Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza) is an authentically made Italian pizza originating in Naples, Italy. This recipe brings the classic Italian techniques to your kitchen with simple ingredients and a standard oven. You will love having gourmet pizza at your fingertips.
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One of my favorite things in life is traveling to places I love. Places that are alive with culture, good food and where I can just simply relax.
These days traveling hasn’t happened as much as I would like, but one of my top dream destinations is going to back to Italy.
That country literally takes my breath away with its’ immense history, gorgeous architecture, slower pace of life and the divine and yet very simple food.
If I were to choose my favorite Italian feast, I honestly don’t think I could do it.
However, when I was in Italy I pretty much ate my weight in gelato, Italian cookies and Margherita pizza. Because of this, perfecting Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza) was an absolute no-brainer.
So, after much research and fine tuning for the American kitchen, here is my version of Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza).
What is Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza)?
Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza) is an absolutely delicious pizza with simple and quality ingredients originating in Naples, Italy. It is made with a from-scratch dough, San Marzano sauce (see below), buffalo mozzarella (or whole milk mozzarella), fresh basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil.
Napolitana Pizza also goes by the following names: Margherita Pizza, Pizza Napolentana, Pizza Marinara (this has the addition of garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil as seen in the sauce below), Neapolitan Pizza and Pizza Napolena.
Sauce for Pizza Marinara
Napolitana Sauce (Neapolitan Sauce) is the sauce used for this Margherita Pizza. It is a slow cooked San Marzano Tomato based sauce that has a deep rich tomato flavor with sweet undertones. With the addition of onions, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive to this sauce it is also called Pizza Marinara.
Note: A traditional Napolitana Pizza done in Italy by pizza chefs uses fresh hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes. However, this Napolitana Sauce creates an out of this world delicious pizza.
Pizza Chefs Secrets to Perfect Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza)
Before showing the steps of how to make Napolitana Pizza there are a few secrets that will help the home cook create an incredible end product. Keep in mind though, there are differences in approach even among Pizza chefs from Naples. For total entertainment, watch these three Italian pizza chefs critique tutorial videos of how to make Neapolitan Pizza. Interestingly, watching each one of those chefs make the same pizza, there are variances within each of their approaches.
Yeast for Pizza Dough
- Store yeast in freezer. Since here in the states a majority of us do not bake bread or bread products weekly, storing yeast in an airtight container in the freezer will extend its life, often past its expiration date.
- Make sure yeast is not dead. Closely related to the above tip, it is not an uncommon challenge for us in the states to have our yeast die even when properly stored. (You will notice from the videos that the Italian pizza chefs do not test their yeast. This is because they quickly use yeast before it ever has a chance of dying.) To test the whether your yeast is alive combine warm water (preferably 80-100℉) with the sugar and then sprinkle in yeast. If the yeast is still alive and active it will produce a bubbly mass within 5- 10 minutes.
It is important to note that warmer temperatures, around the 100℉, will cause more blooming.
Additional Pizza Chefs Secrets
- Prepare this recipe by hand or using a dough hook in this type of mixer. If kneading by hand, kneading will take approximately 15-20 minutes whereas if done in the mixer, kneading will take approximately 5-7 minutes. Notes: An additional 1-2 minutes of kneading by hand will be needed when using a mixer.
- This recipe makes enough for 4 Margherita Pizzas. Once prepared, separate the dough into 4 balls. Oil 2 glass bowls and 2 round containers with lids. Place dough into both the bowls and containers. Cover the glass bowls with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to rise for 6-8 hours. Refrigerate the containers over night and then bring out to room temperature 2-3 hours before baking.
- Use whole milk mozzarella and precut the cheese into medium sized slices. Once cut, place back in refrigerator until topping pizza.
- If using a standard oven, preheat oven with pizza stone for 1 hour for results closely resembling that of a pizza oven. Also, place stone on top rack closet to heating element.
- Corn meal makes transferring the pizza from the pizza peel to the pizza stone about 1,000% easier. Simply place a thin layer of cornmeal on the pizza peel, place dough on peel, build the pizza and then transfer to pizza stone in oven to bake. (Note: A Pizza Peel is a wooden board with a long handle that makes building and transferring pizzas to and from the hot oven much easier.)
- Add mozzarella, basil leaves and the drizzle of olive oil halfway through baking. This will create a much prettier pizza and will not over baked the toppings. (Note: If using a pizza oven to bake, dress the pizza with all the toppings in the beginning. This tip is only for the standard home oven.)
How To Make Neapolitan Pizza Dough
Below are the steps for making classic Neapolitan Pizza Dough in your kitchen with a stand mixer. Nevertheless, the same steps can be done by hand using a large mixing bowl. If making the dough by hand, the process will take approximately 30-40 minutes whereas using a mixer takes about 10-12 minutes.
Mixing Pizza Dough
- Measure flour and add to mixing bowl.
- Warm water to 80-100℉. (Note: This step is to check whether the yeast is still alive. If you are certain your least is alive, skip this step and just use room temperature water.)
- Add sugar to water and stir.
- Add yeast to water. Do not stir.
- Let the yeast dissolve on its own and watch for the blooming mass. This is the sign that your yeast is still alive. (See image above under Yeast For Pizza Dough section.)
- Add salt to flour. (Note 1: At this stage is when the Vital Wheat Gluten would be added if converting All Purpose Flour to Bread Flour. See Best Flour for Pizza section below.)(Note 2: Italian pizza chefs dissolve the salt in the water. However, since salt can inhibit yeast it is advisable to mix the salt in the flour when checking to see if the yeast is still alive.)
- Stir flour mixture well.
- Add olive oil to yeast water.
- Attach dough hook and slowly add in flour.
- Mix on slow speed. Turn off mixture when gradually adding in more flour. This is what the dough mixture will look like halfway through mixing.
- This is what the dough mixture looks like when its done mixing in the stand mixer and is ready to be transferred to a lightly floured board. (Note: The dough is ready when most of the dough and flour has pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl and the dough starts to form a ball, about 5 minutes.)
- Lightly flour hands and a large cutting board or flat surface.
Kneading and Resting Pizza Dough
- Transfer dough onto your lightly four surface.
- Knead dough until smooth and elastic. (Note: When using a stand mixer hand kneading will only take about 1-2 minutes. When mixing by hand, kneading will take approximately 15-20 minutes until smooth texture is achieved.)
- This is what dough will look like once kneading is completed.
- Let rest covered for approximately 10 minutes.
- Use bench scraper to divide dough.
- Divide into 4 balls.
- Using hands gently form into balls.
- Place a small amount of oil on the bottom of bowl.
- Add dough balls to oiled bowl. Using dough ball, gently cover all sides of dough and bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours. (Note: Place two balls in oiled storage containers with lids and refrigerate. Pull the dough from the refrigerator the next day and let sit at room temperature for about 1-2 hours prior to making your pizzas)
Preparing and Topping Napolitana Pizza
- This what the dough will look like when it is time to form the pizza.
- Gently transfer risen dough onto lightly floured cutting board or flat surface. Using tips of fingers gently push on the center of the dough, shaping the pizza. (Note: With using all finger tips, this will take approximately 10-12 pushes in total to shape the pizza. Be careful to not overwork the dough at this stage.)
- What the dough will look like once shaped.
- Top with 2-3 ladles of Napolitana Sauce (Marinara Sauce).
- Transfer pizza to a preheated 500℉ (transfer to the preheated pizza stone in the oven) and bake for approximately 5 minutes. Using pizza peel, pull pizza from oven and top with cut mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.
- Drizzle with olive oil and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown.
Best Flour for Pizza
Below are four different flour options for your homemade Napolitana Pizza.
Double Zero Flour (00 Flour)
This is the flour that is used in Italy by the Italian pizza chefs. The double zero represents how finely the flour is ground. The double zero flour that is available here in the states has a protein content similar to bread flour and will create gorgeous pizza dough. However, the cost is generally a little higher than the other flours listed below.
Bread flour has a protein content ranging from 11-13% and is normally available in most grocery stores. Flours that have higher protein content tend to make loftier (fluffier) yeasted dough.
All-purpose flour is available in all grocery stores and can be substituted for bread flour. However, all-purpose flour has a protein content of approximately 9-11%. Because of this the pizza dough will not be quite as fluffy, but still will create a delicious final product
All-Purpose Flour with Vital Wheat Gluten
One trick that can be done if bread flour is unavailable is to add 1 tsp of Vital Wheat Gluten per every cup of all-purpose flour. This will increase the protein content in the flour and yield results similar to bread flour. (Note: It is best to measure flour and then remove the amount of flour in the same portion as the amount to Vital Wheat Gluten that will be added. This will ensure that the dry ingredients do not exceed the amount that the recipe calls for.)
Authentic vs Homemade Neapolitan Pizza
Below are the main differences between authentically made Napolitana Pizza and its homemade counter part.
- Traditional Napolitana Pizza is made with Double Zero Flour (00 Flour) whereas in the states we often use bread flour.
- Italian pizza chefs also use fresh brewers yeast. Here in the states we use either active dry yeast or instant yeast. (Main difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast is that active dry yeast must always be dissolved in water before using. Instant yeast can be mixed directly into the dry ingredients.)
- Neapolitan Pizza uses hand crushed authentic San Marzano tomatoes. Only about 5% of the canned tomatoes labeled San Marzano here in the states are authentic. However, even if mislabeled, most canned tomatoes with the San Marzano label are far superior in quality.
- Buffalo mozzarella is the cheese of choice for pizzas made in Italy. On the other hand, here in the states we use mozzarella from cows milk.
- Pizzas in Italy are cooked at 800℉ in a wood fire oven for a very short time.
- Lastly, the texture of the dough is a highly debated topic among pizza chefs both here in the states and in Italy. Some claim that the dough, when cooked, should be airy and charred. Others claim that this is not authentic. Bottomline, it is a personal preference. For airy dough simply let the dough rise longer and for charred dough let it bake a touch longer.
Helpful Tools for Making Margherita Pizza
Here are additional tools that will be helpful in making Napolitana Pizza.
- Inexpensive Thermometer
- Hard plastic scraper (helpful in removing dough from mixing bowl and dough hook).
- Bench scraper (for cutting dough).
- Pizza Cutter
- Kneading Board
- Pizza Oven (for truly authentic Napolitana Pizza).
- Instant Dry Yeast
More Classic Italian Recipes
What to Serve with Napolitana Pizza
Napolitana Pizza (Margherita Pizza)
- 7 1/2 cups bread flour *use 6 1/2-7 cups for dough, extra is for dusting
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups warm water *80-100℉
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp yeast *Instant Dry
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 batch Napolitana Sauce
- 12 oz whole milk mozzarella *cut into medium sized strips
- 2 lg handfuls fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil *for drizzling
- corn meal *for dusting
Sauce and Toppings
- Prepare Napolitana Sauce for pizza. This sauce will take approximatley 2 hours to make and can be made the day before and refrigerated.
- Cut cheese into medium sized strips and place in refrigerator until need.
- Wash and dry basil leaves just before topping pizzas.
- Measure flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir well. If using Vital Wheat Gluten, add at this stage. (See Best Flour for Pizza section above.)
- Measure and warm water to 80-100℉. (Warm by placing water in a glass liquid measuring cup and heating in 30 seconds increments on high until temperature is achieved.)
- Add water to mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in sugar. Sprinkle in yeast and let dissolve. If yeast is alive, a bubbly mass will start to rise to the surface (see Yeast for Pizza Dough section above).
- Add olive oil to yeasted water.
- Add a few cups of flour mixture to yeasted water and attach dough hook to stand mixer. Mix on low speed. Gradually add more flour making sure to turn off mixture with each addition.
- Continue mixing on low speed until most of flour is added. Once most of the flour is incorporated increase mixer speed to medium and mix until dough becomes a unified ball and is no longer sticking to the sides, about 5 mins. (The dough at this stage should feel sticky and stretchable.)
- Lightly flour hands and a large cutting board or flat surface. Place dough onto flour surface and knead by hand until dough is smooth, about 1-2 mins.
- Cover dough with a clean dish towel and let rest for 20 mins. Divide dough into 4 even sections and roll into balls.
- Place a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of 4 glass bowls (or containers with lids for refrigerator storage). Using the dough balls, coat the sides of the bowls (or containers) with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature to rise for 6-8 hours. (If refrigerating, cover with a lid. Remove to room temperature the next day and let sit for 1-2 hours before forming pizza.)
- While dough is in the final hour of rising, preheat oven and pizza stone to highest setting (preferably 500℉).
- Once dough has risen, gently transfer to a lightly floured surface. Using tips of fingers gently push on the center of the dough, shaping the pizza. (Note: With using all finger tips, this will take approximately 10-12 pushes in total to shape the pizza. Be careful to not overwork the dough at this stage.)
- Place a small amount of corn meal onto a pizza peel and trasfer dough to peel.
Topping and Cooking Pizzas
- Top pizza with a few ladels of sauce and bake on preheated pizza stone for 5 mins.
- Remove from oven using pizza peel and top pizza with a 1/4 of cut cheese and basil. Drizzle with a tablespoon of oilve oil and continue baking on the pizza stone for an addittional 5 mins untile cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.
- Repeat with remaining dough. (Since baking time is so minimal, it is best to top and bake each pizza individually.)
- Nutritional information above is per person. There are approximately 400-560 calories per serving (3-4 slices).