Can You Make Authentic Neapolitan Pizza in Your Home Oven?

April 19, 2024

Pizza is a universal love language. Whether you’re a fan of the thin, crispy crust of a New York-style pie or the deep dish delight that hails from Chicago, there’s no denying the seductive power of a good slice. But today, we’re veering away from the Big Apple and the Windy City to take a culinary journey to Naples, Italy—the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza. The question is, can you make authentic Neapolitan pizza in your home oven? Let’s find out.

The Importance of Neapolitan Pizza Dough

The foundation of any pizza is its dough. For a Neapolitan pizza, the dough is especially crucial—it’s all about a thin, soft, and elastic crust with a puffy, pillowy edge, or “cornicione”. This dough recipe will help you achieve just that.

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Start by adding yeast to warm water. The water should be about 110 degrees Fahrenheit—the perfect environment for your yeast to thrive. Let it sit for a few minutes until it’s frothy—a clear sign it’s ready.

In another bowl, combine your flour and salt. Traditional Neapolitan pizza calls for Type "00" flour. This finely milled flour creates a dough that’s smooth and easy to stretch. However, if you can’t find Type "00" flour, bread flour will also do the trick.

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Gradually add the yeast mixture to your flour, combining until a dough forms. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let it ferment. The dough should double in size, a process that will take about 1-2 hours.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if your first batch of dough isn’t flawless—it will get easier and better with time.

Crafting the Perfect Sauce

Arguably the soul of any pizza, the sauce can make or break your Neapolitan pie. To make it, you’ll need San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes, grown in the volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius, are sweet, tangy, and less acidic—perfect for your sauce.

Start by crushing your tomatoes by hand. The goal isn’t to create a puree, but rather a slightly chunky sauce. Next, add a sprinkling of sea salt. Neapolitan pizza sauce is known for its simplicity, so resist the urge to add herbs and spices.

Cooking the sauce isn’t necessary. It will cook in the oven when you bake your pizza. Keep it simple and authentic—you will thank us later.

Assembling Your Neapolitan Pizza

Assembling your pizza is where the fun begins. Start by stretching your dough. Unlike other pizza styles, Neapolitan pizza dough isn’t rolled out with a rolling pin. Instead, it’s gently stretched by hand to create that thin, soft crust with a puffy edge.

Once your dough is stretched, add a ladleful of your simple tomato sauce. Spread it evenly, leaving the edges free for the crust to form. Then, add slices of fresh mozzarella. Next, add a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of fresh basil leaves. These ingredients will bring your pizza to life with their vibrant flavors.

Baking in a Home Oven

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room—can a home oven really replicate the intense, wood-fired heat of a Neapolitan oven?

Traditional Neapolitan pizzas are cooked in wood-fired ovens that can reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit. They cook in a blistering 90 seconds, resulting in a charred, blistered crust and perfectly melted cheese.

Home ovens, unfortunately, can’t reach these heights. However, there are a few tricks you can use to get as close as possible.

First, invest in a pizza stone. These stones absorb heat from your oven and then evenly distribute it to your pizza, replicating the environment of a wood-fired oven. Preheat your oven with the stone inside at the highest temperature possible for at least an hour.

Next, consider the placement of your oven rack. Position it in the upper third of your oven. This placement encourages browning and blistering on the top of your pizza.

Once your oven is smoking hot, slide your pizza onto the stone. Cook for around 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.

While it might not be an exact replica of the pizzas cooked in the heart of Naples, with a bit of practice and love for the process, making Neapolitan pizza at home can result in a delicious culinary masterpiece. So, roll up your sleeves, flour your hands, and get ready to create an Italian masterpiece in your kitchen.

A Few Tricks to Making Authentic Neapolitan Pizza at Home

Attempting authentic Neapolitan pizza at home can be a daunting task. The key to success requires meticulous attention to ingredients and technique, as well as a few clever tricks to mimic the conditions of a professional pizza oven.

Firstly, consider obtaining a pizza peel. This shovel-like tool not only assists in transferring your pizza to your oven, but also gives you the control to rotate it during baking for an evenly cooked result. A pizza peel is especially useful when using a pizza stone, as it reduces the risk of burns.

Next, you might want to experiment with a pizza steel instead of a stone. A pizza steel conducts heat more efficiently, helping to achieve that desirable, crisp-bottomed crust. It also retains heat better, so your oven temperature remains more stable when you open the door to check your pizza.

The correct placement of your dough on the pizza stone or steel before baking is also essential. Make sure there’s enough flour or cornmeal underneath to prevent it from sticking. This will ensure a smooth transition from the peel to the oven and back.

Let’s not forget the importance of using high-quality mozzarella – and remember, less is more. Overloading your pizza with cheese can result in a soggy crust.

Finally, bear in mind that an authentic Neapolitan pizza should have a certain degree of leopard-spotting on the crust. This is a result of the intense heat of the oven, and while difficult to achieve in a home oven, it is not impossible. By using the broiler in combination with your preheated pizza stone or steel, you can create similar results.

In Conclusion: Neapolitan Pizza at Home

Creating authentic Neapolitan pizza at home is no easy feat, but the journey is as rewarding as the final result. While it may seem intimidating at first, with patience and practice, you can master the art of Neapolitan pizza in your own kitchen.

The key is to respect the process and the ingredients. From handcrafting the dough to crafting the perfect sauce, every step is crucial. And while a home oven might not be a traditional wood-fired pizza oven, with a few tools and tricks, you can come close to achieving the same results.

A carefully selected pizza stone or steel, correct placement of your oven rack, and the right combination of heat and timing all contribute to that beautifully charred crust and perfectly melted cheese that defines a Neapolitan pizza.

Remember, pizza-making should be a joyous process— a chance to channel the spirit of Naples in your own kitchen. So embrace the challenge, and soon, you’ll be crafting Neapolitan-style pizzas that not only taste wonderful but also capture the tradition and authenticity of the ones from their birthplace.