Author - by IFC Culinary Editor, Date:
Traditional Neapolitan pizza dough is practically perfect in every way
Much like the foundation of a house, the dough is the backbone of the perfect pizza. The perfect ingredients, the right process, and patience are required to make a pizza that is tender but chewy and oh-so-delicious. In fact, the art of the pizzaioli (Neapolitan pizza makers) is on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, so trust us when we say it’s all about the dough.
Soft, light, moist—Neapolitan pizza dough is practically perfect in every way
If you can’t get to a local pizzeria in Naples to try it from the source, you can still learn the Neapolitan way of the dough. Italian Food Company (IFC) offers imported Italian food bundles so you can create mouth-watering classic Italian meals at home. For Florida Keys locals fortunate enough to live within driving distance to the soon-to-open (January 2021) authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, the Italian Food Company restaurant in Key Largo will serve the authentic southern Italian fare including the classic Naples pizza made by their the favorite Italian import, their pizzaiolo, Leopoldo who is affectionately known as “Maestro.” If you are in the Florida Keys, you can indulge.
The perfect pizza dough is the result of quality ingredients, and you only need four:
- Flour – Authentic Italian pizza dough uses special flour—Type 0 or Type 00, or a combination of the two. Compared to all-purpose flour, Type 0 or 00 have less gluten, which creates absorbs less water and can ferment longer, which enhances the flavor.
- Yeast – Fresh Neapolitan yeast or fresh brewer’s yeast is required. These types of yeast have a distinctive flavor and low acidity, adding to the dough’s complexity.
- Water – Fresh, clean water is non-negotiable. Classic Neapolitan dough needs to have the correct water to flour ratio.
- Salt – Sea salt is the preferred salt for the best and most flavorful pizza dough.
An exercise in patience
Making the dough is a relatively short process. Analog pizza makers mix the dough ingredients in a traditional wooden box called a madia. Modern pizza makers often use a mixer, and the water temperature matters (~70F or cooler) whichever way you do it.
The traditional method is to knead the dough by hand until the dough is smooth, and then it’s time to wait. And wait some more.
Even in Naples, pizza makers debate over how long the dough needs to rest, also called the fermentation process. This fermentation needs to happen to give dough its strength and develop more flavor. As a general rule, the dough ferments for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.
To toss or not to toss? Or is it twirling...
Once the dough has had adequate time to ferment, it is time to roll and shape the dough. The pizzaiolo tradition is a lively one. Neighborhood pizzerias in Naples feature pantomime, song, dance, storytelling, and of course, dramatic dough-twirling.
Believe it or not, there is an important reason for the classic dough twirling tossing. This action helps the dough get more oxygen, which contributes to texture and flavor. If you are trying to recreate the authentic Neapolitan traditions, you may want to skip the dough twirling at home—unless you are mentally prepared for potential dough dropping accidents.
The other safer approach to dough shaping involves carefully stretching and pressing out the dough until the super-thin authentic Pizza Napoletana dough is no more than 3 millimeters thick…or thin actually!
Then we wait. Again. This second resting period can last up to three hours, and each traditional Neapolitan pizzeria has perfected their own process. As with the first fermentation, the second also helps develop flavor.
The ultimate Traditional Neapolitan Pizza
Traditional Neapolitan pizza is topped with sweet Italian San Marzano tomatoes and fresh, creamy Italian mozzarella; pizza Margherita, a variety of pizza Napoletana, is also topped with basil. At Italian pizzerias, the pizza is baked in a brick oven for a mere minute or two at 800-900F (home cooks can do it at a lower temperature for longer). When the pizza is removed from the oven, it is usually topped with high quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
From Italy with love - at home
Pizza dough is a labor of love, and an Italian Food Company Shop food bundle can help you bring the authentic Neapolitan experience to your table. Get the good wine, break out some authentic Italian ceramic dishware and savor the flavors of Italy. Can you taste the goodness?