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Master Neapolitan Pizza at Home: Recipe Guide

Introduction

Dive into the heart of Italian cuisine without leaving your kitchen by mastering the art of Neapolitan pizza. This famous food, known for its thin crust and delicious flavors, shows off the simple beauty and cleverness of Italian cooking. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a seasoned chef, our guide will transform your home into a Naples pizzeria. Get ready to impress your taste buds and guests alike. Let’s embark on this delicious journey together!

Understanding Neapolitan Pizza

What is Neapolitan Pizza?

What is Neapolitan Pizza?
What is Neapolitan Pizza?

Neapolitan pizza, or ‘pizza Napoletana,‘ is a type of pizza that originated in Naples, Italy. It’s famous for its simple yet exquisite taste, combining a thin, soft crust with fresh, high-quality toppings. The secret to its unique flavor lies in the traditional ingredients and the cooking method — baked quickly in a blisteringly hot wood-fired oven.

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The origins and unique characteristics

The history of Neapolitan pizza dates back to the 18th century in Naples. Initially, it was the food of the poor, an easy and affordable way to feed the family with basic ingredients. However, its delightful taste soon won the hearts of everyone, regardless of social class. The pizza gained international fame, symbolizing Italian culinary art around the world.

Neapolitan pizza stands out for its distinct characteristics: the dough must be hand-kneaded and cannot be rolled with a pin or stretched too thin. It should have a raised edge (the famous ‘cornicione’), and the center must be soft and succulent. The toppings are simple yet non-negotiable: San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese (fiordilatte or mozzarella di bufala), fresh basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. This simplicity ensures that each ingredient shines, delivering a harmonious blend of flavors in every bite.

Neapolitan Pizza Calories: A Closer Look

Pizza SizeCalories Per SliceTotal Calories (approx.)
Small (10″)200-250800-1000
Medium (12″)250-3001200-1440
Large (14″)300-3501680-1960
Neapolitan pizza Calories

When exploring the essence of Neapolitan pizza, understanding its calorie content becomes crucial, especially for health-conscious enthusiasts. Neapolitan pizza, celebrated for its minimalist approach, surprisingly aligns well with a balanced diet. 

A typical slice of Neapolitan pizza contains about 250 to 300 calories, making it a lighter option than other pizza varieties. This lower calorie count is attributed to its thin crust, modest cheese toppings, and fresh tomato sauce. 

However, like any indulgent dish, moderation is key. By keeping portions sensible, you can enjoy the rich flavors of Neapolitan pizza without compromising your dietary goals. Remember, the joy of pizza lies not just in its taste but also in its ability to bring people together while fitting into a mindful eating plan.

Essential Ingredients

Essential Ingredients for Neapolitan Pizza
Essential Ingredients for Neapolitan Pizza
  • Flour: “00” flour is preferred for its fine grind and high protein content, ensuring a light, airy crust.
  • Water: Used to hydrate the flour, creating the dough.
  • Salt: Adds flavor and strengthens the dough’s gluten structure.
  • Yeast: This can be fresh or dry yeast; it’s crucial for fermentation, making the dough rise.
  • Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are ideal for their sweet flavor and low acidity.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana offers a creamy texture and rich taste, though Fior di Latte is a great cow’s milk alternative.
  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves add a fragrant aroma and a burst of color.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Drizzled over the top for added richness and flavor.

Best Flour and Cheese

The choice of flour is critical. For authentic Neapolitan pizza, “00” flour is ideal due to its fine grind and high protein content, ensuring a light, airy crust. Regarding cheese, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana brings a creamy texture and rich flavor unmatched by others. However, Fior di Latte (cow’s milk mozzarella) is a great alternative, offering a slightly different but equally delicious experience.

Toppings: A Canvas for Creativity

While traditional toppings are minimalist, feel free to explore. The key is to maintain balance and let the quality of ingredients shine. From the tangy sweetness of San Marzano tomatoes to the aromatic basil and rich olive oil, each component plays a pivotal role. Adding too many toppings can overwhelm the delicate crust and obscure the nuanced flavors.

The Dough: Crafting the Perfect Base

Neapolitan pizza dough is a marvel of simplicity and precision. It begins with mixing “00” flour, water, a touch of salt, and yeast, then kneading until smooth and elastic. This dough doesn’t need embellishments; its beauty lies in its texture and flavor after baking. 

The fermentation process, crucial for developing taste and texture, can vary from a quick few hours to an extended period of up to three days, depending on the recipe and desired outcome.

Dry Yeast Option

While traditional recipes often call for fresh yeast, dry yeast is a convenient and accessible alternative. It’s important to adjust the quantities accordingly, as the potency differs. A rule of thumb is to use about one-third the amount of dry yeast when substituting for fresh.

The 3-Day Dough

For those seeking a deeper flavor and more complex texture, a 3-day fermentation process is a game-changer. This extended period allows for the development of a more nuanced flavor profile and a wonderfully airy crust.

By selecting the right ingredients and dedicating care to the preparation of the dough, you’re well on your way to creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza that’s a joy to make and a delight to share.

Basic Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

Basic Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe
Basic Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe
  • Gather Your Ingredients:
    • 500g (about 4 cups) “00” flour
    • 325ml (about 1⅓ cups) lukewarm water
    • 2g (about ½ teaspoon) dry yeast
    • 10g (about 2 teaspoons) salt
  • Activate the Yeast:
    • In a small bowl, dissolve the dry yeast in a little lukewarm water. Let it sit for a few minutes until it begins to foam, indicating that the yeast is active.
  • Mix the Dough:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Gradually add in the yeast mixture and the remaining water, mixing continuously. You can start with a spoon and then switch to your hands once the dough starts to form.
  • Knead the Dough:
    • Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead for about 10-15 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, but be careful not to add too much, as it can make the dough tough.
  • First Rise:
    • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covering it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
  • Divide and Shape:
    • Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts (for individual pizzas) or keep it whole for a larger pizza. Shape each portion into a ball.
  • Second Rise:
    • Place the dough balls on a floured surface or tray, cover them with a damp cloth, and let them rest for another hour. They should increase slightly in size.
  • Ready to Stretch:
    • Your Neapolitan pizza dough is now ready to be stretched and topped with your favorite ingredients before baking.

Using Dry Yeast

While traditional recipes often call for fresh yeast, dry yeast is a perfectly acceptable substitute. It’s more readily available and has a longer shelf life. When using dry yeast, remember it’s more concentrated, so you’ll need less of it. A general guideline is to use about one-third of the amount of dry yeast compared to fresh yeast.

The 3-Day Fermentation Process

For those who plan ahead, a 3-day fermentation process can elevate your Neapolitan pizza dough to new heights. Extending the fermentation allows the dough to develop a deeper flavor and a more complex texture. Simply prepare your dough as usual, but instead of letting it rise for a few hours, refrigerate it and let it slowly ferment for up to three days. This slow fermentation process enhances the dough’s flavor, making your pizza base more delicious.

Stretching the Dough

Master Neapolitan Pizza at Home: Recipe Guide
Master Neapolitan Pizza at Home: Recipe Guide

Once your dough has fermented, the next step is stretching it into the perfect base for your toppings. The key to stretching Neapolitan pizza dough is to do it gently and with confidence. Start by pressing down on the dough from the center, moving outward, and then use your hands to stretch it, being careful not to tear it. This technique helps maintain the dough’s airiness and creates the classic Neapolitan crust with a puffy edge.

How to Stretch Neapolitan Pizza Dough

  • Preparation:
    • Begin by flouring your work surface lightly. Have your risen dough ball ready.
  • Gently Flatten the Dough:
    • Place the dough ball on the floured surface. Using your fingertips, gently press down on the dough from the center outward, leaving the edges slightly thicker to form the crust. Avoid using a rolling pin as it can deflate the dough.
  • Stretch the Dough:
    • Carefully lift the dough with both hands and use your knuckles (not your fingertips) to stretch it. Rotate the dough around your knuckles, letting gravity help extend it. Aim for an even thickness across the base.
  • Final Adjustments:
    • Once the dough is stretched to about 10-12 inches in diameter (depending on your preference), lay it back on the floured surface. Make any final adjustments with your fingers, ensuring an even base and a slightly thicker edge for the crust.
  • Ready for Toppings:
    • Your dough is now ready for toppings. Remember, less is more with Neapolitan pizza. A light touch with the sauce, cheese, and other toppings will prevent the dough from becoming soggy.

Neapolitan pizza sauce

Neapolitan pizza sauce
Neapolitan pizza sauce

Ingredients:

  • Ripe San Marzano tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • A splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finely minced garlic (optional, for those who like a hint of garlic)

Steps to Prepare:

  • Start with Quality Tomatoes:
    • If you’re using canned San Marzano tomatoes, drain them from their liquid. For fresh tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes, then peel, seed, and crush by hand.
  • Crush the Tomatoes:
    • Use your hands or a food mill to crush the tomatoes into a puree. The goal is to break the tomatoes down into a sauce consistency while keeping some texture.
  • Season:
    • Add a pinch of sea salt to the crushed tomatoes. Taste and adjust the salt as needed. The simplicity of the sauce is key, so don’t overdo it with the seasoning.
  • Optional Ingredients:
    • For added flavor, you can stir in a few fresh basil leaves, torn by hand, and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil for richness. If you like a hint of garlic, add some finely minced garlic to the sauce.
  • No Cooking Needed:
  • Ready to Use:
    • Your sauce is now ready to be spread onto your stretched pizza dough. Remember, a little goes a long way – you don’t want to oversaturate your dough.

This sauce, with its fresh and bright flavors, is the heart of Neapolitan pizza. It showcases the philosophy of Neapolitan cuisine: high-quality ingredients used sparingly to create a dish where every flavor is essential and balanced.

Neapolitan Pizza Recipe

Neapolitan Pizza Recipe
Neapolitan Pizza Recipe
  • Preheat Your Oven:
    • If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible, ideally between 475°F (245°C) and 500°F (260°C), for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  • Apply the Sauce:
    • With your dough stretched and laid out on a peel or baking sheet, spoon a few tablespoons of your homemade Neapolitan pizza sauce onto the center. Using the back of the spoon, spread the sauce in a spiral motion, leaving the edges bare to form a crust.
  • Add the Cheese:
    • Sprinkle your choice of cheese (Mozzarella di Bufala or Fior di Latte) evenly over the sauce. Remember, the beauty of Neapolitan pizza is in its simplicity, so don’t overload it.
  • Arrange the Toppings:
    • Place your chosen toppings lightly across the pizza. Traditional Neapolitan pizzas feature minimal toppings to keep the crust crisp and flavorful.
  • Drizzle Olive Oil:
    • A light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil adds richness and depth to the flavors.
  • Baking the Pizza:
    • Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 5-8 minutes, or until the crust is puffed, golden brown, and the cheese is bubbly and slightly charred in spots. The high heat and quick baking time are key to achieving the perfect Neapolitan pizza crust.
  • Serving:
    • Remove the pizza from the oven, and if you like, add a few fresh basil leaves for a burst of color and aroma. Let it cool for a minute, then slice and serve immediately.

Neapolitan Pizza Toppings

Neapolitan Pizza Toppings
Neapolitan Pizza Toppings

Stick to Tradition or Customize

  • Traditional Toppings: Classic Neapolitan pizzas like the Margherita and Marinara keep it simple. Margherita features tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. Marinara is even more straightforward, with tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, sans cheese.
  • Custom Toppings: If you wish to add your personal touch, select high-quality ingredients that complement rather than overpower the base. Think prosciutto, arugula, or even a sprinkle of chili flakes for some heat.

Quality Over Quantity

  • The key to perfect Neapolitan pizza toppings is quality. Choose fresh, premium ingredients for the best taste and authenticity. Freshly picked basil, ripe tomatoes, and high-quality cheeses make a world of difference.
  • Use toppings sparingly to avoid overwhelming the thin crust. Neapolitan pizza is celebrated for its balance and digestibility, achieved by a light hand with the toppings.

Preparing Your Toppings

  • Slice thinly: Ingredients like vegetables or meats should be thinly sliced to ensure they cook quickly and evenly in the high heat.
  • Pre-cook when necessary: Some toppings, especially those with high water content like mushrooms or certain meats, may benefit from pre-cooking to prevent the pizza from becoming soggy.

Final Touches and Serving

Neapolitan pizza
Neapolitan pizza

Baking Tips for the Perfect Crust

  • Hot Stone or Baking Sheet: If you don’t have a pizza stone, a heavy-duty baking sheet will work. Ensure the oven is heated beforehand to guarantee a crunchy base.
  • Watching Closely: Due to the high oven temperatures, Neapolitan pizza cooks quickly. Keep an eye on it to prevent burning.

Serving Your Masterpiece

  • Cooling Down: Allow your pizza to cool for a minute before slicing. This short wait helps the cheese set slightly, making it easier to cut and eat.
  • Cutting: Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to slice your pizza into equal portions. A good Neapolitan pizza should be soft and flexible, with a slightly crispy crust.
  • Presentation: Serve the pizza on a wooden board or a simple, elegant plate to enhance its rustic charm. A well-presented pizza invites the eyes to feast first, elevating the overall experience.
  • Pairing: Neapolitan pizza pairs wonderfully with a light salad or a selection of antipasti to start. For drinks, a light Italian beer or a glass of red wine complements the rich flavors of the pizza.

Conclusion

Mastering Neapolitan pizza at home is a delightful journey that brings a slice of Naples into your kitchen. From selecting the finest ingredients to stretching the dough and choosing just the right toppings, each step is a testament to the simplicity and elegance of Italian cooking. 

Whether you stick to the timeless classics or add a personal twist, the key lies in the balance of flavors and the joy of sharing your culinary creations with loved ones. So, fire up your oven and get ready to impress with your homemade Neapolitan pizza, a dish that transcends borders and brings people together, one delicious slice at a time.

FAQs

Q: Is fresh yeast necessary, or can I use dry yeast?

A: Dry yeast is a perfectly acceptable substitute for fresh yeast. Use about one-third of the amount specified for fresh yeast when substituting with dry yeast.

Q: How can I achieve a crispy crust if I don’t have a pizza stone?

A: Preheat your baking sheet in the oven as an alternative to a pizza stone. This method will help you get a crispier bottom crust.

Q: Can I prepare the dough in advance?

A: Yes, the dough can be prepared in advance. A slow fermentation in the refrigerator for up to 3 days can even enhance the flavor and texture of the crust.

Q: What are some traditional Neapolitan pizza toppings?

A: Traditional toppings include fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The key is to use fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best taste.

Q: How hot should my oven be to cook Neapolitan pizza?

A: Your oven should be as hot as possible, typically between 475°F (245°C) and 500°F (260°C), to mimic the environment of a traditional wood-fired oven.

Q: How long does it take to bake Neapolitan pizza?

A: In a properly heated oven, it should take about 5-8 minutes to bake your pizza, depending on its thickness and your oven’s exact temperature.

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