Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

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This Neapolitan pizza dough recipe is the real deal--made with just flour, water, salt, and yeast.  It makes the most delicious authentic Neapolitan pizzas, and can be made in a bread machine, with a stand mixer, or by hand.

Four Neapolitan Pizza Dough balls on a floured surface, with text overlay reading "Neapolitan Pizza Dough."

This is the recipe I use for making pizzas in my wood fired oven, but I'm sharing instructions for making great pizzas in a home oven, too, using a pizza stone.

Freshly cooked Neapolitan Pizza on a pizza peel.

Check out that beautiful pizza!  The pizza crust is absolutely perfect--thin and flexible in the center, beautifully puffed and chewy at the edges.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe ingredients on a white marble surface.

Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

This is the absoloutely classic, authentic recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough, and I got the recipe from Forno Bravo, where I also got the free plans I used to build a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard (blog post about that and tutorial here).  

The Right Flour for Making Neapolitan Pizzas

The key to making authentic neapolitan pizza dough is using the right high-quality ingredients.  It's such a simple recipe, that using the right ingredients is critical to making the perfect pizza Napoletana.  It all comes down to protein content and how finely the wheat flour is milled.  The best flour to use is Caputo brand 00 pizzeria flour (Caputo makes other double zero flour with lower protein content for other purposes, so be sure you get the version meant for pizza dough).  00 flour is milled more finely than all purpose flour or bread flour, which allows this pizza dough to be made with a higher hydration (more water) than other types of pizza dough.  When baking at the hight temperature of a traditional pizza oven, that extra water in the dough quickly turns to steam, and creates that wonderful chewy, thicker, bubbly crust on the edges of Neapolitan pizza. 

The fine grind of the 00 flour also makes a silky, soft dough, and the high protein content gives the dough great extensibility (the ability to be stretched without breaking).  Since all Neapolitan pizzas are hand-stretched, extensibility is important!  

If you can't find Caputo 00 flour, in a pinch you can get by with a mix of 50% all purpose flour and 50% bread flour (which has a higher protein content).  This mixture works, and makes a tasty pizza dough, but it is definitely harder to work with.  Once you've experienced the difference that using the Caputo flour makes, you'll understand why serious pizza makers around the world use Caputo.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough ingredients being measured into a bread machine.

Bread Maker Neapolitan Pizza Dough

I use my bread machine as a massive shortcut for making homemade pizza dough.  I just dump all the ingredients in, push the dough button, and an hour an a half later, I have pizza dough! I can't remember the last time I actually baked bread in the bread machine, but I use it for making pizza dough and bread dough for homemade bagels all the time.  This method would disqualify me from getting Vera Pizza Napoletana certified, but it's easy and convenient and makes perfect pizza dough every time.  The bread maker handles all the mixing, kneading, perfect temperatures, and rise time.  This is the easiest way to make pizza dough by far.

If you don't have a bread maker to do the work for you, however, you can absolutely make the dough with a mixer or by hand.  

How to Make Neapolitan Pizza Dough with a Stand Mixer

Put all of your water, yeast, and salt, and about 75% of the flour in your mixer bowl.  Mix for about two minutes on a low speed--you just want to get everything combined, but it's not time to knead quite yet.  Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let the dough sit for 20 minutes (this is called an autolyse period) to allow the flour to absorb the water. 

After the autolyse period, add the remaining flour and knead the dough on medium speed using a dough hook.  Knead for approximately 6 minutes.

Cover the bowl once again, and let the dough rise until doubled in size (this usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours).

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface, knead a few times by hand, and cut into 4 equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a round dough ball, pinching the dough together on the bottom of the ball to create a smooth, round top.

How to Make Neapolitan Pizza Dough by Hand

To make the pizza dough by hand, follow the same general technique as for making the dough in a stand mixer.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, salt, yeast, and 75% of the flour.  Mix with a wooden spoon, cover the bowl, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  (I find it takes a little longer to knead the dough by hand than when using my Kitchenaid mixer.)  Place the dough in a very lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

Form dough balls exactly as above.

Four Neapolitan Pizza Dough balls on a lightly floured surface.

 The recipe makes 4 Neapolitan pizza sized pizza dough balls.

I typically make my dough balls the morning that I'll be making pizza, but you can also make them the night before and keep the dough in the fridge.

Eight neapolitan pizza dough balls in a plastic proofing box on a white marble surface.

Place the dough balls in a container lightly coated with olive oil.  Spray the tops of the dough balls with a light coat of olive oil (I just use an olive oil sprayer and my favorite extra virgin olive oil), place in a proofing box, and refrigerate until one hour before it's time to cook.  You can buy special dough proofing boxes to hold your dough balls, but these scrapbooking storage boxes work brilliantly for holding and proofing pizza dough balls!

Pull the dough out of the fridge about an hour before you start cooking, so they can come to room temperature.

Stretch the dough out by hand (no rolling pins allowed in authentic Neapolitan pizza!).  I like to dip the dough ball in flour before stretching it out. The dough should be very thin in the center (just 2.5 millimeters thick according to Vera Pizza Napoletana guidelines) and thicker at the edges.  This thin crust will still be flexible after the pizza is cooked.

Place the dough on a wooden pizza peel and add toppings.

How to Keep Dough from Sticking to the Pizza Peel

If you don't flour your wooden peel, the pizza dough will stick to it, and you won't be able to transfer it to your placing peel (to get it into the pizza oven) or to your pizza stone (for baking in a conventional oven).  Here are my best tips and tricks to prevent sticking:

  • Don't use cornmeal.  Though it works to prevent sticking, it has a distinct flavor and texture.  Not what we want for a neapolitan pizza recipe.  
  • DO use rice flour!  Rice flour is fabulously slippery, and doesn't add any different flavor or texture to the pizza.  Rub a generous amount of rice flour on your wooden peel before making every pizza.
  • If you let the prepared pizza sit on the wooden peel for a while before baking it, it will eventually stick, even if you use rice flour.  So only prepare the pizzas right before cooking. 
  • If you've let it sit long enough that it sticks, or you didn't get quite enough rice flour on the peel, you can still rescue the pizza without it turning into a calzone.  Lift up the nearest edge of the pizza with your fingers, get your mouth close to it, and blow hard--a good puff of air.  That's usually enough to allow you to quickly slip the pizza onto a placing peel or pizza stone.

Neapolitan Pizza Sauce

  • The best pizza sauce around if you're a purist?  Nothing but hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes.  No cooking, no herbs and spices, and for heaven's sake, no sugar!  Just the most simple, basic tomato sauce possible, that really lets the quality of the San Marzano tomatoes really shine.
  • If you're not an absolute purist, but almost are?  The can of crushed tomatoes with basil from Trader Joe's tastes just as good at a fraction of the price.

Shrimp and pesto pizza on a wooden cutting board.

Neapolitan Pizza Toppings

  • The classic Neapolitan pizza is the Margherita.  It's just the tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves (the three colors of the Italian flag).
  • Napoletana pizza is made with tomato sauce, anchovies, a drizzle of olive oil, and perhaps olives or capers (no cheese)
  • Pizza Bianca is made with just buffalo mozzarella and olive oil, no tomato sauce.  I like to add some parmesan cheese to my white pizza, too.  
  • Quattro Formaggio (four cheese pizza) is made with tomato sauce, and topped with Pecorino, Gorgonzola, Asiago, and Parmesan cheeses.  I often swap mozzarella cheese for the gorgonzola, since I have some family members who don't care for blue cheese.
  • Get Creative!  Those four pizzas above are very classic Neapolitan pizzas, but you can have fun experimenting with any toppings you like.  Just don't load the pizza up with too much.  Two family favorites are pesto and shrimp pizza, and pineapple and feta cheese pizza (I know, I know, but it's actually really good!). 

Collage of Neapolitan pizzas being made in wood fired oven, man throwing dough, man adding toppings.

(Check out my husband's mad dough tossing skills!)  Now it's time to talk about cooking the pizza.

How to Cook a Neapolitan Pizza in a Wood Fired Oven

There's a lot to be said on this topic--indeed, entire books have been written about it.  But here are the basics.

  • Build a large fire in your wood fired pizza oven, and feed the fire until the black soot on the brick roof turns white.  This is a great visual sign that your oven is up to temperature.  Neapolitan pizzas cook at about 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Move the fire to the side of the oven to make room for cooking the pizzas.
  • Place pizza in the oven using a placing peel.
  • Use a turning peel to rotate the pizza, so that all sides brown evenly.
  • The pizza will be fully cooked in 90 seconds.

Neapolitan pizza being placed in a wood fired pizza oven with a placing peel.

How to Cook a Neapolitan Style Pizza in a Home Oven

Conventional ovens don't get nearly as hot as wood fired pizza ovens, so you can't actually make a true Neapolitan pizza in a regular oven.  But you can certainly make a really good Neapolitan style of pizza!  The secret to getting great results for this type of pizza?  A really good pizza stone.  Place the pizza stone in a cold oven and preheat the oven as hot as it will go (that's 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit for most ovens).  Preheat for 30 minutes to an hour (you can get away with the shorter time if you're only making one or two pizzas, but preheat for longer if you're making a bunch of pizzas--you need to get as much heat stored in the stone as possible).  If your oven has a convection setting, use it.

Once the oven and the pizza stone are thoroughly pre-heated, it's time to cook.  Prepare your pizza on a wooden peel, and slide it directly on to the hot stone.  Bake for 5-6 minutes.  If the pizza isn't done by then, you probably need to preheat the oven longer.

One Page, Printable Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

Want a one page, printable version of this pizza dough recipe?  Click on the image below to print directly or download to your device.

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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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