Prep: 15 min // Bake: 15 min
A practical guide to making and baking the perfect authentic Neapolitan pizza dough quickly and effortlessly, skipping the waiting time for proving.
What about it?
In one of our recent trips to Southern Italy, my friends and I visited a beautiful little agrotourism settlement in the hills of Campania, the birthplace of authentic Italian pizza. We took some classes to master the art of making traditional pizza and came back home full-on excitement to get our hands dirty and eat more. Yet for a busy family in a fast pace megacity, it isn't always easy to find fresh yeast, one of the basic ingredients for the authentic dough, or convenient to wait for its fermentation (proving). The authentic fresh yeast method has to go through a 6-8 hour process of activation (fermentation) in order to give your pizza base its distinct flavour, chemistry and this bubbly, fluffy texture. After some experiments, I came up with this ultra-fast method to make authentic Italian pizza dough on the spot end to end in less than 30 mins and impress.
What’s the secret?
The secrets to a perfectly tasty and authentic Neapolitan pizza recipe are 4:
Strong flour type 00 (used for pasta and pizza)
Extra virgin olive oil
Plum tomato sauce, preferably made with San Marzano tomatoes (a plum tomato species which are deliciously juicy and have a robust red colour and a dense texture being nurtured by the rich volcanic soil of Vesuvio and ripen under the Mediterranean sun)
My tweak here is all about yeast and how to make it activate faster. And fast activation will not happen with fresh yeast so we opt for dried. We have 2 types of dried yeast, active dried and fast (or easy) baking. Using active or fresh yeast and shortening the fermentation time because you are in a hurry, will most likely find the yeast being activated in your stomach giving you burns and burpings; not good at all. But fast dried yeast (other commercial names are ‘easy bake’, ‘instant', 'quick yeast’, ‘fast action’) activates much faster and can be used almost instantly.
Apart from yeast, if you are a serious pizza lover like myself, I recommend getting a pizza baking stone that will give you a nice even-baked and crusty base. And if you are a pizza addict/pizza pro and looking for getting to the next level, better check something like a portable Ooni wood-fired oven for your balcony or back yard ;-)
This recipe is mainly focusing on dough making, however, I’m also suggesting a very easy and tasty homemade tomato sauce I like to make. The authentic tomato sauce for pizza comes from these long pointy plum tomatoes ('Pelati' in Italian), the San Maranzo variety, which I recommend for my sauce. Alternatively, there are some great Mutti canned products that you can buy from Amazon, see my recommendations down at the end.
I also suggest hand stretching, it makes a real difference to the feel and texture of your pizza base. Make sure you've cut your nails and check this video with tips for hand stretching:
Ingredients (makes 2 large pizzas)
For the dough:
2.5 tsp fast-action dried yeast
250ml warm water (approx a glass full)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
For the tomato sauce:
1 can (400g) San Marzano Plum tomatoes or other good quality chopped or plum tomatoes (see my product recommendations at the end of the post)
10-12 fresh basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp onion granules (optional)
Salt and pepper
If you are using a pizza stone, turn your oven on at the maximum setting (250-270c) and place the stone in now to start warming up. DO NOT use the oven fan function as that would dry the dough.
In a glass, add the fast action dried yeast and a splash of water. Mix with a spoon until it dissolves. Set aside to activate the yeast for 5-8 mins (the yeast should start to bubble).
In a big bowl add the flour with the salt and make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast mix and the olive oil into the well and start mixing with your finger (in a circular motion) by adding water little by little until it starts forming a rough dough. It’s shouldn’t be very soggy, but neither too dry (you need this humidity for a soft crust when you are baking with a regular home oven) so depending on the quality of flour you’re using you might need more or less than 200ml water.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until it's smooth and elastic. Split it into two equal-sized balls and set aside to rest until you prepare your toppings and sauce.
Make the tomato sauce (or buy ready-made, see my recommendations below): My favourite special sauce is to add 1 can of San Marzano Pelati (plum) tomatoes in my Ninja blender with the rest of the sauce ingredients, and whizz until it’s a smooth pizza sauce. Make a big batch and store it in the freezer. WIll last for months.
It’s time to shape pizzas! Roll out with a pin or stretch the dough ball with your fingers (get these little fingers to join the fun) on a floured surface to about 20cm in diameter. Stretch further, throw in the air to expand (if you got the skills) and press the pizza dough with your fingertips until it is roughly about 25-30cm diameter, indenting a thicker crust around the edges. I like the middle very thin around 2mm and the edges thicker around 5-8mm.
Baking: Not every oven bakes the same so you might need to adjust the timings. If you are a pizza pro and use this oven, you just need to spread the sauce and toppings and bake for 60-90 sec. If you are an ordinary pizza lover with an ordinary oven and a pizza stone (like me), follow the next steps:
First-pass: Carefully transfer the stretched dough on to the baking stone and spread your tomato sauce. Clean up the mess and bake just the dough with the sauce for an initial 8 min. This is done to allow the dough bake inside out without burning the toppings and the cheese.
Second-pass: Remove from oven, add your toppings and mozzarella and bake again for another 5-8 min. Remove from oven, lift to check if you are satisfied with the middle grounds baking and serve or bake again for another couple of minutes.
Below you will find my favourite authentic products (affiliate links) I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links, please deactivate your ad-blocker and refresh the page :-)
Any fast action yeast would do the job, however, I'm always aiming for the best quality products and recommend Allinson, which you can find in any mainstream supermarket store. Remember the better your ingredients, the tastier your result. Pelati tomatoes from San Maranzo are the best and most tasty variety recommended by the pizza makers in Napoli. It's a little bit pricier but like everything good and tasty, you get what you pay for. Alternatively, if you don't have the blender (or nerves) to chop these tomatoes down to a sauce, go for other Mutti products like finely chopped tomatoes or even ready-made flavoured Mutti pizza sauce (with basil and oregano). Last but not least, please do yourself a favour and get some premium extra virgin olive oil. Terra Creta 3Lt is a great buy as not only is an excellent quality awarded oil, but will cost you less than buying 3 x1Lt bottles from your local grocer.
Not only you can use this for your oven bakes but works pretty good on bbq grills too.
Serving Board/Paddle and Pizza Cutter Wheel
Ooni mini Wood-Fired Oven
This is my dream to buy for my backyard but for when I manage to make some space to store it in my shed :-) This thing makes the PERFECT pizza simulating the conditions of an authentic Italian wood-fired oven (temperature of 500c). Works with pellet and once the max temperature is reached, you can bake your pizza in 60-90 sec in total (without pre-baking the dough).