The Perfect Neapolitan Pizza
No pizza oven? Make the perfect pizza, every time, in your home oven.
When it comes to making the perfect Neapolitan pizza, it's all about the art of the process. In Italy, they take their pizza-making seriously, following strict guidelines to achieve the perfect balance of flavors and textures. You want a soft, tender interior with a crispy, blistered, charred crust featuring those lovely "leopard spotting" bubbles.
I'll never forget my days in Aci Castello, Sicily, making pizza with my family and neighbors. We'd gather around their huge pizza oven, kneading and rolling out literal DOZENS of little balls of dough for an evening of pure joy. Those dough balls would lay in between flour sacks all over our house, a happy reminder of our love of pizza.
Of course, it's not just about the dough. The art of making the perfect Neapolitan pizza also involves selecting high-quality ingredients and paying attention to every detail of the process. From choosing the right flour and yeast to carefully controlling the temperature and humidity of the dough as it rises, every aspect is crucial in crafting the ultimate pie. And let's not forget about those fresh, flavorful toppings.
With roots deeply embedded in the culture and history of Naples, the tradition and mystique of making the perfect Neapolitan pizza is a source of pride for pizza makers who strive to uphold the centuries-old art of pie-making.
Here’s how to mimic the perfect wood-fired pizza in your home oven. This recipe makes 4 personal or 2 large pizzas. MedDiet Recipe Score*: 2
3 3/4 cups of double 00 flour
1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of cornmeal
6-8 oz of fresh pizza sauce
6 oz of fresh mozzarella
Handful of fresh basil or arugula
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the water and yeast mixture into the well. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, gradually mix the flour and water together until a sticky dough forms. You’re not going for a wet dough, just sticky. Adjust flour and water up or down to achieve the desired consistency.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it by hand for about 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. It should no longer be sticky at this point.
Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, and cover it with a damp cloth. Set it aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 500°F, if using a pizza stone be sure it preheats with the oven. If you're using a sheet pan, don't preheat it.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently shape it into a round, thin disk.
Place the dough on a floured pizza peel and top it with the sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil or arugula.
Using great care and oven mitts, slide the pizza stone out of the oven and sprinkle with the cornmeal. This will prevent the dough from sticking as it cooks.
Place the prepared pizza on the stone and bake for 6-8 minutes until the edges are golden brown and even a bit charred. The center should be melted and starting to brown. You'll want to pay close attention to it; depending on how hot your oven runs, it may take a few minutes longer or shorter. Let your eyes do the work.
Remove the pizza from the oven, and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
If you’re not up for making a fresh sauce, Rao’s has a great pizza sauce already ready to go. I always keep a few jars on hand.
Double 00 flour is a very fine, white flour that is often used for making Italian pasta and pizza dough. It has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which makes it ideal for creating a tender, soft dough with the perfect amount of “chew.”
Explore your toppings! Prosciutto with arugula and parmesan sprinkled on top after it comes out of the oven is a lovely way to have a pizza “salad.” 😂
This recipe is an excerpt from my newest cookbook, Farmstead Italian, officially launching in June. Preorder your signed copy here.
* The MedDiet Recipe Score is my proprietary scoring system to rate the recipe’s “fit” into the Mediterranean Diet to make it easier for those wanting to eat more whole foods without having to figure out what combinations of foods apply. This score is in my cookbook and will be in an upcoming Substack post.
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