Neapolitan pizza dough is chewy with a crispy air-bubble-filled crust and a thin yet sturdy center. It can hold up to all sorts of toppings and gets its classic chewy texture from making the starter, or poolish, the night before. This is key.
We love to make pizza on Friday nights, and this is one of our go-to pizza dough recipes. It is as close as you'll get to authentic Neapolitan pizza from Naples.
The best pizza that I've ever had by far was in Naples, Italy. Growing up in NY and traveling all over Italy, I've had a lot of pizza. The pizza in Naples was so good that we went twice in two days and we each ordered 1 ½ enormous pizzas.
Our other favorite pizza dough is this one used to make grandma pie pizza or sheet pan pizza, which is great for entertaining or serving a lot of people with low stress.
00 Flour and Bread Flour
This Neapolitan Pizza Dough uses a combination of bread flour and 00 flour. 00 flour is called 00 flour because it refers to flour that has been ground to the finest level or 00 as opposed to 0, 1, or the highest level 2. The recipe also uses bread flour which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour.
00 Flour has become increasingly popular and can now be found at many regular grocery stores, as well as at Whole Foods.
This recipe requires a bit of planning ahead because the poolish, or starter, needs to be made the night before. This is one of the elements that contributes to that really chewy pizza crust which will make the pizza stand out. Making the poolish takes all of a few minutes, if not less. It can be done after you get home from work, after the kids have gone to bed, or while you’re watching tv at night.
This Naples style pizza dough recipe is based on the recipe from Vito Iacopelli, a well-known Neopolitan Pizza maker with a channel on Youtube. He is a joy to watch and really is an expert at his craft. I highly recommend watching him on his Youtube channel as well as here, which is a full tutorial on making pizza at home as hosted on Pro Home Cooks.
I adjusted his recipe by decreasing the salt, using a packet of yeast to make things easier, and simplifying some of the steps in the process.
Kitchen Scale & Weighing Ingredients
Introducing a kitchen scale can be a barrier of entry for many people. Not everyone has one in their kitchen or may feel too intimidated to use one.
For that reason, this is the only recipe to date on Elle & Pear that requires a kitchen scale. There are lots of upsides to using a kitchen scale, the biggest of which is precision. For this recipe in particular, I think it is important to be precise. The best way to do that is with a kitchen scale and a recipe that is written in terms of grams rather than cups and teaspoons.
Making the Starter or Poolish
To make the pizza dough, you first make the starter. Think of making a loaf of homemade sourdough bread, you always start with a sourdough starter. It’s the same with this pizza dough. You make your own starter, or poolish, that sits in the fridge overnight.
To make the poolish you combine the water, honey, yeast and 00 flour. A quick easy stir to combine, then let sit uncovered for 15 minutes. Cover, let sit out for an hour and then store in the fridge overnight (and not more than 24 hours).
Making the Dough
The next day, add the remaining ingredients starting with the poolish from the night before, bread flour, 00 flour, water and salt. It will be a very, very wet dough. It might even seem so wet that you feel like you measured something incorrectly. You didn’t. It’s just a super wet dough. It will firm up as you work the dough and let it rest. Though it will still stay very soft and pliable.
Instead of kneading the dough you will need to work the dough. I do this by holding the dough in one hand, and while still holding it toss the other end of the dough so that it flops and smacks the counter. Then scoop up the dough again in one hand and repeat. Do not add any more flour. You can add a little bit of olive oil to your hands to make it easier to “flop” the dough on the counter.
Work the dough like this for 10 minutes. Then let it rest for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a round ball by tucking any rough pieces underneath and into the bottom of the dough. Place in a separate large bowl. Cover with a small amount of olive oil and a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled.
Stretching Out the Dough
Lightly flour the counter or a clean smooth work surface. Divide the dough into two balls. Place the dough on the counter and lightly press dimples into the center of the dough with your fingers, pressing outwards towards the edges slightly. Flip the dough over and repeat.
More firmly, press the dough from the center outwards encouraging any air to move towards the outer edges of the dough. This will form the crust. Then press and pinch the dough around the edges to seal the air into the crust. This will create a crust that is crunchy and full of those satisfying air bubbles.
There are many ways to stretch out the dough, but I like to place the dough on the back of my fists and gently stretch it out, turning the dough as I go.
There is also a method where you place the dough on the counter and your hand facing down on the middle of the dough, then pull back part of the dough over your hand and forearm turning your hand palm side up and raising the dough off the counter stretching the dough in the process.
I find this difficult to do because my fingernails pierce the dough creating holes. Do what works for you as long as you are using your hands and not using a rolling pin which will prevent that crispy air-bubble filled crust from forming.
Tips for Sauce and Toppings
- For Authentic Naples Style pizza you must use San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. This makes ALL the difference. No substitutes are acceptable. San Marzano tomatoes are grown in Italy in the fertile volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius. Even San Marzano tomatoes grown in the US will not make the cut and will not taste the same. Imported San Marzano tomatoes can be found at most grocery stores, just check the label. If you're having trouble finding it, check Whole Foods.
- Use fresh mozzarella, not low moisture. If possible, use mozzarella di bufala, or mozzarella cheese from the milk of water buffalo. This is a specific designation in Italy but Buffalo mozzarella can be purchased at some specialty food stores in the US, otherwise any good quality fresh mozzarella will be great.
- Add any fresh basil after the pizza has been removed from the oven, otherwise it will burn. Alternatively you can coat the basil in olive oil to prevent it from burning in the oven.
- Other toppings: this Naples style pizza dough works with a wide variety of toppings.
- Classic: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil
- prosciutto, pepperoni, meatballs, salami, bacon
- bell peppers, spicy peppers, caramelized onions, pineapple
- ricotta, gorgonzola, buratta
- Pick a few of your favorites or try this Potato and Rosemary Pizza.
- Be careful not to weigh down the pizza with too many toppings making it challenging to get it onto the pizza stone.
Tips for Baking the Pizza in Your Home Oven
- Naples style pizza is baked in a 900°F wood-fired oven for 60-90 seconds total. The oven is so hot that it cooks the dough quickly, yet won’t burn the cheese or toppings.
- At home, place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat to the highest temperature it will go, typically 550°F . Allow the oven to preheat for 1 hour. Then add your pizza. It'll typically bake for 7-10 minutes.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured pizza peel allowing ½ an inch of the crust to fall off the edge. This will allow the edge to “catch” on the pizza stone so that you can swiftly remove the peel in one quick motion and the pizza and toppings will remain on the stone. This takes some practicing and finesse. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out quite right. You can use tongs to adjust the pizza on the pizza stone in the oven. Even if parts of the pizza get folded over, or you have to scoop toppings off the stone back onto the pizza it will still taste great.
- Add the toppings to the pizza after you have it laid out on pizza peel. Transfer from the peel to the stone in the oven.
- To take the pizza out of the oven, use a pair of tongs to pull the pizza back onto the pizza peel while gently sliding the peel slightly underneath the pizza.
- If you do not have a pizza stone, you can make your pizza on a baking sheet. However, you'll need to heat your oven to a much lower temperature since many baking sheets will not hold up to a 550°F oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Top Tips for Making Neapolitan Pizza Dough
- Make a poolish or starter the night before.
- Use a combination of 00 flour and bread flour.
- Use a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients.
- Do not add extra flour to the dough, it should be a very wet dough.
- When shaping the dough, press the air from the center into the crust, pinching the crust closed to fill it with air, creating that air bubble filled crust.
- Do not use a rolling pin, use only your hands to stretch the dough.
Neapolitan Pizza Dough
- 200 grams water
- 5 grams honey
- 1 packet ¼ oz instant yeast
- 200 grams 00 flour
- 300 grams bread flour
- 200 grams 00 flour
- 300 grams water
- 15 grams salt
- Poolish: Combine the water, honey, yeast and flour in a medium Tupperware. Let sit uncovered for 15 minutes. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Place in the fridge overnight 12-24 hours.
- Making the Dough: Combine the poolish, bread flour, 00 flour, water and salt. It will be very loose and wet. So much so that you may think you did something wrong – you haven’t. It’s just a very wet dough.
- Work the dough on the counter for 10 minutes. Do not add any more flour. You can add a little olive oil on your hands to help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Gather the dough in one hand and using a flick motion smack it on the counter, then gather it up again and repeat. Feel free to get creative here. Let sit for 15 minutes. Shape into a round bowl tucking any rough edges up and underneath the dough. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl, add a tbsp of olive oil over the top and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
- Stretch out the Dough: Place the dough on a lightly floured counter. Divide into three. Working one at a time, with your fingers, press the middle of the dough down and out slightly out towards the edges. Flip and do the same on the other side.
- Create the crust: Press the air from the middle of the dough out towards the edge and pinch to seal the air into the crust. Place the dough over your two fists and stretch out the dough until it is thin. Place on a lightly floured pizza peel, with ½ inch of dough hanging off the side and add toppings as desired.