The simple sourdough boule was my go-to bread for a while, but it was pizza that got me into baking. Hopefully, this can be the recipe that turns you into a baker too. With this Neapolitan pizza recipe for home ovens, you won’t need to go out for pizza ever again.
Me and Pizza: A Love Story
I’ve loved pizza for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, it was always what I had for my birthday parties and it determined when I would buy school lunch. When I got older, if I ever visited a new city, I would always hit up their best pizza joint, and every time I’ve ever moved — which is a decent amount of times — one of the first things I’d always do was find a new local pizza spot.
I’d lived by some decent pizza places, but nothing too great. I was never down the street from Di Fara Pizza or walking distance to Lucali. That changed when I moved to Arlington, VA and ate at Pupatella. Right away, I knew I found my favorite spot ever.
Not only did I love the pizza, which was some of the best I’d ever had, but I also dug the vibe. It wasn’t trying to make pizza too fancy, like a lot of places these days. You started by waiting in line. After you ordered, you grabbed a seat and then your pizzas were brought to your table in no time. You could have a full sit-down dinner in like 15 minutes. And the Margherita was only like $10, compared to the high-teens you see at a lot of other places. It pretty much nailed everything that I look for in a restaurant. Best of all, it was only a couple minutes from my apartment.
And Then I Moved
I didn’t move across the country, yet. However, DC traffic is no joke, and I moved far enough that going to Pupatella with any regularity was not an option — especially after my daughter was born. So, after the move, I spent a few days looking for a new Pupatella. I used all the online resources, but nothing looked even close to as good as my old wood-fired flame.
That’s when the algorithm gods stepped in and saved me. I was looking for baby stuff on Amazon and happened to get served an ad for Ken Forkish’s book The Elements of Pizza. Frustrated by the lack of results in my search, I decided to give making my own pies a shot.
The first time I made a pizza with the tips/recipe from Ken’s book, I was amazed by how great it was. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t close to Pupatella — you really need a wood oven or a Roccbox to crank out comparable pies — but it was pretty legit. It was definitely better than most pizza places I’d ever had. And, best of all, even with using high-quality flour, tomatoes, and chess, it was less than two bucks a pie to make.
Pumped with my pizza, I started making pizza almost every week. I went from just instant yeast to using a poolish to only doing sourdough. The whole time, I was using a home oven. After I moved to Arizona, I bought myself a Roccbox, which I highly recommend if you get serious about pizza or just need a new grill, and was able to take my pizzas to a whole new level. Still below Pupatella but good enough that I’d put my pizza up against almost anyone. While the Roccbox or a wood oven is definitely the way to go, you can still make restaurant-quality pizza in your house using my Neapolitan pizza recipe for home ovens below. There are just a few things you have to keep in mind, the most important being that it’s worth springing for good ingredients.
Ingredients are Super Important
While I’ve never been a pizza snob — I’d crush Totino’s pizza rolls and a Celeste microwavable right now to prove it — I do like good food and prefer (by a longshot) pizza that is prepared well with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Margherita pizza is just flour, cheese, and tomatoes (water and salt, too). With so few ingredients, it’s really important to use the best. I don’t buy that stuff from Naples is automatically going to be the best, but I do think they have some tasty tomatoes, and I also really like the texture that Caputo 00 flour gives my pizza. I would recommend starting with a 00 flour; you can find it Whole Foods or buy Caputo flour on Amazon. I would also start with San Marzano tomatoes and the best fresh mozzarella you can find. Don’t go with low-moisture and definitely don’t get low-moisture, part-skim milk. Just sample a few and then see which one gives you the best flavor. I actually think Costco has great pecorino and parmesan. They also recently came out with San Marzano tomatoes that I’m excited to try.
Once you’ve set a baseline for your sourdough Neapolitan pizza, I would try out different ingredients to find the flour, cheese, and tomatoes that you like most. Same goes for other ingredients like pepperoni, sausage, etc., as well as the baking methods. I have a method that I like below, but you can tweak the way you bake it to make the pizza your own. At the end of the day, the best pizza is the one that you think is the best, not me.
I Love the Dough
That header was a little nod to Biggie Smalls. I love this dough and you will too. But it’s worth mentioning that it is a lot wetter than the pizza dough that you may have purchased from Trader Joes or your local grocery store. What that means is that you won’t have to work to stretch it. You’ll want to be really gentle with it at first, and then you can let gravity do the rest.
I figured the best way to tell you how to stretch the dough would be to just show you. So I made another low-fi video to demonstrate what you will need to do.
I Love the Dough Pt. 2
One last thing about the dough. If you watched the video above, you’ll notice that I put the stretched dough on parchment paper at the end. I can’t stress how clutch that move is. Not only does it remove the need to flour your pizza peel, which is a mess and annoying, but it also makes transferring your pizza to the baking steel as easy as humanly possible. Also, since the dough is so wet and ferments as long as it does, the dough has a tendency to bunch up or shapeshift, and you could end up with a mangled pie. The parchment paper takes care of that too though, since the dough sticks a little to the paper and maintains its shape. Then, when the pizza back, it releases from the paper. Veer from my sourdough Neapolitan pizza recipe for home ovens as much as you want, but don’t skip on the parchment paper. Trust me.
Now for the recipe.
Sourdough Neapolitan Pizza Recipe for Home OvensCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: SImple
The recipe below is for 3 pizzas. If you want to make more or less, this recipe easily scales up or down. See the notes for tips on making more or less pizzas.
50 grams of Simple Sourdough Starter
75 grams of Caputo 00 flour
75 grams of water
- Final Dough
300 grams of Caputo 00 flour
200 grams of water
12 grams of finely ground sea salt
200 grams of ripe Levain
- Tomato Sauce
28 oz can of high-quality plum tomatoes (e.g., San Marzano)
8 grams of finely ground sea salt
100 grams of fresh mozzarella per pizza
15 grams of parmesan or pecorino per pizza
- Recommended Baking Tools
- Using 50 grams of your starter, 75 grams of flour, and 75 grams of water, make your levain.
- Once your levain is ready (about 6-12 hours later), use a 6-Qt Food Tub or similar plastic container to mix 300 grams of flour and 200 grams of water with the levain and 12 grams of salt.
- Use the pincer and fold method to make sure all of the flour and water are incorporated and then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, use the stretch and fold method to develop the gluten in the dough. And then let it rest for another 20-30 minutes until the dough has relaxed and spread out to the sides of the container.
- Repeat step 4 of two more times.
- Generously dust a two-feet by two-feet area of your counter with flour. Gently remove dough from tub with plastic bench scraper and stretch the ends of the dough and fold on itself as if you were shaping a boule.
- Place dough ball back into container to ferment for an hour.
- Lightly dust same counter space. Remove dough again and divide into thirds with metal spatula or bench scraper. I like to weigh my thirds to make sure they are close to equal.
- Shape into dough balls and place on dough tray or baking sheet to proof for between 6 to 10 hours, depending on your kitchen.
- Building and Baking
- When you dough is ready, preheat your oven to 500 F for at least 30 minutes.
- While the oven is heating, it’s time to get your toppings ready. Add your salt to the tomatoes and break them up by hand. Cut your cheese into small cubes. Prepare any other toppings you are using.
- Once the oven is ready, switch it to broil and then start stretching the dough ball using the method in the video in the “I Love the Dough” section.
- Rest stretched dough on parchment paper and add 2 to 3 spponfuls of sauce and spread around the pizza, avoiding the rim.
- Once broil has been going for about 10 minutes, transfer parchement paper and pizza onto your pizza peel and then slide into the oven.
- Switch the oven back to 500 F and bake for 3 minutes.
- Remove pizza from the oven using your peel, add cheese and other toppings, and then slide pizza back into the oven.
- Switch back to broil and cook until spots develop on the crust and all the cheese has melted — about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove from the oven with your peel, slice, and enjoy!
- Each dough ball in this recipe will be about 230 grams (133 grams of that being flour). Part of the reason I did that was to make the recipe as easy as possible with exactly 400 grams of flour. If you want to scale the recipe up to 4 pizzas, I would go with 600 grams of flour to make the calculations easy. However, you can make them as big as you want. All you have to do is multiply the total flour by 75% and 3% to find out how much water and salt you need.
- If you’re making less than three pizzas, I would make each dough ball between 130 and 150 grams of flour, and I wouldn’t use a levain. For one ball, I would just add 50 grams of the starter straight to the dough. For two, I’d go with 100 grams of starter.
- I encourage you to play around with different baking times. Maybe try 4 minutes to start and then boil for 3. Or 5 and 2. Figure out what you like best and make that your own.
- I’d love to see all the pies you make. If you post it on Instagram or Facebook, be sure to tag me. And if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.