Tips For Making The Best Homemade Pizza Dough – From Professional Pizzaiolas
Here in the United States, over 3 billion pizzas are sold in a given year. Ranging from deep dish, to New York, to oven-fired, you certainly aren’t short of options. However, if you’re foodies like us, you’re probably going to go for something more authentic like a classic thin crust Italian pizza. If you’re ready to refine your palate and cooking skills even further, we invite you to embrace the art of Neapolitan pizza.
Neapolitan pizza is typically made with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and has a very thin crust. In the United States, most people try it in the form of Margherita pizza.
If you’re wondering how to make traditional pizza dough at home, we’ve got you covered. From developing sour starter dough for pizza to the best tips to make the best homemade pizza dough, and how to cook it – this article has all the answers for you. So, let’s get started!
Making Sour Starter Dough for Pizza
When it comes to Neapolitan pizza, the crust is truly the star, the lead singer, The Freddy Mercury of the show. Unlike typical Domino’s or Pizza Hut options, Neapolitan pizza isn’t smothered with lots of topping.
With fewer flavor profiles for your mouth to contend with, the high-quality Neapolitan pizza dough has a chance to shine. When it comes to making a traditional pizza dough, one must start with a sour stater.
At Fondi’s, our in-house sour starter dough for pizza goes by name and has become a bit of an infamous character in our community. It’s been in ‘the family’ for so long (18 years to be precise) that we call her Sophia.
Due to the nature of a ‘sourdough starter’, it can last for generations as long as you feed it properly. Like a family heirloom, it only gets more valuable with time. We may be biased by saying this, but if you’re serious about how to make homemade pizza, we can’t recommend enough to start by creating a sour starter dough for pizza.
Here’s how you do it. Gather your ingredients: in this case, water and flour.
If you want to speed up the process, you can purchase a sour starter to incorporate it into your dough. But if you’re looking to go old school, we urge you to make it on your own .
Do this by combining a cup of flour and a half-cup of cool water. Mix this together in a glass jar. Then, leave the jar in a warm place for a day. Make sure the jar is covered loosely, and leave this mixture alone for 24 hours.
After 24 hours have passed, remove a half cup of this starter and discard. Then, you should add another cup of flour and a half cup of water. Continue this process for a vigorous starter.
Best Tips For Making Homemade Pizza Dough
A solid recipe can make all the difference when creating a Neapolitan pizza at home. While trial and error is part of the process, a good recipe will ease the learning curve. It so happens that we’ve been spinning pizza for 20+ years and have done the brunt of the leg work when it comes to experimentations.
The highest priority when it comes to making the best homemade pizza, is starting with high-quality ingredients. We can’t emphasize this enough. Better ingredients equal a better pizza. Collect the following items:
- Active dry yeast
- White sugar
- Warm water
Start by measuring 1/8th teaspoon of active dry yeast into a bowl. Then, measure out 3/4 cups of water. The temperature is important—ensure that it’s between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the water is too cool or too hot, then your yeast won’t activate. This could spell disaster for your Neapolitan pizza dough.
Then, mix the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and water together. Add 2 cups of flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Mix it all together and let it sit in a loosely covered bowl overnight.
How to Make Traditional Pizza Dough At Home
After you’ve let your dough rest for 24 hours, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get started. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, start stretching out your dough. Make sure your surface is well-floured using the same flour you used to make the dough. At this stage, the goal is to stretch and fold the dough to make it warm and pliable.
Next, let the dough rest while you prepare your peel. We encourage using a wooden peel, with plenty of flour on it. And we highly recommend the Cherry Wood Pizza Peel by Fiero Casa brand for your wooden peel – it’s 22″ in diameter giving you plenty of space to fit your pie, and it’s made in the USA as an added bonus.
Pro tip: We have become awfully fond of their charcuterie boards as well. *hint hint*
Finally, it’s time to stretch and fold again. If your pizza dough stretching technique could use some help, we’ve documented our pizza stretching process for you to follow. (All taught by a professional Pizzaiolo, Chris Olsen.) That way, you ensure a fantastic pizza every single time.
Once you have the pizza stretched out, place it on the peel. Now it’s time to add your toppings – here’s where you can choose the traditional route with ingredients or let your imagination go wild.
Start with a light layer of sauce. For traditional Neapolitan pizza, you’ll add sauce and slices of high-quality mozzarella cheese. Of course, you can add other toppings at this stage, too.
When you’ve completed these steps, place your pizza in the oven. Since Neapolitan pizza is so thin, it won’t take long. Keep a careful eye on your pizza so it doesn’t burn – turning it 180 degrees half way through if necessary.
Pro Tip: Bear in mind – pizza can’t just go into an oven. It needs a stone or screen. Yes, even a cookie sheet works, too. What’s our top choice for a pizza stone? Once again, it’s Fiero Casa coming through with their Italian Pizza Stone and their Blue Steel Home Half Pan.
Keep your pizza in the oven for five to eight minutes. While it’s baking, start preparing your basil leaves.
Once you pull the pizza out, top it with fresh basil leaves. Let the pizza sit for a minute or two so that it cools down.
Neapolitan pizza is often not sliced like a traditional pizza. Instead, Neapolitan pizzas are ‘personal pizzas’—intended for one person only. Meaning, you may want to double your recipe for other hungry eyes in the kitchen.
Homemade Pizza Tips
When you’re making homemade pizza dough, it may take some time to hone your process. Be patient and take your time. After all, everyone’s climate, oven, ingredients, and level of skill is different. The process of trial and error will ensure that you get to make the best homemade pizza.
If you find that your pizza dough isn’t rising, check your yeast. Your yeast may be expired or spoiled. This will change the entire consistency of your dough and prevent it from rising. Again, fresh high quality ingredients is the way to go.
If you don’t own a wooden peel, what can you do? Use parchment paper or a cookie sheet. If you are using parchment paper though, you’ll want to check the temperature rating first.
That way, your parchment paper won’t char or burn in the oven. It can also help with less experienced bakers. Sometimes, bakers struggle to get the peel to release their pizza.
Using parchment paper or plenty of flour can help ensure that you don’t have issues with sticking. As you get more experienced, you may be able to stop using parchment paper altogether. Keep practicing and if the pizza doesn’t turn out ‘perfect’ the first time, no sweat! We’re sure you’ll have the appetite for another.
When creating Neapolitan pizza, you’ve joined a long line of pizza purists. It’s a great tradition that has a long pizza history, which brings with it a lot of pressure. If you’re looking to join the ranks of pizza elitists, we’ve got some tips straight from the experts.
Start by taking a hard look at your mozzarella. You should look for mozzarella with more fat, which can make the dough softer. You should also look for mozzarella that is low-moisture and doesn’t break easily.
Freshness matters, too. Experts suggest you use mozzarella that’s a day old. Making a Neapolitan pizza is time-consuming since you need to source high-quality ingredients, but it’s all worth it in the end.
You should also drain your mozzarella before you use it. This will prevent your pizza from getting all watery. Make sure you slice it with a knife, too. You want big, thick slices that will melt easily in the oven.
Don’t overwork the cheese, either. Light handling is everything at this stage of the process.
The sauce is a high-stakes business, too. Peeled San Marzano tomatoes are the best for Neapolitan pizza. Contrary to popular belief, jarred sauce isn’t a great option for pizza.
Instead, look for San Marzano or Piennolo del Vesuvio tomatoes. These will make a big difference in the end result of your Neapolitan pizza. Break these tomatoes into small pieces with your bare hands. Add some salt, and you’ve got the perfect chunky Neapolitan sauce!
You want to achieve balance for these toppings, as well. Use small spoonfuls of tomatoes, and a fair amount of mozzarella. The goal is to make sure that none of the ingredients overwhelm any of the others.
What Went Wrong?
Neapolitan pizza, or making homemade pizza dough in general, isn’t something that you will master overnight. This is especially true if you’re new to baking.
Our Pizzaiolas suggest that you get your flour from a bakery. This will ensure better quality than run-of-the-mill supermarket flour. Make sure your flour is high-protein, too.
Type 0, or type 00 soft wheat flour is the best kind for homemade pizza dough. This will help ensure soft dough that isn’t too tough or sloppy.
Pro Tip: For a professional-level pizza, our Pizzaiolos trust Caputo 00 flour. Choosing the best flour is vital to the end result of your pie; which is why we do not advise using all purpose flour.
When you work your dough, make sure that you are working in an appropriate climate. The room should be dry, with no drafts of hot or cold air. A controlled environment makes a big difference between the success or failure of your pizza dough.
As you work your dough, do so on a wooden surface. This will produce better results than plastic or linoleum surfaces.
Your leavening agent also needs to be completely dry. Damp yeast that has been stored in subpar conditions will yield subpar results. There’s nothing worse than investing time and ingredients into pizza dough that doesn’t even rise. To assist with this, make sure your yeast has been freeze-dried.
Beer and Wine Pairings with Neapolitan Pizza
While the focus of this article is teaching you how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza, we’d be leaving out a huge portion of the dining experience if we didn’t recommend what beer and wine to pair with your pizza.
Your beer or wine choice will largely depend on your toppings. For instance, if you’re making a classic Margherita pizza we recommend a Pinot Grigio or Larger as they are both bright and crisp and won’t overpower the fine flavors of your pizza. Keep in mind, different toppings create different flavor profiles.
For a more detailed beer and wine pairing be sure to check out our popular article, “6 Best Wine and Beer Pairings with Neapolitan Pizza”.
Creating the Most Delicious Neapolitan Pizza
At Fondi, we’re passionate about creating the best homemade pizza dough for our community. As an homage to our Italian roots, we’re all about traditional and flavorful experiences for your tastebuds.
If you want to swing by and test our take on Neapolitan pizza, we’re happy to have you! Our restaurant is available for large events and wedding rehearsal dinners – enjoy an evening on our outdoor patio with all your guests for summer 2022. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings.