Neapolitan Pizza at Home

Introduction: Neapolitan Pizza at Home

Hello everyone and welcome to my eighth instructable!

Pizza is probably one of the best known and appreciated food in the world. There are hundreds of variants that can satisfy all tastes, from the traditionalist to the most innovative ones.

But the original pizza is only one: Her Majesty the "Pizza Verace Napoletana" (Neapolitan Pizza).

You can't say that you have tasted it until you do it directly in Naples but I will try to provide you a basic recipe to make something very similar at home.

The main difference is the cooking method: Neapolitan Pizza usually cooks in a wood oven at a temperature of about 460°C for 60/90 seconds. Clearly such cooking method cannot be replicated at home but with the "stove+oven grill" technique you will get excellent results as well.

We will prepare a "Pizza Margherita" which is the basic pizza, feel free to add all the toppings you prefer!

Step 1: Ingredients and Main Utensils

Quantities are for four round pizzas. Rising temperature should be around 21°C.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 380 ml of water
  • 640 g flour (type 00, medium strength)
  • 20 g of salt
  • 0,3 g of fresh yeast

For the topping:

  • 250 g of peeled tomatoes
  • 400 g of mozzarella cheese
  • some basil leaves

Main utensils

  • a large pan that can be used on stove and in the oven too
  • a large bowl
  • a ladle or big spoon
  • a spatula

Step 2: Ingredients and Preparation Notes

Here are some explanations on the ingredients listed above and tips/substitutions if you could not find them precisely.

Flour

Flour strenght is a value (usually marked by "W" letter) that indicates the ability to absorb water during kneading and to retain carbon dioxide during leavening; it is closely related to the quantity and quality of gluten present in the wheat from which the flour derives.

This recipe is for a 24 hours dough fermentation and that is why I specified "medium strenght" flour (mine is W=260).

If you have a "normal", low strenght flour, you can modify the preparation following the one listed at the end of this step.

Yeast

I use fresh yeast but you could also use dried yeast remembering that the proportion is about 3:1. So, if you use dried yeast you will have to divide by three my quantity. Not so easy with our doses but if you make more pizzas you can follow this rule.

How to weight a really small amount of yeast if you don't have a precision weight scale?

I usually buy 25 g fresh yeast cubes. First, I divide them half, half again and so on until I got 24 pieces of 1 g about each. Then I dissolve my 1g cube in a given quantity of water, let's say 200 g and finally I keep the amount of water+yeast I need, for example:

1 g yeast: 200 g water = 0,3 g yeast: "X"g of water. X = 60 g.

Tomato sauce

Peeled tomatoes are the best for pizza sauce but you can also use a good tomato pulp. Please, avoid ketchup :)

Rising temperature

My recipe is calibrated for a rising temperature of about 21°/22°C. If it's colder, you will need more yeast, if it's hotter you should reduce it. You could also do the first rising in fridge but you will have to modify again the quantities.

Alternative preparation:

With a low strenght flour you could do a 8 hours (instead of 24 hours) fermentation thus divided:

  • first rising 3 hours
  • dough dividing
  • second rising 5 hours

Obviously you will need some more yeast: about 1,20 gr

Apart from that, preparation steps are the same.

Let's begin!

Step 3: Prepare the Dough

Pour water in the bowl and start dissolving yeast. If you used the trick explained in the previous step to "weight" yeast, you should consider that water in the total amount and simply mix it with the rest.

Add half of the flour and start mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon until you get a smooth cream without lumps.

Add salt and go on mixing.

Continue to add flour a small amount at a time, let's say two spoons and gradually decrease as you go on kneading. Make sure the previous flour is well absorbed before adding more.

Don't be afraid to use some force while kneading because the manipulation forms the "net" that will retain the leavening gases.

Once you get a semi solid and fairly dry dough, you can remove it from the bowl and continue kneading it on a well floured surface.

Step 4: Knead, Rest and Fold

Continue by adding a really small amount of flour at a time and kneading until you get a soft, smooth and dry dough.

Consider that the ability to absorb water varies from flour to flour so feel free to increase or decrease a little the water quantity if you think your dough is too soft and sticky or vice versa it is getting too hard.

Great, you have almost finished your dough. Form a large ball, cover it with the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.

After this time, resume it, lengthen the shape and fold it in three bringing the flaps towards the center as shown in the photos.

Round it to form a ball, let it rest covered for 10 minutes and repeat the operation.

This step is optional but it gives more strength to the dough and make it even smoother and silky to the touch.

Step 5: First Rising

Move the dough in a clean bowl well sprinkled with flour. Cover it with cling film or a lid and place it in a dry place away from drafts.

Ok, the first rising has started! Let it rest for about 19 hours.

The dough, in this period of time, should roughly double or more. If it seems that it grows too little, you can move it to a slightly warmer place (such as the oven with only the light on) or vice versa, if it grows too much and you see big bubbles, place it in a cooler place.

Step 6: Second Rising

After the operation, you have to put the balls in a closed container (a wooden one would be best but also plastic is fine) lightly floured, well spaced one from another. Alternatively, you can place each one in a single container or, as I do, leave them on the surface with the bowl covering.

The important thing is that they are not exposed to air because this would form a harder surface crust.

Let them rise again for about 5 hours, checking them every now and then.

Step 7: Prepare the Toppings

Mozzarella cheese

Drain the mozzarella and cut it into strips, not too small to avoid burning them during cooking.

Our cheese should be quite dry to not wet our pizza, so put the strips in a colander with a weight on top (I use another bowl full of water) and put it in the fridge. This will "squeeze" liquid out of our mozzarella.

Occasionally you can remove the weight, mix the strips and put them back under load again.

Tomato sauce

Remove the tomatoes from their juice (but keep it aside), put them in a bowl or on a cutting board and start mashing them with a fork. You can also use a blender but be careful not to make the sauce too liquid, we want a tomato pulp. If it seems too dry you can add some of the juice in which they were immersed.

Once the desired consistency is obtained, add a pinch of salt, a little bit of olive oil and, if you like, some basil leaves to flavor.

Step 8: Divide the Dough

After the first rising, place the dough on a lightly floured surface again. It is very important to be delicate in this phase and not to stress the dough too much because otherwise we will struggle to roll it out later.

We must now divide the dough into four equal parts and form as many small balls weighing about 260 g.

Flour your hands well. Then cut (do not tear) a part of the dough, weigh it and start rolling it like this: fold the edges towards the bottom and push the dough gently towards the inside of the ball with your thumbs.

It may seem a bit difficult at first but you will learn the movement in no time. In a matter of seconds you will get a ball with a very smooth and uniform upper part.

At this point, place it on the surface and round it again slightly with one or two hands. The first ball is done, proceed in the same way for the other three.

Step 9: Stretch the Dough Rolls

Time to stretch our dough balls!

We will do it by hand and not with the rolling pin because we want to keep inside the dough the precious gases obtained from the leavening.

Take the ball out of the container with a spatula, just dip it in the flour and put it on the surface.

Cross your hands overlapping your index and middle fingers to form a "V". With your hands in this position, begin to gently but firmly press on the dough ball from the center outwards. We want to "inflate" our crust so we are "pushing" leavening gases towards it but pay attention to stop about a centimetre from the edge. Flip over the dough and do the same on the other side. Spread this way until the disc is about the size of your hand.

Now, there are various techniques to continue the stretching, here are the easiest (in my opinion) and the traditional one.

Stretch and rotate (easy)

As the name suggests you have to place both hands in the center, spread them apart gently and rotate 90 degrees the disc. You can also hang a flap of the disc from the edge of the table to get a big help by the force of gravity.

Repeat these movements until the disc reaches the desired size.

Slap (traditional but very tricky and..not so easy to explain, I'll do my best)

Place one hand in the center of the disc with the palm facing down (let's suppose the right).

With your left hand take the edge of the dough, taking care not to squeeze the crust.

Pull slightly diverging the hands, then with the left "throw" the flap to the right hand which will simultaneously rotate with the palm upwards.

Quickly rotate the palm of your right hand down to "throw" the flap to the left again and give it a slight rotation.

Repeat these movements quickly until the disc reaches the desired size.

Step 10: Cook And... Taste!

As said, you will need a pan that can be used on the stove and in the oven as well, so no plastic handles!

Place the oven grid next to the top, very close to the grill coil and preheat the oven to maximum temperature (mine reaches 250°C).

In the meantime, heat the pan on the stove for a few minutes: the heating time obviously depends on the type of pan and the size of the stove. Pay attention not to overheat those with non-stick bottom because over a certain temperature the material becomes toxic.

Take the dough disc you just stretched, place it in the pan on the stove and raise the heat. You will see that the crust will begin to "grow" immediately.

As soon as the bottom becomes a little stiff, add a ladle of tomato sauce to the center and spread it out with the ladle back in a circular motion until you reach the crust.

Let it cook for a few minutes on medium heat and, in the meantime, put the oven in grill mode (or do it later if yours turns on immediately, mine takes a while to start heating).

Now it's time for mozzarella cheese, drop it on the pizza. Consider about 80 / 100g. of mozzarella for every pizza.

Occasionally lift the pizza to check the bottom. It should turn lightly brown with some small darker dots. When it is well cooked, and the oven grill coil is red hot, move the pan on the grid positioned earlier. As said, pizza should be very close to the coil but without touching it.

Check the cooking and, if necessary, turn the pizza so that it cooks evenly.

Your wonderful pizza is ready, add one or two basil leaves in the center and enjoy it!

Buon appetito!

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