There are many types of Pizza, but the original (and in our opinion, the best!) is the Neapolitan style pizza.
Pizza is probably the one food that everyone can say they love. We both grew up on NY style pizza, big foldable slices with the perfect balance of gooey cheese, just enough sauce and a crust that has a great chew. Then of course there is Chicago style deep dish, Detroit style square, St Louis style with provel cheese, California style, Sicilian style and…. you get the point.
The history of dough with toppings is not one that starts in Italy, but instead starts in the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout centuries of trade and fusion, the seaside city of Naples finally had a version, the first type of flatbread that had tomatoes on it, and thus, pizza as we know it was born. In 1889, the king and queen of Savoy visited Naples, and a baker named Raffaele Esposito created a pie to woo the queen, Margherita. Using the colors of the newly formed country of Italy, red, white and green he used fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil and the rest was history. This to the day, this pizza is still called Margherita to honor the queen of Savoy.
Before we give you our recipe, we want to be clear that we don’t want any trouble with the VPN, (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana)! These are the diehard pizzaiolo that say to call it pizza Napoletana, it has to adhere to strict guidelines. It must be cooked in a wood fired oven, it must use 00 or 0 grind flour, the dough balls must be between 200-280 grams, and it must mature between 8 and 24 hours. They specify that the ingredients should come from the Campagna region, the San Marzano tomatoes should be hand crushed, and only fresh mozzarella di buffali (Buffalo milks cheese) that is cut into slices or fior di latte (cows milk cheese) that is cut into strips can be used. We could go on and on, but you get the point. While we like to stay true to tradition, this recipe doesn’t necessarily adhere to all those guidelines.
Lucky for us, we spent some time in Naples, and the authentic pizzerias there are like Starbucks in the US, maybe even more densely populated. Literally dozens in each neighborhood, we fell in love with one called Pizzeria La Campanella (look for them on Instagram to see their beautiful pizza). We first had great neopolitan style pizza when we lived in Colorado, if you’re ever in Boulder, check out https://www.localeboulder.com
Our pizza is a little more relaxed. Still in the style, but just not authentic, since our city apartment didn’t come equipped with a wood burning pizza oven, we had to make some adjustments. So if you can’t find a VPN certified pizzeria near you (https://www.pizzanapoletana.org/en/associati) and want to try your hand at the style here is our recipe.
Neapolitan Style Pizza
Makes – 3- 12” pizzas (see below for some fun ideas for the 3rd crust!)
Few notes before we start:
We recommend buying 00 flour, it has a higher hydration rate which is important in pizza making. You can use AP flour, but the amount of water will vary, as will the final texture, but it should still taste great.
The ingredients below labeled as non traditional are some cheats that we will use to help brown the crust if you do not have a high temp wood burning oven. If you’re lucky enough to have one, feel free to skip those ingredients and know that we are envious of you!
Ingredients for Dough:
– 575 grams 00 flour (about 3.5 cups)
– 355 ml cold water (1.5 cups) +/-
– 1 tsp dry active or instant yeast
– 2.25 tsp sea salt
– 1-2 Tb olive oil (non traditional ingredient)
– 1 tsp sugar (non traditional ingredient)
Let’s get started!
Pizza dough is much like making pasta dough…the type, and age of flour matters, as does the humidity level.
Start by adding the instant yeast, flour and sugar (if using) in a mixing bowl. If using active dry yeast, it normally says to activate it in water, when making long fermented dough, we skip this step.
Turn the mixer on low with the dough hook attachment and drizzle in the water slowly, this is where a watchful eye will come in handy. The dough will start to absorb the water and form a shaggy mass. When it starts to do this, stop adding the water and let it mix for a minute or so. When it starts to form into a nice homogenous mass, and pull away from the sides cleanly, no more water is needed. If you’re not getting these results yet, keep slowly adding water. When you get to the nice big dough ball, you will want to add in the salt and let it mix in fully, and then drizzle in the olive oil if using and let the dough absorb it.
Now, there is a step in pizza dough making that we don’t quite understand where it comes from, but we believe it has to do with the dough hydrating, meaning letting the flour full bond to the water. After your dough has formed its mass, salt is added, and olive oil added, cover with a towel and let sit for 15 minutes.
Now it’s time to do some folds and build those gluten bonds. If you’re a bread maker, use your favorite kneading method, if not try this one. On a lightly floured surface, push the dough out into a square-ish shape, then fold it in half, rotate 90 degrees, fold in half again. Push it back out into a square and do that process twice more. The dough should start to resist you more, that’s good, that’s the gluten bonds strengthening which will give that nice chew. Cover again and let rest for 15 minutes. This lets the dough relax and allows it to be more pliable. Do the above steps twice more with a 15 minute break in between.
At this point we break out the scale (kitchen sized, not bathroom sized), weigh the dough, and cut into 3 even portions. You of course don’t have to do this, you can eyeball it, but we like to keep it consistent. Now it’s time for a nice long ferment, you can store the dough in separate containers, or one long one like a deep baking dish, just make sure it’s easy to remove the dough.
Let the dough remain under refrigeration for at least 8 hours, but up to 24, some even push it up to 72 hours. The longer it ferments, the more depth of flavor your dough will have. We stick with a good 24 hour dough usually, but have done a 72 hour dough, it had a slightly better taste, but who wants to wait that long to make pizza?!
On the day of cooking, you want your dough to come up to room temp before you start to press it out. Plan for about 2-3 hours of room temp time before cooking time.
Pre-heat your oven time 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, use it! If not pizza pans will work too.
Now to stretch the dough!
Firstly, get a nice big pile of flour scattered on your surface, then gently push it down and hand stretch it to 13”ish circle (or enough for your pan size). Please, DO NOT use a rolling pin! This will compress those beautiful air pockets that the yeast and time have created.
We use a tiny bit of corn meal or olive oil on our pizza pans to help it from sticking, but of course that’s up to you.
We prefer to go easy on the toppings. Simply some fresh mozzarella with scratch made pizza sauce or ricotta cheese with some garlic, mozzarella, and broccoli. We have also been known to do some BBQ chicken too, yum! Use your favorites and be sure to let us know how it turns out!
You can also make a dessert pizza! We had one with Nutella in Italy so of course we had to recreate it at home! The fact that this recipe makes 3 crusts is no mistake! To make this version, spread out your dough and sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on, then bake until done. As soon as it comes out of the oven, spread on your Nutella and enjoy! Talk about a dessert win!
Bake your topped pizza for 8-10 minutes, keep an eye on them, rotate, move around the oven and make sure to keep it quite even.
When it’s nicely cooked and bubbly remove it and let it rest for about 3 minutes, nothing puts a damper on a 2 day process like a burnt mouth!
We hope you enjoyed this recipe and had fun making your pizza! Please be sure to let us know how it went and how you enjoyed it!