A few months ago I woke up late one night to find Spencer on the computer. This was unusual as we had gone to bed at the same time and both had work in the morning. I said “Spencer WHAT are you doing? It’s late!” He was like “I’m researching pizza.” Turns out that he’d had a serious discussion with an Italian coworker about “rubbish” American pizza that afternoon. Spencer wasn’t convinced, but decided to hear the coworker out and do some research. After Italian Youtube videos, pointers from his cowoker, experimenting with different ingredients (looking at you mozzarella di bufala) and a few months of tweaking, he’s perfected the recipe and graciously agreed to share it here. He originally captioned this post “A life changing event: Neapolitan Pizza” which sums up how we feel about it. Special thanks to our friends in Austin for letting us test different versions out on them and to The Pizza Lab for inspiring Spencer. -Anne
Pizza Napoletana (Neapolitan Pizza)
Don’t be intimidated by the long instructions, this recipe is actually pretty simple once you have done it a time or two.
Note about numbers: You can double this recipe and it scales up to about six people with some leftovers, and even then I would recommend having 2 pizzas cooked and sliced when the group starts eating to help you stay ahead of the crowd. After that, unless you have a double oven, it is tricky to have pizzas cooking fast enough to feed more than six people at the same time. To put things into perspective, most people eat around 1 full pie worth of slices. I’ve never eaten more than 2 pies in one sitting. Stay tuned for a Sicilian pizza recipe to feed larger crowds.
Dough (makes SIX 10″ pies)
-5 and 1/2 cups (or 1.75 pounds – use a scale for greater consistency) of bread flour (or the high end “00” flour… bread flour worked great though)
-1 Tablespoon salt
-1 Tablespoon sugar
-2 cups of warm water
-1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
Sauce (no need to cook or heat… it will cook on the pizza)
-One 14 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes or no salt added diced tomatoes
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1.5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
We used both cheaper Walmart tomatoes
and higher end authentic San Marzano… both worked fine. The taste was very similar. If you want to go more authentic here, get the 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes
– be sure to double the salt and oil. You will definitely have leftover sauce… freeze it or use elsewhere.
-extra virgin olive oil
-fresh basil leaves
-16 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
-Any other less authentic toppings you want: ham, pineapple, pepperoni, or bell pepper slices.
My Italian friend swore by mozzarella di bufala, but we tried this fresh mozzarella
and were pretty pleased. We also had success (not quite as good) using the less expensive, softer whole milk mozzarella
blocks that Walmart sells.
Instructions for the dough (Day before prep required):
Stir the yeast with 1/4 cup warm water and let it stand for about 5 minutes.
In a stand mixer, use a dough hook to mix the bread flour with the salt and sugar. Then add the yeast mixture and remaining 1 & 3/4 cups of warm(not hot) water to the flour mixture and mix at low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 4 minutes or until all of the flour is incorporated. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl add some more flour until it doesn’t leave dough behind on the sides. Scrape the dough out and form it into a ball. Lightly flour a bowl (I just use the same mixing bowl) and place the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap so that it’s airtight. Let the dough stand in a warm place until it’s doubled in size or 3-5 hours.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Lightly spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray and then dust them with flour. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and punch it down. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 even pieces. Form the pieces into balls and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets (max of 5 to a sheet). Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap or by sliding each baking sheet into a clean 13-gallon plastic kitchen bag and tying it closed.
At this point you have a couple options depending on when you want to use the dough – if you are eating in 3-4 hours, then you can just let the dough rise and then use it. You could also let the dough rise for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge. Lastly, you could immediately put the tray in the fridge. Either way, about two hours before you want to use the dough, take it out of the fridge so that it has time to return to room temperature. The key is to not let the dough over-rise and collapse because this results in denser crust.
Instructions for the sauce:
Open the can of tomatoes and drain out the water. Lightly blend the tomatoes, oil, and salt – don’t puree it. No need to cook the sauce… it will eventually cook while it is on the pizza under the broiler.
Cooking the Pizza: Pan and Broil Method:
Move a shelf in the oven as close to the broiler as possible, while still being able to fit a pan on the shelf. Set the broiler to high and close the oven door. Set the pan you will use on a stove-top burner on med-high.
Roll out a dough ball to around 10″ in diameter, pretty thin with a 1/2 inch lip for the crust. Flop this raw dough into your hot pan that is on the burner. Carefully spread out the dough to form your pie (don’t burn yourself). Use a spoon to put some sauce on the dough in the hot pan and spread it around (not super thick, just 2 or 3 spoonfuls is usually enough).
Stick the pan with the dough and sauce in the oven as close to the broiler as you can with the handle sticking out of the oven and the door cracked open (keep an eye on small children). Let the dough start to cook for 30 seconds to get the crust to perk up. Then pull the pan out and place it back on the hot burner on the stove top (unlike the pictures). Toss on chunks of cheese and torn basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over the top.
When finished topping, place the pan back under the broiler for around 3 minutes. You know the pizza is ready to come out when the crust starts to brown everywhere and char in a few places. Using an oven mitt, pull the pan out and lift the bottom edge of the pizza with a spatula to check if the bottom finished cooking. If the bottom of the crust hasn’t browned or border line charred in a few spots, place the pizza back on the hot burner for a moment. Slide the pizza out of the pan and onto a cutting board, top with fresh basil, and enjoy some delicious Pizza Napoletana.