By all means I am not claiming that I know how to make the proper Neapolitan pizza. I don’t have an Italian buffalo in Campana in the backyard of my building, I don’t make my own mozzarella nor freshly ground my own Italian wheat grains. I also didn’t plant my own San Marzano tomatoes on the balcony. I only poorly plant my own L’oreal (!?) basil plant that miraculously started to sprout.
But I do enjoy a Neapolitan pizza. It just makes me involuntarily react in inappropriate ways. When I see it, when I taste it, when I try my best at making it.
I’ve read a lot into this and there is a lot of argue on what is a real pizza or where it originated from and which one is the more authentic or the best. It is almost exhausting and in the end it’s all about your taste. I know friends of mine who will cringe at the Neapolitan crust while for me that bubbly slightly burnt soft crust is pure porn.
There are lots of talks on authenticity and how to properly make it as well. I mean, there is an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana for God’s sake. They have a Decalogue on how to make pizza and a PDF on International regulations you can download and study.
But what it comes to in the end are the ingredients. They need to be fresh. Try to use the freshest of the ingredients you can grab your hands on. Freshly ground flour, Italian or not, fresh Mozzarella di Bufala or not, San Marzano tomatoes or any fresh aromatic tomatoes you can find. Oh, and of course fresh basil.
But since we don’t live in Italy or in a self sustainable farm household, Flour type 00, Mozzarella di Bufala from the supermarket and San Marzano canned tomatoes will do the job. Be very careful to actually buy the Mozzarella di Bufala in the supermarkets and not the cheap mozzarella. There is a difference in price but it does make a lot difference in taste! Same goes for the tomatoes too. If you can’t find the San Marzano ones, any Italian canned tomatoes will do but plain, not with basil or anything else.
Another key ingredient here is a wet dough. You need a wet dough for that gooey soft pillowy crust. Again, it can be frustrating while managing it but it’s totally worth it. My personal preference is again, going with the poolish method, explained in the post about Foaccia. It is not necessarily a must but go for it if you’re unsure about your yeast.
Oh, and a cast iron skillet! Or any other heavy bottomed oven proved pan. In order to achieve that Neapolitan Pizza look, one must start the pizza on the stove until the bottom crust forms and the very end pop in the oven.
So you’ll need:
for the poolish
- 1 pack dried yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1/2 flour
for the final dough
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 ball of mozzarella di Bufala
- fresh basil
- salami, prosciutto
- once the poolish has doubled in size, add the salt, the water and the flour and mix with the help of a spatula or with your hand mixer with spiral beaters on low until you get this smooth sticky dough that doesn’t go on your finger when you touch it – again, be careful, this is a wet dough, meaning kneading by hand is not an option; also be careful with the flour since you might have the tendency to add more: THAT WILL KILL YOUR PIZZA DOUGH;
- let it proof for an hour in a warm, draft free environment;
- add your dough on a lightly floured surface, stretch and fold like we did in the Focaccia and let it rest for another hour;
- in the meantime, in a sauce pan, add some olive oil and the canned tomatoes to it;
- simmer it for 5 minutes or up until the raw canned tomato taste goes away;
- with the help of a garlic press, crush and add the garlic into the sauce;
- season to taste;
- simmer for 2 more minutes;
- add the fresh basil and allow it to cool;
- after the dough has proven for the second time, add it on a floured surface and divided it into equal size balls and allow it to rest for another 20-30 min or so;
- preheat your oven at the highest temperature you have;
- once the final proof is done, preheat your cast iron skillet until it’s hot;
- shape your dough balls according to the size of your pan;
- add the dough into the hot pan, turn the heat in medium low so you won’t burn your crust – they key here is to nicely cook the dough on the bottom so you can minimise the time spend on the oven – in the end you want to replicate a wooden stove here, meaning you want your pizza to stay in as little as possible and yet get it fully cooked;
- allow the dough a bit to cook before you add the tomato sauce – remember it’s a wet dough and you want that to be cooked;
- once the bottom crust is done, add the tomato sauce, mozzarella, salami if you go for it and the basil and pop it in the oven on your highest rack, on the highest temperature your oven goes for;
- allow it in there for 5-6 minutes or up until the crust looks done.
There you go,