Canadian Pizza Magazine

Digestible dough

By Nataneal Gammarota   

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients

Here are the secrets to my traditional Italian dough designed to be easily digestible

A great-tasting and easily digestible dough should have a golden crust
with caramelized dots produced by a proper cooking time and a fair dose
of salt.

A great-tasting and easily digestible dough should have a golden crust with caramelized dots produced by a proper cooking time and a fair dose of salt. This is how dough is supposed to look.


The inside of the crust’s rise shows that the dough has been well leavened. A thin and even level in the middle arises from a good stretch by hand that is unlike a machine, which can crush the alveoli created by a leavening time of 48 to 72 hours. This allows the heat of the oven to pass through and dehydrates the dough, leaving the exterior crisp but not dry or hard like a cookie.

The middle should not be rubbery or elevated. It should be soft because it ought to contrast the crispy crust, and you should be able to see that in every bite. The tomato base and the other different types of base sauces should be distributed with balance. Toppings should also be balanced: neither sticky nor soggy. These are the qualities of a good pizza. I believe that when it comes to a great pizza, 30 per cent is determined by the ingredients, 15 per cent by the ability of the pizza maker and their oven, and more than 50 per cent by the dough.


The dough establishes the category of your pizzeria: classic, authentic or gourmet. It creates the style of pizza that you want to do create: Napolitan, Roman, NY, etc. It determines the speed of the process from the formation of the dough portions to the stretching and baking. Most importantly, it is the dough that determines if your customers come back more than once in a week, once a month, or in worst-case scenario, not at all.

In my pizzeria, Natalino’s Pizza in Ottawa, there are customers that come every day, sometimes twice a day. That happens because we make highly digestible dough.

In traditional dough, we find less water, lots of flour, lots of yeast, lots of salt, lots of oil, warm water and little time to rise. In Canada, we have all the ingredients – strong flour, water in abundance and cold weather – to make an adjustment to the traditional dough and promote highly digestible dough for our customers.

In order for the dough to be digestible, it should be perfectly leavened so that it won’t keep leavening once it is in the stomach. The more time you leaven, the less yeast is necessary to make the dough rise. When selecting the industrial yeast, there’s the option of buying it fresh or dry. I always recommend you buy it dry because its strength is more concentrated than the fresh. If you use three grams of fresh yeast, with the dry you will use only one gram. This way, you also have more control over its activation with a process using cold water, a walk-in fridge and 48 to 72 hours of maturation.

The long dough maturation gives it more aroma and improves digestibility due to prolongation of the enzymes obtaining a better dough characterized by its little bubbles, or alveoli.

This is good news for all those who, after eating a piece of pizza, must bear a bloated stomach, heartburn and fatigue.

The concept of digestible dough also bodes well in an industry that is growing its search of healthier choices.

To make a highly digestible pizza, we need to create dough with the capacity to resist turning acidic after long hours of leavening. Like yeast, flour selection is an

important part of the process and very often neglected. It should be a mix of flours with a high protein content and strong with a W more than 300. Higher protein content and better quality of the flours provide better leavening results.

The protein in the flour not only has a nutritive value, but also is an important element in the transformation of the dough. Some proteins dissolve with water, while gluten stays solid to help form the elasticity of the dough. Strong flour with a high protein content will give gluten of a higher quality and thus we can use more water, because it will absorb up to 90 per cent of its weight.

Adding more water helps us eliminate the fat by using less oil (I only use a minimum percentage of extra virgin olive oil), which makes it easy to digest and adds fewer calories. Water also conserves the product and prevents the pizza from drying in the display. 

Another important element is the salt. Like water, salt is good for more than one purpose. It works together with the proteins in the flour, helping to form the gluten, giving more compactness and elasticity to the pizza. For example, the acrobatic pizza makers triple the salt quantity in the dough to create a fantastic show without ripping the dough.

Finally the salt gives flavour and helps to give the crust colour. Dough without salt will turn out sticky with a very light colour, the flavour of the pizza will be insipid and its crust will be white.

In highly digestible dough, you carefully select the flour and the yeast, you change the warm water to cold water, and you allow the yeast to activate in a period of 48 to 72 hours. You don’t add a “secret ingredient.” It’s simply about using less salt and a minimum quantity of extra virgin olive oil.

Once the dough is finished, the gluten is completely elastic. Then it’s put into specific hygienic containers, closed and put into a walk-in fridge with a controlled temperature. It’s important not to contaminate the dough and use it before the maturation cycle finishes (72 hours) or the product will become acid.

It’s very important that the yeast doesn’t come in direct contact with the salt and that the extra virgin olive oil will be the last ingredient to be put into the dough. That way it helps to finish the formation of the gluten and cover the gas, distributing the carbon dioxide inside the dough. It also gives more perfume and softness to the dough.

If you add some fresh basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella after baking, you will surely have an authentic and highly digestible pizza!

Nathan Gammarota is the owner of Natalino’s Pizza in Ottawa, which has brought Pizza in Teglia style Italia pies to the nation’s capital. Gammarota is a former head pizza chef instructor in Italy, and is trained in pizza acrobatics.

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