Beyond Pizza Margherita: Unlocking Secrets Of Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza has a rich history, and its origins can be traced back to Naples, Italy, where it emerged in the 18th century as a simple and affordable street food. Neapolitan pizza gained popularity among the working class and eventually captured the hearts of pizza lovers globally.

Authentic Neapolitan pizza embodies distinct characteristics. Its thin, soft, and chewy crust is the result of a long fermentation using minimal yeast. The dough is hand-stretched and topped with San Marzano tomatoes, grown in the volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius. The genuine Neapolitan pizza features mozzarella di bufala, made from the milk of water buffaloes and known for its delicate flavour and creamy texture. A sprinkle of fresh basil, sea salt, and extra-virgin olive oil completes the simple yet flavorful toppings.

Preserving the traditional methods and ingredients of Neapolitan pizza is crucial. It ensures the unique taste and cultural heritage of this culinary tradition are maintained. It honours the craftsmanship of pizzaiolos who adhere to strict guidelines for preparation and baking in wood-fired ovens, resulting in an unparalleled pizza experience. By cherishing these traditions, we can savour the true essence of Neapolitan pizza and pay homage to its origins.

Neapolitan Pizza-Making Techniques

Neapolitan pizza-making techniques are rooted in tradition and craftsmanship, resulting in the unique qualities that define this beloved dish. The process begins with meticulous dough preparation, combining high-quality flour, water, salt, and minimal yeast. The dough is carefully mixed by hand or with a low-speed mixer, ensuring proper hydration and an elastic texture.

Fermentation and proofing are crucial steps in Neapolitan pizza-making. The dough is left to rise slowly over an extended period, often overnight, allowing the yeast to develop complex flavours and a light, airy structure. This slow fermentation process enhances the digestibility of the dough and imparts a distinctive tanginess to the crust.

Hand-stretching and shaping the dough is a signature technique of Neapolitan pizza. Skilled pizzaiolos delicately stretch and shape the dough by hand, aiming for a round shape with a thin centre and a slightly raised, soft, and chewy crust around the edges. This technique requires finesse and years of practise to achieve the desired consistency and texture.

Wood-fired ovens play a vital role in Neapolitan pizza-making. These ovens, typically constructed from brick or stone, are heated to extremely high temperatures, often surpassing 800°F (427°C). The intense heat and radiant energy from the wood fire cook the pizza rapidly, resulting in a blistered, charred crust and perfectly melted toppings. The wood-fired oven imparts a unique smoky flavour that complements the other ingredients, creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza experience that is challenging to replicate with other cooking methods.

5 Tips for Making Neapolitan Pizza at Home

1. High-quality Ingredients: Use authentic, high-quality ingredients like Italian 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and extra-virgin olive oil to achieve the true flavours of Neapolitan pizza.

2. Long Fermentation: Allow the dough to ferment and proof slowly in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. This extended fermentation enhances the flavour and texture of the crust, resulting in a light and airy pizza.

3. Hot Oven: Preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible. While a wood-fired oven is ideal, a home oven set to its maximum temperature can still yield good results.

4. Thin Crust: Roll out the dough to a thin, even thickness. Neapolitan pizza is known for its thin centre and puffy, slightly charred crust, so avoid adding excessive toppings that could weigh it down.

5. Quick Cooking Time: Cook the pizza for a short duration, ideally within 90 seconds to 2 minutes. The high heat ensures a fast cook, resulting in a crisp bottom and bubbling, melted toppings, similar to a traditional Neapolitan pizza.

In conclusion, this article has explored the secrets of authentic Neapolitan pizza beyond the iconic Margherita. We delved into its origins, defined its characteristics, and emphasised the importance of preserving traditional methods and ingredients. From dough preparation and fermentation to hand-stretching and the use of wood-fired ovens, each step contributes to the unique experience of Neapolitan pizza. The cultural significance of this culinary treasure cannot be overstated. I encourage readers to embrace and savour the diverse flavours and variations of Neapolitan pizza, celebrating its rich heritage and enjoying this beloved dish to the fullest.

Recipe For Neapolitan Pizza

                                                         Video Credit: The Hungry Baker/YouTube


For the dough:

- 500 grams of Italian 00 flour

- 325 ml of lukewarm water

- 10 grams salt

- 3 grams of active dry yeast

- Pinch of sugar

For the toppings:

- 400 grammes of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed or pureed

- 300 grammes of fresh mozzarella di bufala, torn into small pieces

- Fresh basil leaves

- Extra-virgin olive oil

- Sea salt


In a small bowl, combine the lukewarm water, yeast, and sugar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place for at least 1 to 2 hours until it doubles in size.

Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible. If you have a pizza stone or baking sheet, place it in the oven to preheat as well. 

Punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles. Divide it into 2 or 4 equal portions, depending on the desired size of your pizzas. Shape each portion into a ball and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

Take one dough ball and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a thin, round shape. Place it on a piece of parchment paper or a lightly floured pizza peel. 

Spread a thin layer of crushed San Marzano tomatoes over the dough, leaving a small border around the edges. Add torn mozzarella pieces and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves. 

Carefully transfer the pizza (along with the parchment paper, if using) onto the preheated pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. 

10. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and slightly charred. 

Remove the pizza from the oven and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. 

Repeat the process with the remaining dough and toppings. 

Slice the Neapolitan pizzas and serve them immediately while they are hot and fresh.

Enjoy the authentic flavours of Neapolitan pizza right in your own home!