best italian pizza recipe
Do you want to learn how to create authentic Italian pizza? The best approach is to take our Secrets of Pizza: Original Naples Pizza Tour, which takes you behind the scenes at Naples’ greatest pizzerias. If you won’t be in Naples anytime soon, your next best bet is to try this recipe from the Walks of Italy crew.
The most critical step is to make the perfect Italian pizza dough! The dough is more than simply the base of the pizza; it gives it texture, holds the flavors together, and, when done well, can take you right back to Italy.
Just a little note regarding pizza in Italy…
Despite the fact that it has become the most popular Italian dish outside of Italy, pizza and Italy were not always synonymous. Pizza, in fact, was not invented until the nineteenth century, when it began as a fast food on the streets of Naples. Originally (and, we would say, still today), the simpler the pizza, the better: The traditional pizza napoletana consisted of dough topped with a tomato sauce of Marzano tomatoes, oregano or basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil. (For more information on how to choose the best olive oil, see this page.)
But it’s another pizza from Naples that has the most interesting pedigree. When Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889, she was enchanted by a local pizza baker who had prepared a pizza in her honor using the colors of the newly united Italy’s flag—red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil. You guessed it. It’s currently known as the pizza margherita (or margarita on some menus).
Of course, Italian food, like Italian pizzas, is quite regional. (However, any true Italian pizza should always be made in a wood-fired oven; in fact, a pizzeria without one cannot even call itself a pizzeria legally!). Pizza in Naples is noted for its “pizza alta” (thick crust), but pizza in Rome is generally thin-crust and crisp.
Like the rest of Italian food, Italian pizza is best – and most authentic – when it’s made with fresh, local ingredients, especially any that are DOP (You can read a full explanation of this wonderful little term in our blog about DOP foods). We’re not talking the microwaved dough and synthetic cheese that you see now both in Italy and abroad, but something completely different.
The best way to try it, short of going to an authentic pizzeria with great ingredients and a wood-fired oven? Make it at home!
Read more: The Only Italian Lasagna Recipe You’ll Ever Need
What you need to make an Italian pizza
Makes dough for 4 pizzas, each one about 12 inches in diameter:
- 600 mL of warm water
- 7 cups (1kg) flour, type “00”*
- 2.5 – 3 tablespoons (25 grams) of fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons (7-8 grams) of dried yeast.
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
*A note on the flour: In Italy, “00”, or “doppio zero,” flour is the most highly-refined and finest-ground flour available. Not available where you are (or too expensive?). An all-purpose flour should work just as well!
How to make your authentic Italian pizza
Just follow the following steps:
- Sprinkle the yeast into a medium bowl with the warm water. We don’t mean hot, and we don’t mean cold… we mean warm! That’s the kind the yeast likes best. Stir until the yeast dissolves.
- Place almost all of the flour on the table in the shape of a volcano. (Think Mt. Vesuvius… appropriate since Naples is the king of all pizza cities!).
- Pour the yeast-and-warm-water mix, along with the other ingredients, into the “crater” of the volcano.
- Knead everything together for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, keeping your surface floured.
- Grease up a bowl with some olive oil and put the dough inside. Turn the dough around so the top is slightly oiled.
- Cover the bowl and put the dough aside to let it rest for at least four or five hours.
- (optional for those who want their pizza really authentic). Make a cross on top of the dough with a knife. An old Italian tradition, this is seen as a way of “blessing the bread.”
- Preheat the oven to about 400°F, or about 200°C.
- Dump the dough out of the bowl and back onto the floured surface. Punch it down, getting rid of any bubbles. (Note: Now’s the time to enlist a kid with more energy than they know what to do with!).
- Divide the dough in half and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Roll each section into a 12-inch disc. Now’s your chance to decide how thick you want your pizza to be! Do you want it pizza alta (Neapolitan-style) or pizza bassa (Roman-style)? Just remember, your crust will puff up a little bit as it’s baked!
- Transfer the dough onto an oiled pizza pan or baking sheet.
- Add tomato sauce, if you want a pizza rossa (red pizza). Lots of pizzas in Italy are actually pizza bianca, without tomato sauce, so don’t feel like you have to! Brush the edges of the crust with a little bit of olive oil.
- Bake each pizza for about 10 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese (sliced or grated) on top, as well as any other ingredients.
- Let the pizzas bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. By lifting up the pizza to peek underneath, you can make sure the bottom has browned, too.
- Remove your pizzas from the oven and, for a real Italian touch, garnish with a few basil leaves. And enjoy!
Learning about food is one of the greatest joys of traveling in Italy. If you’d like to learn about pizza-making in the most authentic way possible, check out our Secrets of Pizza: Original Naples Pizza Tour. We’ll take you behind the scenes of Naples’ most beloved pizzerias and share the little secrets that expert pizzaiolos have developed over generations. (And of course, you’ll eat plenty of pizza along the way!)
And thanks to Walks of Italy’s Loredana of Le Marche, Italy for providing her tried-and-true, authentic Italian pizza recipe!