How to Make an Italian Pizza: The Simple, Step-by-Step Guide

Kids can make their own pizzas, too!
Kids can make their own pizzas, too!
Yes, we ate this pizza in Naples. But if you follow our recipe, you can make pizza like this at home!

Yes, we ate this pizza in Naples. But if you follow our recipe, you can make pizza like this at home!

Want to know how to make a real Italian pizza? The most important part is getting the Italian pizza dough right! More than just the base of the pizza, the dough is what gives the pizza its texture, holds together the flavors, and—if done right—can make you feel like you’ve been transported right back to Italy.

But first:

Just a bit about pizza in Italy…

A traditional pizza margherita of Naples, complete with the thick crust

A traditional pizza margherita of Naples, complete with the thick crust

Even though it’s become the most popular Italian food abroad, pizza and Italy didn’t always go together like, well, pizza and Italy. In fact, pizza wasn’t even invented until the 19th century, when it started out as a fast food on the streets of Naples. In the beginning (and, we’d argue, even today), the simpler the pizza, the better: The classic pizza napoletana was just dough with a tomato sauce of Marzano tomatoes, oregano or basil, a little garlic, salt, and olive oil.

It’s another pizza from Naples, though, that has the neatest pedigree. When Queen Margherita came to visit Naples in 1889, she was charmed by a local pizza baker who had made, in her honor, a pizza with the colors of the new flag of the just-unified Italy—red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil. Yep, you guessed it. It’s now called the pizza margherita (or margarita, on some menus).

Roman pizza

Traditional Roman pizza (check out that thin crust!)

Of course, Italian food is very regional, and so are Italian pizzas. (Although any real Italian pizza should always be cooked in a wood-fired oven; in fact, a pizzeria without one can’t even, legally, call itself a pizzeria!). That world-famous pizza in Naples is known as “pizza alta” (thick crust), while pizza in Rome is traditionally thin-crust and crisp.

Like the rest of Italian food, Italian pizza is best—and most authentic—when it’s made with fresh, delicious ingredients. We’re not talking the microwaved dough and synthetic cheese that you see now both in Italy and abroad, but something completely different.

The best way to try it, short of going to an authentic pizzeria with great ingredients and a wood-fired oven? Make it at home!

What you need to make an Italian pizza

(makes dough for 4 pizzas, each one about 12 inches in diameter):

  • 600 mL of warm water
  • 7 cups (1kg) flour, type “00”*
  • 2.25 teaspoons (25 grams) yeast
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

*A note on the flour: In Italy, “00”, or “doppio zero,” flour is the most highly-refined and finest-ground flour available. Not available where you are (or too expensive?). An all-purpose flour should work just as well!

How to make your pizza:

Kids can make their own pizzas, too!

Kids love making pizza, too!

1. Sprinkle the yeast into a medium bowl with the warm water. We don’t mean hot, and we don’t mean cold… we mean warm! That’s the kind the yeast likes best. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

2. Place almost all of the flour on the table in the shape of a volcano. (Think Mt. Vesuvius… appropriate since Naples is the king of all pizza cities!).

3. Pour the yeast-and-warm-water mix, along with the other ingredients, into the “crater” of the volcano.

4. Knead everything together for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, keeping your surface floured.

5. Grease up a bowl with some olive oil and put the dough inside. Turn the dough around so the top is slightly oiled.

6. Cover the bowl and put the dough aside to let it rest for at least four or five hours.

7 (optional for those who want their pizza really authentic). Make a cross on top of the dough with a knife. An old Italian tradition, this is seen as a way of “blessing the bread.”

8. Preheat the oven to about 400°F, or about 200°C.

9. Dump the dough out of the bowl and back onto the floured surface. Punch it down, getting rid of any bubbles. (Note: Now’s the time to enlist a kid with more energy than they know what to do with!).

10. Divide the dough in half and let it rest for a few minutes.

11. Roll each section into a 12-inch disc. Now’s your chance to decide how thick you want your pizza to be! Do you want it pizza alta (Neapolitan-style) or pizza bassa (Roman-style)? Just remember, your crust will puff up a little bit as it’s baked!

12.  Transfer the dough onto an oiled pizza pan or baking sheet.

13. Add tomato sauce, if you want a pizza rossa (red pizza). Lots of pizzas in Italy are actually pizza bianca, without tomato sauce, so don’t feel like you have to! Brush the edges of the crust with a little bit of olive oil.

14. Bake each pizza for about 10 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese (sliced or grated) on top, as well as any other ingredients.

15. Let the pizzas bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. By lifting up the pizza to peek underneath, you can make sure the bottom has browned, too.

16. Remove your pizzas from the oven and, for a real Italian touch, garnish with a few basil leaves. And enjoy!

Want to learn to make a Roman pizza… in Rome? Check out our Rome food experience, where you’ll learn how to make your own pizza at a traditional pizzeria and bake it in a wood-fired oven. Video below!

And thanks to Walks of Italy’s Loredana of Le Marche, Italy for providing her tried-and-true, authentic Italian pizza recipe!

64 Comments

  • Pete says:

    I used to eat a typical pizza loaded with ingredients until I tried one in Italy, just tomato, cheese and basil… YUM!

  • Angela says:

    This is perfect! I have definitely missed pizza from Italy … my favorite being from Sorrento! That in itself was quite an experience as we sat at a table with locals … they didn’t speak English and we spoke very little Italian, but the experience was fun and the pizza was delicious!

  • Ewa says:

    Do you use dry yeast, instant yeast or fresh yeast? I’ve been searching for a perfect recipe for pizza dough for a long time. Without success, unfortunately… Nothing compares to the pizza in Italy. But I don’t give up and keep on looking. And this recipe convinces me. I will definietly try it at home (if I am successful, I’ll also write a post on my blog) but first I need to know every detail – type of yeast at the beginning. ;)

  • Laura says:

    I have discovered baking the pizza in our BBQ. It gets much hotter (over 700 degrees) and seems to look more like something that came out of the pizza oven!

    I use pizza stones, but have discovered that they tend to crack easily, so I have found pizza stones that are thinker. You can also use granite or marble remnants that fit into your BBQ grill.

  • Liz says:

    Will instant yeast work for this recipe? I don’t have any fresh. This pizza looks delish… can’t wait to try it! ;)

  • Dan Wallace says:

    Just a quick note of thanks, we used this recipe for some pizzas we cooked in a wood fired chimenea. The taste was sensational, followed to the letter bar the fresh yeast and the end product was as good as we have ever eaten. We prefer really thin pizzas and found that half the recipe made 3x 12″ beauties.

    Thanks again for posting this, I will be using the religiously.

  • Fabian says:

    Thanks for this great recipe, this will be dinner this Friday!

    On a side note, the story about Queen Margherita and the namesake pizza has recently been debunked (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/20515123). It shows that the marketing gene was quite alive in Signore Esposito as he went to quite some length to perpetuate this myth.

    • Hi Fabian,
      Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for sharing re: the myth—we thought it sounded too cute to be true, but it’s shown up in so many reputable food history books, well, we just had to include it. Interesting to see it was just a sly marketing trick! Thanks again!

  • Jenny says:

    I am really interested to give this recipe a go. However, I would just like advice on what type of “tomato sauce’ you use for the topping? The tomato sauce on pizzas in Italy adds so much to the flavour!
    Thanks

    • Hi Jenny,
      Great point! Our resident “pizzaiolo” says the best tomato sauce is done by taking fresh, ripened tomatoes that are “slightly” squashed and cooking them for 8-10 minutes with extra virgin olive oil, onion OR garlic, and salt, in a pan. They don’t have to cook too much, since they wind up in the oven in the end. If you can’t get fresh tomatoes, peeled, canned tomatoes will do; in that case, 5 minutes on the stove is more than enough time.

      Please let us know if we can help with anything else!

      • Devin says:

        At what heat do you have to cook it, and what are the proportions?

        • Hi Devin,
          As we write in the recipe, you heat the oven to about 400°F, or about 200°C. The proportions of all of the ingredients are listed at the top of the recipe :-) Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  • izzy says:

    this is AMAZINGLY YUMMY

  • kike says:

    Hi,thanks for dis recipe…am from nigeria and all we have here is dry yeast…is it okay to use dry yeast and what measurement?

  • Lili says:

    Awesome! So happy I found your post. Have been looking all over for this classic dough recipe. Can’t wait to make it!

  • stephen says:

    do you really use 25 grams of fresh yeast in your recipe, thats a massive amount for 1kg of flour?

  • Leah says:

    Quick question, can the dough be frozen to use at a later time?

  • Bea. says:

    Questa ricetta e perfetta! Ho fatto una sorpresa grande per la mia famiglia. Grazie a te ho potuto fare una pizza messicana molto delicioso.

  • Istvan says:

    Another type of pizza… the temperature can be much higher, around 500 Celsius, and the cooking time is appr 90 sec. (The problem is that you cannot really reach this in a standard electric owen.) The “official” pizza in my opinion is best represented by Pizza Napoletana, which happen to have a European Union Standard as well : http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:034:0007:0016:EN:PDF

    Note that this document actually has the recipe as well. :) I normally do the Heston Blumenthal’s Pizza Napoletanish pizza, but I have an wood-fired owen in my garden – I can heat it up almost to this temp- the baking time for me is 2.5-3 mins).

  • Istvan says:

    … and the guys filing the eu standard: http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/index_eng.php

  • Janice says:

    Isn’t 25 grams equal to 2.25 tablespoons not teaspoons? We have made this recipe several times, great recipe

    • Hi Janice,
      It’s a little confusing! We’ve found that 25 grams yeast is about 2.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast, *or* a little more than 1 packed tablespoon of fresh yeast. What measurements have you been using? Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  • elle says:

    trying now your recipe can i reduce the time for dough to rise to only half or one hourinstead of such long wait 4-5 hours as in your recipe thanks

  • elle says:

    as its my first time making a pizza could you tell me why oil the dough just before letting it rise thanks again for your time !

  • Bob says:

    My moms family are from Naples, dads from Trieste. Mom and me are going to make this for the family as an early pre dinner snack on Christmas Day. New York style white has as it’s base ricotta. The toppings will be sliced fresh mozzarella, skinless blanched tomato, chopped prosciutto and spinach. Both versions, red/white and Roman too. Hows it sound?

  • Susan says:

    Wow! I so love your pizza! esp. that little girl there helping in the kitchen. Your pizza reminds me of my best ever Italian pizza experience at Pizza Paradiso Orlando. Big hit! Anyways, I think I’ll be trying your recipe, so wish me luck! Thanks for the blog.

  • Ben says:

    My first time making dough, disaster! I put everything in the “volcano crater”, unsure of how to go about mixing, I ended up with lots of water and oil running off the table onto the floor. How do you mix it on the table like that? Could I just mix it in a bowl and then knead on the table?

    And I don’t know if my yeast measurement is correct. I used 2.25 tsp of dry yeast, is that correct?

    Anyway, I tried to salvage what I could and it’s sitting now, hope it turns out ok. Please give me mixing advice so I can try again!!!

  • Ann says:

    I have tried a few different recipes for pizza – Yours is hands down the best! I only had instant yeast and i used wholemeal flour but it was absolutely wonderful!!! I made 3 very thin pizzas with half of your recipe and got a lot of compliments from my family and guests :) thank you for posting!

  • Ujjawala says:

    Hey there…!! Yours is a great pizza recipe with lot of authentic information. I had always thought all Italian pizzas are thin crust but I was wrong.

    Anyways, can I make pizza dough without yeast? And will that turn out to be a perfect crust??

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Ciao! Yeast – whether fresh or dry – is essential to the recipe to give the pizza a perfect crust. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  • PG says:

    Hi, if I want to make 8 pizzas, just the dough with no toppings in advance, can I roll out the pizzas the night before? If yes, do I bake the dough the night before? how do I store them and will they still taste the same? I want to make the dough in advance so all I have to do on the day I bake them is put the toppings on the pizza and bake them?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Ciao! You can definitely make the dough and roll it out (and also put them in the different trays) on the night before. Sometimes this method is event better so the dough will have more time to rise and rest, becoming even easier to digest. Don’t bake it on the night before, but rather “dust” it with a bit of olive oil, so that the dough doesn’t dry up. On the day you need it, you will put the toppings on and bake them. A little secret: don’t put the mozzarella immediately but about 15 minutes after you put the trays in the oven. This will prevent the mozzarella cheese from becoming overcooked! :)

      • Yolanda says:

        Hi, in regards to making the dough the night before and storing it on trays, can I put dough in like plastic container with olive oil so it wont dry and cover with lid and do I leave it on counter over night or put container in frig? thanks for the recipe I’m from NY and I miss my pizza and where I live now (Dominican Republic) I cant get NY, Italy any kind a pizza remotely close to what I’m use to unless I make it myself so THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! ;)

        • Walks of Italy says:

          Ciao Yolanda! Yes, the dough can be left in plastic container “brushed” with olive oil, so that it doesn’t stick to the container. Do not put the dough in the fridge as this would block the raising process. It’s actually better to cover the container with a blanket (in the Winter) and with a slightly wet, cotton cloth. Enjoy and let us know if you have any questions :)

  • Torroong says:

    I did it today with great success. Thanks a lot. We are lucky to have the tripple OO flour in Bangkok. I was wondering about the amount of salt. I cut down to be safe though.

  • Padma Zampo says:

    For sure I’ll try! And like everyone else we’ll post the results!! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Scott says:

    In 2012, I went to Italy to visit my fiancee. She introduced me to my first authentic Italian pizza in Piacenza and it was without a doubt, the best I have ever had in my life. I can’t wait to try this recipe and will be making it soon!

  • Deb says:

    This was the best pizza crust recipe I’ve ever tried! My husband loved the pizza I made with it. I will definitely use this recipe again.

  • Mary says:

    Do you have a good recipe for a tomato sauce to accompany the dough? Thanks!

  • Santelini says:

    1.5 Table spoons of salt? its that right?

    Do you have a sauce recipe

  • Bib Popper says:

    Sounds delicious … Love everything that is traditional and tasty .. Thanks

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