Introduction: Homemade Pizza The/My Italian Way
There are many ways to make Pizza at home. This is my recipe.
We have been cooking pizza at home since our first son was born, even if every now and then we still enjoy a pizza in a restaurant, and we have been trying to improve our recipe over the years.
This is the recipe we use in our family, it's not any kind of "official" recipe, if one ever existed. That's why it's called My/Italian way. Being Italian I think I can legally call this an Italian pizza recipe.
If you think that there is a better way to do it, just write your own instructable and link it in the comments, it's always great to learn new things. Commenting with "this is wrong, my grand mother does that differently" or "this is not the way I do it in my nuclear-powered oven, so it's wrong" doesn't help.
To make a great homemade pizza you need three things: good ingredients, time and heat.
Luckily most of the time will be spent leaving the dough "maturing", so you'll have plenty of free time while your pizza is working for you.
Preparing the dough and then the pizza usually does not take longer than 20-30' minutes of "active" work. It will require a bit of advanced planning since you'll have to start preparing the dough the day before you eat your pizza, but all the manual steps are not complex nor time-consuming.
And the result will repay you for that effort.
Pizza was, and in Italy still is, poor people's food, meaning that it was invented by common people (and common people were poor at that time) and so does not require complex or expensive ingredients.
To make a good pizza at home you'll need also a few tools, but those are also not very expensive or complex to find.
Step 1: Tools
1. Airtight containers
To ensure that dough will rise in the best way and will not dry up it's better to keep it in airtight containers. At home, we have an airtight bowl that we use for the first rising phase and a plastic box used to rise the dough balls that will become our pizzas. If you don't have them available a salad bowl with plastic film and a cutting board placed inside the closed oven should work well enough.
2. Baker's shovel
This is needed to move around your pizza when you are ready to put it in the oven. Is not a tool you can find in many kitchens, but you can quickly build some replacements. The ones you see in the picture are made with plywood, covered with white plastic to avoid that food will stitch on them. They don't need to stay in the oven, so those materials are safe, as long as you clean them after usage.
This is the most important component. Some people may have a wood or gas fired oven at home. We don't. Our kitchen oven can't reach a very high temperature, at most around 230C° (sorry to use metric, for those not used to it). Some kitchen ovens can be better, but the best solution we found is to get a small oven that can generate a lot of heat and cook only one pizza a time. I personally don't like "unitaskers" in the kitchen, but since we make pizza once per week this small oven is worth an exception to personal rules. This is the oven I have, I suggested to lots of friends and found better than any other small oven for pizza. It's an Italian company, but I have no connection to them, others than being a very happy customer. Their device is simple and probably not the cheapest on the market, but our small oven has been serving our family for more than seven years, making first two, the three and now four pizzas per week with no issues.
You can find it here (again no connection with the company making it and Amazon):
On amazon.com actually there is only an overpriced offer/scam for more than 400$, its normal price is less than 100$, but it's worth any penny at that price.
It can cook a pizza in 5' or less, keeping the crust crunchy and the toppings cooked but not dry or burnt.
Step 2: Ingredients
To make a good pizza you need good ingredients. Luckily you don't need too many.
Those are very easy to find in any Italian supermarket or food store, should be relatively easy to find in Europe and probably also in the US. They may be a bit more complicated to find in other countries, but you may find a local alternative.
I'll list the ingredients for the most famous and classic pizza, pizza Margherita (named in honor of an Italian queen, nevertheless), but you can feel free to choose your favorite toppings. I'll just mention a few "rules" later, but experimenting is part of the pleasure of cooking.
1. The dough
To make pizza dough you need flour, water, yeast, and salt. I use brewer's yeast, but you can use dry yeast or any kind of yeast suitable for bread. Don't put too much yeast in your dough, it may make it rise faster, but it will change the taste of the pizza. Our dough will have plenty of time for rising, so keeping the amount of yeast small is important to get the best taste.
For my dough, I use 1/6 semolina flour and 5/6 regular superfine (00) four. I choose a flour with a medium-high W strength value (the one in the picture is actually the one with lower W strength and it's 260). Higher W strength means also more gluten in the flour but, if you don't suffer from Celiac disease or other medical conditions that make gluten dangerous for you, this will just mean that your dough will rise better and keep more elastic and strong during manipulation.
Semolina flour is also very useful to avoid that you dough stitches to the surfaces where you leave it to rise or work on his shape.
For 3 adult-sized pizzas (or 2 adult size and 2 baby size ones) I use 350ml of water, 100g of semolina flour, 500g of regular flour, 7-8g of yeast (1/4 to 1/3 of a 25g bar) and 6-7g of salt.
We will talk about this later, but if you plan to make a "Margherita", you'll need:
- Tomato sauce (plain tomato sauce)
- Olive oil
You may also add a bit of basil. I do that in summer when I have a basil plant growing on my balcony, but you won't see it in this instructable because I made it in October, when no fresh basil is available, at least here in northern Italy.
Step 3: Preparing the Dough
This step should be done the day before. We usually have pizza for dinner, so I prepare the dough the evening before, just after dinner. This will give it around 24 hours to rise and get ready to be cooked into a great tasting pizza.
I make it using a bowl and my hands, you may use some kind of machinery, results will be the same.
I put some water (doesn't need to be warm, but must not be cold from fridge) and break the yeast in small pieces inside it (first picture). Then I add the two kinds of flour and salt on top (second image).
I start to mix it using my (clean!) hands and keep working on the mix until all the ingredients are fused together. This should not take more than 5 minutes, at the end you'll have an elastic and wet dough that you can easily shape to form a ball of around 15cm of diameter.
Leave it at the bottom of the bowl and close it.
Now it's time to let it rest inside your fridge (temperature should be around 4C°, use fridge, not freezer). This will let the ingredients mix and give gluten some time to work it's magic, binding water and flour together in a strong but still elastic dough.
Step 4: Split the Dough in Parts
After leaving the dough in the fridge for at least one night, it's time to split it into smaller balls, each one will become a pizza later on.
I usually do that around lunchtime, when we plan to have pizza for dinner that same day. This will give the dough at least 6-7 hours to rise after the split.
When you open the bowl the dough should have at least doubled its size and will look smoother than it was when you finished mixing it. Yeast and gluten have been slowly working at cold temperatures, this is the best way to get a smooth and uniform dough for your pizza.
Just quickly split the dough into the number of pizzas you plan to make. With the quantities provided in the ingredient step, you should get 3 full-size pizzas (around 280g of dough) or 2 full-size and two small ones (half size). Just break the dough ball and quickly reshape the parts to form smaller balls. This should take one minute at most, don't spend too much time working the dough, it has been already doing its job inside the fridge!
Spread a bit of semolina flour (or regular flour if you don't use semolina) on the bottom of your plastic box (or on a cutting board if you don't have such a box) and then close it. It's important that the dough could rise in an airtight container, this will prevent water on its surface from drying and creating a crust that will make working the dough in the flat shape much more complicated.
Leave the closed box at room temperature until you are ready to prepare and cook your pizza. As I said rising should last at least for 6 hours.
Step 5: Prepare Sauce and Toppings
It's better that you prepare your sauce and other toppings before you start working the dough, in this way you can put the toppings on the pizza quickly and put it in the oven without risking that the toppings will add moisture to the dough.
In this step, I'll describe the classic Margherita recipe.
For the sauce you'll need olive oil, tomato sauce (must be pure tomato, the one in the picture is made with cherry tomatoes, I really like it), salt and oregano (it's the stuff in the transparent bag, I know it may look suspicious, but I can grant that it's oregano from the island of Pantelleria, very appreciated gift of some friends). Mix 250ml of tomato, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of oregano and a pinch of salt in a bowl, mix them well and this is your sauce. Oil and tomato may not perfectly mix in the bowl, but they will when cooking.
The other ingredient is mozzarella. I use "Mozzarella di Bufala", if you can find it where you live, try it. Mozzarella is a very fresh kind of cheese, I use 3 pieces of 125g each. Before cutting them in small pieces I squezee them with my hands to remove a bit of liquid, this will not remove taste but will avoid adding too much liquid on top of the pizza. Cut the mozzarella in pieces 0.5cm long and keep it in a bowl.
Step 6: Shape Dough Into a Pizza
The dough balls left inside the sealed box should had risen and flattened a bit, they should be around double the size they had when you put them in. Cover your working surface with semolina flour (great to avoid that dough stitches to the surface) and take out one ball of dough, move it around a bit to get some fresh flour on the bottom and then start pushing and turning it, shaping it like a disc with the outer margin slightly higher than the center. Push from center to the side, avoiding to flatten the external margin.
The margin should be 7-10mm high.
Now grab the disk between your hands, and start pulling it and turning, increasing its size with a circular movement and pulling each time you turn it in your hands. After some pulling you should get a disc that is 25-28cm wide, 6-7mm high on the sides and very thin in the center (1-2mm), if it has small holes, just pinch and then flatten the dough to close them. Put some semolina flour on the pizza showel and move the disc on that surface to put the toppings on it.
Shaping the disc with your hands will take some practice, but the resulting disc will lead to a thin pizza with a soft crust. Flattening it with a rolling pin will lead to a completely flat disc, removing the crust and letting the topping free to float out of your pizza.
You could find some great videos on youtube with different techniques to shape the disc, some also quite acrobatic, watch them and try the one you feel more confident about.
If something goes wrong, try to reshape the dough as the disc you had at the beginning and retry.
Step 7: Add Toppings
Add sauce first. Use a tablespoon and drop some sauce on the pizza (3-4 tablespoons should be enough) and then distribute it evenly using the bottom of the spoon. Don't leave empty areas, but don't push too hard or you'll make the dough stick to the shovel.
Then distribute the mozzarella bits, as shown in the picture, they will melt and cover the pizza in a uniform way.
I usually add a pinch of oregano or some fresh basil leaves (if in season) on top.
Step 8: Cook It
Pre-heat the oven, it must be at its highest temperature when you put your pizza inside it. If you use the G3 ferrari oven, pre-heat it on the highest temperature for at least 10 minutes.
Open the top cover and quickly slide the pizza in place. Let it cook for one minute and then gently turn it using a spatula or similar tool to ensure that the bottom is not attached to the oven surface. It takes around 5' to have a cooked pizza at this temperature, a bit more on a regular oven. Check the bottom of the pizza, if you see it turning brown in some areas, it's cooked. Same applies to the crust.
If you cook multiple pizzas, some flour from the bottom of the pizza will remain inside the oven, clean it with a paper towel, otherwise, it will burn and add some carbon taste to your next pizza.
Take your pizza out of the oven an get ready to eat it!
Step 9: Experiment!
I know that some people (mostly Italian) will not like this point because for them Pizza can come only in a few selected traditional variants.
On the other side, I think that experimenting is great and can lead to great discoveries and improvements.
With pizza toppings, I just follow one rule: to put more than 3 or at most 4 ingredients on a pizza you need to have a very good reason. And most of the time you don't have it or it's not good enough.
I like Gorgonzola cheese and I often make pizza with Gorgonzola and pears or apples, mixing the strong taste of the cheese with the sweet fruit. I like pizza with just the sauce I made for Margherita and garlic or anchovies.
I like to use different kinds of cheese to get different tastes, use herbs (rosemary, basil etc.) and vegetables (onion, eggplants, zucchini, chili peppers).
The only warning I give is to never tell any Italian friends you may have that you put pineapple on your pizza, even if you really liked it!
You can see a small gallery of some of the experiments I made over the years, feel free to tell me your favorite toppings in the comments.
I've been making pizza at home almost every week in the last seven years and I am still alive.
Enjoy your pizza and remember that time is one of the most important ingredients to make a great pizza so, plan in advance!