Basic Neapolitan Pizza

  • Serves: Makes two, 12-inch or 14-inch round pizzas
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 450
  • Views: 11606

Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2007 Sarah Phillips

Variations: Pizza Margherita, Pizza Nuda and Toppings

Photo and pizza by Kelly Hong © Sarah Phillips
I have made this recipe, which works best for making thin and crispy crusts. For fun, grill your own pizza

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees);
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped, well-drained canned tomatoes
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
4 tablespoons olive oil

Make the Dough:
1. Place the flour and salt in a 2-quart mixing bowl and stir well to combine; make a well in the center.

2. Measure the water and pour it into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the water and leave it to soften to 3 - 4 minutes. Whisk the yeast and the water together, then whisk in 1 tablespoon of the oil.

3. Pour the liquid mixture into the well in the flour and stir with a rubber spatula to form a soft, sticky dough.

4. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface. Knead the dough gently, folding it over on itself, and scraping it off the surface with a spatula or plastic scraper if it is very sticky. Avoid adding more flour to the dough--that will produce a tough pizza. Knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

5. Rinse and dry the bowl. Spread 1 tablespoon of oil all around the inside of the bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Turn the ball upside down, so that the top surface of the dough is oiled, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk. For advance preparation, cover and refrigerate the dough for several hours or even overnight.

6. To form the pizza crusts, generously flour the work surface. Flour your hands and scrape the dough from the bowl in one piece, without stretching or folding it. Place the dough on the floured work surface so that what was on top in the bowl is now underneath. Divide the dough in half using a knife or scraper. Scatter a tablespoon or so of flour over the dough and press down on each piece of dough with the palm of your hand. Be careful to keep the dough an even disk shape. If the dough is freshly made, it may resist slightly. Should that happen, cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes, then resume the process. If the dough has been rested for a long time either in the refrigerator or at room temperature, it will respond easily.

7. Form your right hand in a fist and begin to press the dough in a circle, about 1/2-inch from the edge of the dough, with the middle joints of your fingers (as though knocking on a door). Pull gently with your other hand on the edge of the dough, opposite where the dough is being pressed. Continue around the crust 2 or 3 times in this manner to flatten and widen it.

8. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the pizza pan and spread it with the palm of one hand. Fold the crust in half and transfer it to the oiled pan. Unfold the dough and press it into place in the pan with the palms of both hands, gently stretching the dough from the center outward. If the dough resists, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes, then resume the process. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

9. When the dough is properly stretched, it should be about 1/8-inch thick and have a 1/2-inch wide border which is slightly thicker.

10. Set the racks at the lowest and highest levels of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Make sure the oven has preheated sufficiently before putting in the pizza.

11. Place toppings on the pizza in the order given. Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for about 30 minutes. After about 210 minutes, lift an end of the pizza with a metal spatula to check that the bottom is not burning. If the bottom is coloring too quickly, slide another pan under the first one. If the bottom is light golden, check again after another 10 minutes. When the pizza is done, the top should be sizzling gently, and the bottom a dark brown. If the top has not colored sufficiently when the bottom is done, place the pizza on the top rack of the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

Cut pizza into wedges with a pizza wheel or serrated knife.

Serve immediately. If the pizza has to wait, the crust may become soggy and reheating may make it hard rather than crisp.

Pizza Margherita: Named after Queen Margherita of Italy, this pizza echoes the flag of united Italy: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). When using fresh tomatoes, use about 2 pounds perfectly ripe, either round or plum, for 2 pizzas. Plunge them into boiling water for half a minute, remove and peel them. Halve the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds, then chop and drain the pulp. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil on the pizzas before adding the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle the pizza with 1 cup shredded mozzarella.

Pizza Nuda: This is really a focaccia, but it is made with the crust, above. Bake the pizza crust with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of coarse salt. The result will be a thin and delicate, somewhat like thick flour tortilla in flavor and texture.

Basic Toppings (for 2 large):

Two cups coarsely grated assorted cheeses, such as Gruyere, Fontina, Gorgonzola or Roquefort (crumbled), and Parmesan, plus a drizzle of 2 tablespoons olive oil;

Two cups roasted peppers cut into thin strips, plus a drizzle of 2 tablespoons olive oil, a thinly sliced clove of garlic, and a sprinkling of 1 or 2 tablespoons grated parmesan;

Substitute 1 cup crumbled goat cheese for the parmesan with the roasted peppers, above.

Recipe is adapted from HOW TO BAKE, from Nick Malgieri, HarperCollins, 1995