Italy is renowned as the home of pizza, and nowhere is this more true than the southern Italian town of Naples. They have mastered the art of creating intensely delicious pizza from the simplest and freshest of ingredients. In fact, according to popular tradition, the Margherita pizza we all know and love was created in Naples to honour the visit of Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto, who visited the city in 1889. So how did we come across this original pizza dough recipe? Well…
Travelling through Naples is best done with a local guide and our friend Ida was the perfect host. In just a few short days she whisked us from place to place to sample just about everything Naples has to offer in the gastronomical department. We soon realised that Napolitans can and will deep fry just about everything. After days of touring the city sights, eating deep fried pasta, deep fried pizza and deep fried gelato (just kidding… or are we?) we thought it was high time to get in the kitchen and try to master this original favourite, under the careful instruction of our adopted Italian Mama no less!
Ida’s mother Rita offered to teach us ‘the original and the best’ pizza dough recipe, and after extensive testing later that night we can assure you it’s the real deal. This is the base for many an Italian delight; so master this and you are well on your way to scrumptious gastronomical journeys ahead.
Like anything truly worth doing, this recipe takes time. Almost 9 hours in fact, but the only difficult thing about it is mastering the art of patience until it was time to cook. The ‘hard work’ literally takes only five minutes. The rest is simply to wait for for the dough to rise and the magic to happen (so why not eat gelato in the meantime?).
About five or six hours after the dough was made, we jumped back in the kitchen with Rita. Here we simply divided the dough into our ideal portions, in this case we wanted three large pizza bases while the rest could be smaller bases for other uses. We rolled out the large bases using a rolling pin, slapped and stretched them onto hand-oiled aluminium cooking trays and placed them into the cold oven to rest for two more hours until it was time to start cooking.
We just want to point out that aluminium trays are absolutely awesome for cooking pizza. Not only are they lightweight (always a bonus when juggling trays in the kitchen!), but they’re also super thin and transfer heat perfectly for crispy and delicious crusts.
So now that we have our base, what tasty morsels are we able to create with it?
Homestyle Oven Pizza
With a hungry horde to feed we decided to make three large pizzas with some simple yet tasty toppings. The first base was dedicated to Margherita. After all, when in Napoli, right? Who could have thought that just the essentials of crushed tomatoes, aged parmigiano (aka parmesan cheese) and our favourite mozzarella could be so delicious.
Pizza number two we covered in grated zucchini and roughly chopped prosciutto. With a sprinkling of salt, really good extra virgin olive oil and of course the requisite parmigiano and mozzarella it was absolutely divine.
Layers of thinly sliced potato and fresh rosemary covered the third pizza, which, when combined with more salt, oil and cheese, became so tasty it was hard to believe it was mainly potato.
So what was our favourite we hear you ask? Well according to one half of the Wandercooks the undisputed winner was the zucchini and prosciutto. The other hands down voted for the Margherita. What about you? What’s your favourite pizza topping? Would you go for one of these or try your own unique creation? What about a Vietnamese Pizza?
Pizza Frite aka Deep Fried Pizza. Yep.
Now of course it wouldn’t be a true Napolitan meal without something deep fried. So into a frying pan we heated a decent amount of sunflower oil to a high heat. Our smaller pizza dough portions were flattened out into rough circles then popped one at a time into the hot oil and rotated until they were golden brown and super crispy.
Topped with Napoli sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf they were little pictures of perfection. How we stopped at just one is a marvel. How we even walked later that night after all this pizza goodness is even more so!
Napoli you’re incredible! Don’t ever change.
Here’s some other recipes that complement perfectly with pizza dough:
For the Dough
For the Toppings - we used the following as 'standard' topping ingredients on each of our pizzas.
- good sprinkling of salt
- dash of extra virgin olive oil
- sprinkling of parmesan cheese
- small chunks of mozzarella
- crushed peeled tomatoes Place onto pizza using your fingers
- 2 grated zucchini
- 2 slices roughly chopped prosciutto or bacon
Potato & Rosemary Pizza
- 3 thinly sliced potatoes
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
To prepare the dough
- Place flour into a large mixing bowl, making a well in the centre.
- Add the salt, yeast, oil and water into the centre of the well.
- Use your hands to mix the flour in large circles, using your thumbs to press in – Amalgamare.
- If the dough mixture is too sticky, add more flour to the outside of the dough. You can also do this to help remove sticky dough from your fingers.
- Continue to knead until you have created a pillow of dough in the centre of the bowl.
- Lift the dough and add flour underneath to prevent the dough from sticking while resting.
- Score an ‘X’ shape on the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 6.5 to 7 hours.
- After the dough has rested, divide into the number of portions you desire. For example, you could make three large pizza bases and five to 10 smaller bases with this amount of dough. Start by spreading plenty of flour onto your rolling surface and rolling pin. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place on the surface, forming a roughly rectangular shape, then cut into your desired portions.
- Roll the dough portions out into circular bases, using your fingers if needed to stretch out into shape. Don’t worry if the dough is quite thin at this stage, it will continue to rise until it’s time to cook.
- Oil each pizza tray (aluminium trays work best for a crispy base), place the dough on the trays and push out to the rim to cover the pan. Be sure to press gently at this stage so as not to push out too much air.
- Cover and allow to rest again for around 2 hours.
For the Montanara Sauce
- Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until fragrant.
For the Large Pizzas
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
- Prepare your pizza toppings. For example, start with a layer of crushed tomatoes for Margherita, or a layer of zucchini or thinly sliced potato. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt. Don’t add the cheese now, we’ll add it in a later step.
- Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or so until first topping layer has cooked through nicely.
- Take out of the oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and small chunks of mozzarella.
- Place back in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the cheese has melted and the base has become nice and crispy.
For the Fried Pizza aka Pizza Frite
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan until very hot.
- Press out the dough portions into small flat circles.
- Carefully place the dough in the hot oil and cook until golden brown, rotating frequently to cook both sides evenly.
- Top with hot montanara sauce, parmesan cheese, chunks of mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf.