It’s difficult to go back after having the greatest pizza in Naples, Italy. You know how in the movie The Matrix Neo is given the option of choosing between blissful ignorance and truth by selecting the blue or red pill? Eating pizza in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, is akin to taking the red pill. You’ll never go back once you’ve tried Neapolitan pizza. You’ll then spend the rest of your life attempting to replicate it at home! Fortunately, we did it for you. Here are all of our tips and tactics for making the best homemade Neapolitan pizza, so you may enjoy it for the rest of your life.
What is Neapolitan pizza?
Neapolitan pizza is pizza made in the style that originated in Naples, Italy. Like any famous dish, there many variations on what it means to be “authentic.” After eating some of what is considered the best pizza in the world on the ground in Naples, here’s what Alex and I found are characteristics of Neapolitan pizza:
- Simple flavors: The best Neapolitan pizza restaurant we’ve been to, Da Michele, served only two flavors: Margherita and Marinara. Pizza margherita is tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and Pizza marinara is simply tomatoes and garlic. Both were perfection in their simplicity.
- Soft, thin crust, cooked in a very hot oven: Most Neapolitan pizzas are baked in a wood fired pizza oven that’s around 800 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The crust is typically blackened by the fire, with puffed edges and very thin towards the middle.
- Simple tomatoes: The crust on Neapolitan pizzas is typically spread simply with tomatoes, usually San Marzano variety. The recipe below uses a simple sauce that mimics the flavors we had in Naples.
- Mozzarella: The cheese in Italy is top notch. Neapolitan pizza often uses fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella cheese.
How to make Neapolitan pizza dough?
The essential part of Neapolitan pizza is the pizza dough. Alex and I have been working on our recipe for over 10 years. In honing our dough recipe, we’ve learned a few things from some of the premiere pizza restaurant chefs in America, who themselves have studied the pizza in Naples!
- Use Tipo 00 flour. Tipo 00 flour is the type of Italian flour that Neapolitan pizza restaurants use. It makes for a beautiful, supple and fluffy dough. You can find it at your local grocery or online. If you can’t find it, you can use all-purpose; it will still make next level pizza!
- Refrigerate the dough 2 to 3 days before baking (optional). If you can, we recommend placing your pizza dough in a sealed container and refrigerating it for 2 to 3 days. This naturally ferments the dough and brings a nutty, complex flavor to the dough. Of course, this is optional: sometimes it’s not possible to think ahead!
Do I need Neapolitan pizza oven?
Wouldn’t it be nice if every human could own a Neapolitan pizza oven? We wish! No, you don’t need a Neapolitan pizza oven for this recipe. You can cook it in a standard oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit along with a preheated pizza stone inside. (Don’t have one? Here’s the best pizza stone, plus some care tips.)
But, caveat! If you want those beautiful black char marks on your crust like in these photos, you’ll need a pizza oven. Why use a pizza oven? And what’s the best one to use?
- A pizza oven can get much hotter than a regular oven. Your standard oven can get only to 550 degrees, but a pizza oven reaches temperatures of up to almost 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit!
- What pizza oven to buy? Alex and I use a genius pizza oven called the Ooni pizza oven. The Ooni is small, transportable, and heats up to 1,000 degrees in just 10 minutes! It’s powered by wood pellets. Using the Ooni takes a bit of practice, but it’s revolutionized our homemade pizza.
How to avoid watery pizza made with fresh mozzarella cheese?
Mozzarella cheese has a lot of moisture in it, which can sometimes result in a watery pizza! The moisture varies based on the brand. If you’re using fresh mozzarella cheese for this Neapolitan pizza recipe, do the following:
- Slice the mozzarella into ¼ inch thick pieces for topping your pizza. (Using huge chunks causes a water build up.)
- If the brand seems extra watery, let it sit on a towel for about 15 minutes, then blot away the extra moisture.
This Neapolitan pizza recipe is…
- 1 ball Best Homemade Pizza Dough
- ⅓ cup Easy Pizza Sauce
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or about ¾ cup shredded mozzarella)
- Kosher salt
- 2 basil leaves
- Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting the pizza peel
- Prepare the dough using the Best Pizza Dough recipe (follow this video instruction for more). Follow the preparation instructions in the dough recipe if prepared in advance.
- Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500°F. OR preheat your pizza oven (here’s the pizza oven we have!).
- Make the Homemade Pizza Sauce.
- Slice the mozzarella into ¼ inch thick pieces. If it’s incredibly watery fresh mozzarella (all brands vary), you may want to let it sit on a paper towel to remove moisture for about 15 minutes then dab the mozzarella with the paper towel to remove any additional moisture.
- When the oven is ready, stretch the dough into a circle; see How to Stretch Pizza Dough for instructions. Sprinkle a pizza peel with semolina flour or cornmeal, then carefully place the dough on top. Spread the pizza sauce across the dough. Top with mozzarella cheese. Taste a bite of the mozzarella cheese; if it does not taste salty, add a few pinches of kosher salt to the pizza.
- If you’re baking in a pizza oven, add the basil leaves. For baking in a standard oven, add the basil leaves after you bake (the leaves turn black in a standard oven).
- Transfer the pizza to the pizza stone on the pizza peel, then bake until the cheese is melted, about 7 minutes in the oven (or 1 minute in the pizza oven). Slice into pieces and serve immediately.
Serving Size: Slice
Calories Per Serving: 165
% DAILY VALUE
1%Total Fat 0.4g
Saturated Fat 0.1g
11%Total Carbohydrate 29.8g
5%Dietary Fiber 1.4g
3%Vitamin A 27.1µg
11%Vitamin C 9.5mg
0%Vitamin D 0µg
2%Vitamin B6 0mg
7%Vitamin B12 0.2µg