Italian Pizza. Photo: CiaoFlorentina
Italian Pizza. Photo: CiaoFlorentina

What is Italian pizza?

Before we start: what is real Italian pizza? American-style delivery pizza is nothing like Italian pizza. But just like any popular food, there are different styles of Italian pizza based on region and method. For example:

* In Rome: There’s a Roman pizza chef called Bonci who’s made a name for himself making rectangular thick crust pizza with incredible bright-colored toppings (see our Rome post!).

* In Naples: Naples is the birthplace of pizza itself, and here the pizza crust is thin and supple! It’s covered in tangy tomatoes, often a simple pizza Margherita, according to Acouplecooks.

Here’s our definition of Italian pizza: a pizza with simple flavors and a supple, thin-crust, that’s cooked in a very hot oven. (This is also the definition we use for our Neapolitan pizza.) The recipe we’ll share below is elegantly simple: a perfect crust, tangy tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and a bright green homemade basil pesto.

The tools for Italian pizza

Before you start making Italian pizza, you’ll need a few special tools. Are you in it to win it? Then you need these two tools to make truly great Italian pizza:

* Pizza stone: A pizza stone is what makes Italian pizza crust crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Here’s a pizza stone we recommend, plus a bit more on the best pizza stones and pizza stone care.

* Pizza peel: A pizza peel is used to slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. Try this Aluminum pizza peel or this Conveyor pizza peel. The conveyor pizza peel is worth the extra investment since it makes it very easy to slide the pizza out of the oven.

The Best Italian Pizza Recipe At Home

Photo: The Petite Cook
Photo: The Petite Cook

The secret to a perfect Italian pizza recipe resides in two things: the ingredients and the method. You may think that working flour with water and yeast is not that big of a deal but in reality it is. One of the main element to consider when working with flour is that the more you manipulate it, the more it will lose strength: this is the reason why the most famous Italian pizzaioli recommend not to overdo your dough but instead to focus on the leavening.

The use of a good flour is mandatory so our personal advice is not to go for commercial brands but to use an artisanal flour, possibly organic and for sure without additives and preservatives. Make sure you don’t use a self-rising flour but a plain one: this is a huge deal when it comes to Italian pizza. In fact, by using self-rising flour you won’t give your pizza the time to rise and your pizza will be heavy and hard to digest.

If you work with plain flour and yeast, you’ll have a totally different result.

In terms of yeast, going for the fresh one is the best option but you can also opt for the dry yeast; instant yeast can be tempting but your pizza, again, won’t rise and it won’t be completely digestible.

How To Make Homemade Pizza

Preheat your oven as high as it will go for at least 45 minutes to one hour.

In the bowl of your kitchen aid and using the paddle attachment mix the flour, sea salt and active dry yeast (<--amazon) on low speed until all is incorporated then add the COLD water.

Switch to the dough hook and mix together on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and sticky but should not stick to the sides of the bowl, only a little to the bottom.

(If the dough sticks to the sides sprinkle in a little more flour, if it is too dry then add a bit more water).

After the 8 minutes have passed remove the dough from the kitchen aid and cut it into 6 pieces and form them into rounds. Place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature and rise for 2 hours in a draft free area. ( I prefer the oven )

Sprinkle the counter with a little bit of flour, take one piece of dough and press down on it with your fingers until you have 1/2" thick circle or oval. Using your fists and knuckles start stretching the dough until 10" in diameter making sure not to tear it ( this should be easy since it is a small pie).

Dust your pizza peel (or a piece of cardboard) very well with semolina flour or corn meal and set your pizza dough on it making sure it slides easily when moved. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of the pizza sauce in the center and spread it around with the back of a spoon leaving 1 inch of space at the edges and making sure not to get any on the peel. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and add your favorite toppings. ( Don't add too many toppings, keep in mind this is a thin crust and a couple of toppings will suffice ).

Gently slide the pie on the preheated pizza stone in a hot 525 degree or more oven, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. When making the breakfast pizza I find that the egg cooks perfectly in 6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil and freshly grated parmigiano reggianno. Allow to rest for a few minute for the cheese to set, as Ciaoflorentina.

Hand Method

Photo: The Statesman
Photo: The Statesman

Pour the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, salt and cold water and using a wooden spoon mix to combine well.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface/kitchen counter and dump the pizza dough. Sprinkle some more flour on top and using your hand knead the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes until a smooth ball forms but still a little bit sticky on the bottom. Follow the steps above afterwards.


Make sure to preheat your oven with the pizza stone in it for at least 45 minutes, and finish cooking the pizza under the broiler for a nice charred touch.

If topping with heirloom tomato slices, make sure to use the firm ones, otherwise the pizza would be watery. Thin firm slices is what you want.

Tips to make a perfect pizza:

* Get your oven perfectly hot before keeping the pizza inside. It will bake your pizza quickly, giving it a beautiful golden crust that is super crispy outside and soft and chewy inside. Also it will be perfectly juicy.

* Keep the amount of the vegetable toppings limited. The more veggie toppings you add, the more it slows the cooking down, making the pizza limp and soggy. So scatter just a few vegetable toppings and some good amount of high-quality cheese.

* If home-made pizza is better than restaurant-made, it would be just your creativity, patience, effort and enthusiasm. Best raw material and correct dough-making technique do wonders. Now skip the pizza delivery because you need only few basic ingredients to begin with.

* It’s tastier, cheaper and easier.

What type of yeast to use for PI?

There are several types of yeast that work for making homemade pizza. I use active dry yeast, but it’s worth mentioning others.

Active Dry Yeast: This is probably the most common type of yeast for baking and what we use for this recipe.

Instant Yeast: As its name suggests, this yeast will create a faster rise. It’s made of finer granules and doesn’t need to be dissolved in water. You can use it here, but your dough will be ready to shape sooner.

Pizza Yeast: A newer yeast I found specifically for making pizza, this doesn’t require a rise at all. It includes dough conditioners so that you can shape your pizza immediately. I prefer to avoid added chemicals.

Fresh Yeast: Fresh yeast is sold in small blocks in the refrigerated section of some markets.

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