This pizza dough recipe is as easy as it gets, yet it results in an amazing crust with flavor and texture that is darn close to the pizza I enjoyed in Italy. I've tried lots of recipes and methods before settling on this one and have a number of helpful tips to share so that you, too, can make fabulous pizza at home.
What I love about this dough recipe:
Pizza the Italian way
Last year, my sister Nelda and I explored Naples and the Amalfi Coast of Italy on a small, intimate, culinary tour with Delectable Destinations. (You can read details about our trip in my previous post.) We discovered pizzerias around virtually every corner as we walked the streets of Naples. Their "single size" pizzas were enormous but so amazingly delicious. Quality pizza toppings, of course, make a big difference, but it's really the crust that sets a good pizza apart from the rest. We were in pizza heaven.
The highlight of our Italian pizza experience was when we got to make our own at the Osteria Reale winery and restaurant in a charming village on the Amalfi coast. We formed pizzas from their wonderful dough and chose from a variety of pizza toppings. I especially envied their dough proofing drawer and wood-fired stone pizza oven where we baked our pizzas to perfection. I returned from our trip even more determined to try to replicate that amazing pizza crust at home.
I have a long history with pizza making. Nelda and I worked in the pizza kitchen of an Italian restaurant when we were teenagers. I've been making pizza at home ever since. Through the years, I've tried and fiddled with many recipes and finally settled on the one I'm sharing in this post. Similar to the technique I learned making pizza in Italy, I make my dough at least a day ahead so that flavor and texture can develop overnight. In addition to what I've learned through the years and during my Italy travels, my recipe is inspired by Kenji at Serious Eats, Roberta's Pizza Dough from the New York Times, and Zoe & Jeff's recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.
Three things are key to making good pizza at home:
A comparison of flours:
You can make great pizza dough using any of the 3 flours pictured below:
Most Italian pizzerias use 100% "00" flour for their pizza dough (and most other baked goods and pasta, for that matter). It's a finely ground, higher protein flour that can be pricey in the US. (Read more about "00" flour from TheKitchn.com and Kenji at SeriousEats.com.) I make pizza at least once a week, so ordering "00" flour in bulk from Amazon is more economical and makes sense for me. You can find single 2-lb bags at Whole Foods and some grocery stores. I was surprised to see it recently at WalMart, but I don't know if it's widely available at their stores.
After doing some experimenting with these 3 flours, both alone and in combination, here are my recommendations in order of preference:
Mind you, any of the 3 flours makes good pizza dough. So, if you only have AP flour on hand, don't let that keep you from making pizza. It will work just fine. That's what I used for years. But, if you want to go all out and make the absolute best crust, splurge on some "00" flour. Bread flour is a close 2nd choice for me.
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:
Step 2. Weigh or measure the flour and add it to a large bowl. If you have a kitchen scale, weighing the flour is easier and the best way to get consistent measurements. Add the salt and yeast and stir to combine (I use a dough whisk).
Step 3. With a dough whisk or wooden spoon, stir in water and oil and combine until uniformly moist with no dry flour remaining. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky, but not soupy; if it's dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.
Step 4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid. Leave on counter at room temperature for 4 to 12 hours (8 or more hours is best, if you have time). Dough will bubble and expand. It's fine if it begins to collapse. No need to stir or punch it down--just leave it alone.
View on Amazon: my Danish dough whisk (I use this dough whisk and love it--not essential but a handy tool if you frequently make no-knead dough); all metal dough wisk (this one is dishwasher safe); kitchen scale
Step 5. Move covered bowl to refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 5 days before using dough. If possible, refrigerating it at least overnight will improve the flavor and texture, 2 or 3 days is even better. It can be refrigerated as long as 5 days. (The dough may rise and fall repeatedly in the fridge--no worries, that's normal.)
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and proceed with these steps 1-2 hours before you want to top and bake the pizza.
Step 1. Sprinkle your work surface and the top of the dough with flour.
Step 2. Use a sharp knife to portion the dough into half, quarters or eighths. One 2-lb. batch of dough makes 2 large pizzas, 4 medium pizzas, or 8 individual pizzas. I normally cut a batch of dough into fourths, as is illustrated in the photos below, to make 4 medium-size pizzas.
Step 3. With floured hands, remove a portion of dough. Form each portion into a ball by stretching the outer edge out and underneath. Don't knead it--it should be handled as little possible. Sprinkle dough balls lightly with flour, cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 1 to 2 hours.
view on Amazon: adjustable shaker (for lightly dusting wtih flour)
Step 4. If you're going to be baking your pizza on a pizza stone (my preference), I recommend forming and topping the pizza dough on parchment paper. The paper makes it so much easier to transfer the dough to the pre-heated stone; otherwise it can be hard to transfer the floppy dough so that it maintains it's shape and keeps the toppings intact. Cut parchment paper slightly larger than whatever size pizza you are making. I buy precut parchment paper sheets that fit my 13x18 sheet pans (also called half sheets). I cut a sheet in half, and it is the perfect size for a medium pizza that uses 1/4 of the dough recipe (8 oz.).
view on Amazon: precut parchment paper sheets
Step 5. After dough has rested for 1-2 hours, place it on a lightly floured surface and use floured finger tips to flatten the ball into a disk. Pull and stretch the dough outward at the edges. If the dough is springing back and putting up a fight, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes--this helps to relax the elasticity. Try again to flatten it. Gently pick it up by one edge and rotate the dough with your fingers or over your knuckles, letting the bottom edge drop down and allowing gravity to stretch the dough as you hold it up and gently rotate it. When it's the desired size and thickness, place it on precut parchment paper. Use your hands to press it smoothly into shape. If you won't be topping it immediately, cover it with plastic wrap.
How to shape dough ahead so it's ready to top and bake later.
Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before you'll top and bake it.
Baking Stone vs. Metal Sheet Pans
1st choice: Baking Stone
For the best pizza crust that is closest to what you'd get in an Italian pizzeria, using a baking stone is highly recommended. This is the key to achieving a crust that is crisp and browned on the bottom with a soft, slightly chewy interior. I have a large pizza stone (pictured below) that fills an entire rack in my oven or my entire gas grill surface; it's big enough to bake or grill 2 medium sized pizzas at once. If you don't need that capacity, pizza stones are available in numerous smaller shapes and sizes. Some people swear by metal baking steels and say they are better than stones. I haven't tried them, so I can't personally recommend the baking steels; but they sure do have a lot of believers.
2nd Choice: Metal Baking Sheet Pan
Metal sheet pans are a distant 2nd choice for baking pizza. Their main advantage is that almost everyone already has one, they are unbreakable and light, and they are less expensive than baking stones. Although they aren't my first choice for baking pizza, I've found a way to bake pizza on a sheet pan and get a crispy, tasty crust. So, if you don't have a pizza stone and don't want to invest in one, you can still make good pizza on a standard sheet pan. The sheet pan needs to be heavy duty enough that it won't warp in the high heat required for a good pizza.
view on Amazon: my 13x18 baking sheet (also called a "half sheet")
There are limitless possibilities here. Top your pizza with your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings. I'll share some of my favorite combos in future posts. My default favorite is pepperoni and mushroom. King-Man likes pesto, shrimp, and mushroom. I often make one of each when I'm making pizza at home.
Slide a pizza peel under the parchment paper and transfer the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone in the oven, leaving the pizza on top of the parchment paper as it bakes. On my large stone, I can bake 2 medium size pizzas at once. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until crust and top are desired browness.
Now eat! Close your eyes and imagine yourself eating in an Italian pizzeria --except you've made that awesome pizza at home!
For making pizza on a metal baking sheet, don't form the dough on parchment paper. Coat the pan generously with olive oil first, then place the formed dough directly on top of the baking sheet. The oil helps the bottom crisp and brown in the absence of a baking stone; and it creates a non-stick surface. Proceed with sauce, cheese, toppings and baking.
In the photo below, I've formed a pizza using 1/4 batch of dough (8 oz) for a medium size pizza on a quarter baking sheet (9x13) that's been brushed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Since this dough can be made ahead, and in fact is better if it's made several days ahead, I often make a batch during the weekend so that we're ready for a pizza night later in the week.
In a future post, I'll share how I make grilled pizza on the same stone I use in my indoor oven. Stay tuned for that.
Make it a Yummy day!