate the slices of cheese with your fingers as best you can until nearly all the cheese is separated and looks like below. Place in ziploc bag and keep chilled.
When your dough has finally doubled in size after about an hour. Punch it down as in the above video. I only used about 3/4 of my dough. You don’t want it too thick. I’ll use the remaining dough for fresh dinner rolls or a mini stuffed cheesy garlic bread!
Preheat oven to 475 degrees an hour before cooking. If you have a baking stone place it in the oven to preheat with oven. I place my baking pan on top of the stone to cook more evenly. If not, don’t freight. Your dough will still cook.
Lightly oil the bottom of your baking pan with EVOO. I used a 15 x 10 baking sheet and about 3/4 of my dough. If your pan is bigger use more dough. Stretch the dough out by hand to the edges of the pan. You want a very thin dough. Don’t roll the dough. You don’t want to ruin the integrity or overwork it. Be patient and gentle with it.
Lightly brush top of dough with EVOO. Lightly, and I mean lightly spread a thin layer of sauce over the dough leaving a crust border. Place in oven for about 6-10 minutes or until dough starts to lightly brown. Keep a close eye on it.
Remove and ladle more tomato more sauce on generously. Sprinkle a small amount of shredded provolone cheese over top the sauce. This keeps the moisture in so the crust doesn’t dry out as it’s baking.
Place back in oven and bake until edges and bottom are golden brown. Keep a close eye that it doesn’t burn. *If edges are browning more than bottom place pan on bottom rack and keep a very close eye on.
Remove from oven when crispy and golden brown. The bottom should look like this.
I believe they only use Provolone cheese, (not 100% sure about that) so feel free to stick to that. I think it gets a little too greasy when it melts, so I use a light topping (about 1/4 cup) of mozzarella cheese before putting on the room temperature pepperoni.
Take note of the golden brown thin crispy crust, yet airy, chewy interior.
The bottom is crispy and brown.
One bite of this pizza and it just might transport you back to your childhood memories or first ever experience of this pizza. At least it did for me.
This may never be THE Original DiCarlo’s Pizza that I remember, but it darn sure comes close enough for me to satisfy that nagging craving for the best pizza ever made. And for that, I Salute you, Mr. DiCarlo, for putting the best pizza known to man on the W.V. and Ohio Valley map! Now, Mangia Mangia!
Enjoy. This pizza is also great reheated. Reheat in preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.
- TOMATO SAUCE:
- Two 28 oz. cans of imported italian San Marzano D.O.P. certified tomatoes
- (Using whole tomatoes preserves the integrity of the tomato and draws out more flavor.)
- 1.5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 teaspoons of oregano (can add more to liking)
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped or dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon of chopped yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons sweet green pepper finely chopped (may use more if you wish)
- ½ teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (*optional- you can also use a little or as much as you want.)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon organic honey OR 3 teaspoons sugar
- ¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
- 3 cups bread flour (can use all purpose, I prefer bread flour)
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 + ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon EVOO (plus more for rising dough and baking sheet)
- Fresh shredded provolone cheese (chilled)
- You can also use a ¼ cup mozzarella & provolone mix if you desire.
- Pepperoni (room temp is best.)
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- In saucepan over medium high heat put in EVOO. When hot, add onion, peppers and garlic and sweat until the onions are translucent. About a couple of minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add processed tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. Let cook down for four hours to get full flavor.
- FOR THE DOUGH:
- In small glass dish, add yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes to activate yeast.
- Meanwhile in standmixer, add 1 cup flour, EVOO, and salt.
- When yeast is activated, pour into standmixer bowl and add remaining 1 cup warm water.
- Mix on speed 2 with whisk attachment until frothy.
- Switch over to hook attachment and add two more cups flour.
- Mix on low speed until dough becomes smooth and elastic. About 10 minutes.
- If dough is too wet and stretchy add remaining flour in small increments.
- If dough is too dry, add more water in small increments until you get the consistency you want. Smooth and elastic.
- In a glass or ceramic bowl coat bottom and side with EVOO.
- Place dough ball in and coat well in the oil.
- Cover with plastic wrap and clean towel and set in warm area free of drafts.
- Let dough rise for about an hour then punch it down and let rise again for 2 hours. For best results and a tastier crust let rise 6 hours then punch it down and rise again for another 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees an hour before cooking. If you have a baking stone place it in the oven to preheat with oven. I place my baking pan on top to cook more evenly. If not, don't freight. Your dough will still cook. Lightly oil the bottom of your baking pan with EVOO. Stretch the dough out by hand to the edges of the pan. You want a thin dough. Lightly brush top of dough with EVOO and place in oven for about 6-10 minutes or until dough starts to lightly brown. Keep a close eye on it.
- Remove and ladle tomato sauce on generously leaving a small amount of crust uncovered. Sprinkle a small amount of shredded provolone cheese over top the sauce. Place back in oven and bake until edges and bottom are golden brown. Keep a close eye that it doesn't burn. *If edges are browning more than bottom place pan on bottom rack and keep a very close eye on.
- Remove from oven when crispy and golden brown and immediately layer with lots of cold provolone cheese, a little mozzarella, and pepperoni. I lightly cover mine with a clean towel to help melt the cheese before cutting.
- Enjoy. This pizza is also great reheated. Reheat in preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.