When you think of a pizza, chances are good that the first ingredient that comes to mind is the cheese, likely followed by toppings. But in fact, it’s a great dough that makes a great pizza, and likewise, an inferior dough no cheese or topping can ever fully compensate for. Thus it should be little surprise, really, that making this Neapolitan Pizza a success is all about getting the dough right. And the biggest secret to doing that? Patience.
"If you rush the dough, it won’t rise as much when you bake it," says chef and recipe developer Maren Epstein of Eating Works. In this case, not rushing things means allotting a minimum of ten hours for the dough to rise then rest, though it can also sit in the fridge for up to two days. You can save yourself some time in the long run by making several batches of dough now and keeping a few for later, as Epstein says: "You can freeze the dough for later use for up to three months," but however you go about making this pizza, don’t go about it too quickly.
Until the actual baking, that is — that part takes less than ten minutes!
What is Neapolitan pizza, anyway?
Neapolitan pizza is named for the Italian city of Naples, because sometimes in life things actually do make sense. It is an elegantly simple pizza, traditionally consisting of nothing more than dough, fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil, and sometimes with a drizzle of olive oil. While other toppings can taste great, the classic Neapolitan pizza eschews anything else, according to The Spruce Eats.
Aside from that simplicity, the defining characteristic here is the crust, which is thin save for around the edges where it is thick but airy, not dense or chewy as you’d get in a Chicago style deep-dish pizza.
Gather your Neapolitan pizza ingredients
This elegantly simple pizza calls for ingredients that you likely have in your home already, which only sweetens the deal here. You’ll need about 3 ounces of water (you can use more if the consistency of the dough is off), 1 teaspoon of salt, a 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, 2/3 of a cup of 00 flour, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 a cup of tomato sauce, 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced, 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese, grated, and 1 teaspoon of oregano.
Now, while granted that the classic Neapolitan does not use toppings, you can, of course, do whatever you want here. "When adding toppings to pizza the options are endless," says Epstein, though she keeps it pretty traditional, adding "I like adding fresh basil and oregano."
Proof the yeast then make the Neapolitan pizza’s dough
Combine the water and salt in a large bowl and stir until the salt is dissolved. Next, add about ten percent of the flour to the water and stir to create a slurry. Now add the yeast, stirring gently. Wait ten minutes for the yeast to proof (it should begin to foam up) and then add the rest of the flour to the slurry and mix until a dough ball forms.
Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface and knead it for a good ten minutes, then return the dough to the cleaned bowl and coat it lightly with olive oil.
Let the Neapolitan pizza dough rise then sit
Okay, guess what time it is? Yep, it’s time for some patience. Cover the bowl with the ball of dough using a lightly dampened towel and then set the bowl somewhere a bit warm. Allow the dough to rise for two hours, then place it in an airtight container (a snug wrapping with several layers of plastic wrap is fine) and place it in the fridge for at least eight hours and for up to two whole days.
And remember, you can always freeze the dough (stored in an airtight container or wrapping) for up to three months, as we mentioned earlier.
Make and bake the Neapolitan pizza
After the dough’s long rest, it’s almost showtime! Meaning dinner time. Preheat your oven to 500º degrees Fahrenheit and get the dough out of the fridge and let it warm for about ten minutes. Now spread the pizza dough out over a pizza stone or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Make the pizza by spreading out a thin layer of sauce, then topping with all of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese, plus the oregano (and basil if you have it, plus whatever else you want to use — black olives and fresh diced tomatoes work great, FYI).
Place the pizza in the hot oven and cook for all of seven minutes. Then enjoy!
Neopolitan pizza is rather simplistic, consisting of fresh cheese, tomato sauce, and basil. Of course, you can doctor it up with whatever toppings you choose.
- 3 ounces water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon yeast
- ⅔ cup 00 flour
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Combine water and salt in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add 10% of the flour to the water to create a slurry, then add yeast and wait 10 minutes for the yeast to proof.
- Add the rest of the flour to the slurry and mix until dough ball forms, then turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes. Return the dough to the cleaned bowl and coat lightly with olive oil.
- Allow dough to rise for two hours, then place in an airtight container and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.
- Preheat oven to 500º degrees F, then spread the dough out over a pizza stone or parchment-lined baking sheet and load with a thin layer of sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.
- Place in the oven for 7 minutes.