Make the best Italian homemade pizza dough recipe - All you need is 5 simple ingredients for the best traditional thin and crispy Italian pizza!
This is a super easy version of the traditional Neapolitan pizza dough recipe, and believe me, it is absolutely incredible.
My dad was a pizzaiolo for more than 30 years, so I grew up eating lots of pizza. Over the years, I managed to learn all his secrets for the perfect pizza and enjoy every single bite of it.
I've made it endless times, and I can assure you this is the best homemade pizza dough I've ever made!
This recipe is perfect to make round Italian thin and crispy pizza at home.
You can make both thin crust or thick crust with this, and it makes about 5 regular pizzas or 6 slightly smaller ones.
It's also a great base for a calzone, breadsticks, or pizza bread rolls.
The traditional Neapolitan recipe calls for just 5 basic ingredients:
- extra virgin olive oil
Cold water or warm water?
Use any kind of plain water, but make sure is at the right temperature.
Both fresh yeast and active dry yeast should always be hydrated with lukewarm water (around 25 ℃, 77 ℉).
Using cold water is highly discouraged, and can cause the glutathione (gluten in the yeast) to leak out.
What is the best flour to use?
I've tried this recipe using both all-purpose flour and bread flour before, and it works either way with slightly different results.
One of the best pizza flour on the market is the Neapolitan Caputo Italian 00 flour, both the blue (pizzeria flour) and the red (chef's flour) label give amazing results.
King Arthur bread flour is also a great option.
If you can't find these specific brands, go for a medium-strong flour, which is basically bread flour. Opt for stone-ground organic flour whenever possible.
Choose a flour with a value preferably between W280 and W320 (usually sold in supermarkets simply as bread flour).
Strong flour contains more gluten than all-purpose flour, so it gives the dough more elasticity and allows it to rise with a good structure.
Should you add extra-virgin olive oil?
Traditionally, pizza made in a wood-fired oven doesn't necessarily call for olive oil as one of the dough ingredients.
But, extra-virgin olive oil is a superhero ingredient when baking it at home.
Adding a bit of extra-virgin olive oil into the dough helps facilitate the binding of proteins, allowing the formation of a more homogeneous elastic dough.
It will also give you a more fragrant crust, similar to the one you'll get in a typical Italian pizzeria.
Fresh yeast or dry active yeast
You can use either fresh active yeast or dry active yeast.
Fresh active yeast (or brewer's yeast) is usually sold in small cubes and it's easy to find in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets.
However, it doesn't keep well for long, and it lasts in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
So, I find it more convenient to stock up on active dry yeast, and buy fresh yeast only when I'm making pizza in the following days.
When using fresh yeast instead of dry yeast and vice-versa, the rule of thumb is dividing or multiplying by 3 (or to be more exact 3.29):
- from fresh yeast to dry – divide the amount by 3.29, eg. instead of 5 grams of fresh yeast use 1.5 grams of dry yeast.
- from dry yeast to fresh – multiply by 3, meaning 1.5 grams of dry yeast becomes 5 grams of fresh yeast.
Making authentic Italian pizza at home is a fairly easy process, that doesn't require any special ingredients.
The dough comes together in less than 10 minutes, then it's all a matter of resting time.
Let's start by proofing the yeast.
- Place lukewarm (do not use hot water!) water in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar on top, mix and let it rest for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is nice and bubbly.
- Then pour the mixture into the mixer, add olive oil and slowly incorporate the flour.
- The dough comes together after 5-6 minutes of mixing time.
It's ready when it's smooth, and doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.
- Work the ball with your hands on a clean flour-dusted surface until smooth and even.
- Transfer the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a damp kitchen towel.
- Allow it to rest in a warm place (about 24-27°C) for about 2-3 hours until it has doubled in size.
- After it has rested, divide the dough into 2-3 smaller pieces and form smooth and even balls.
- Then transfer into a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel.
- Allow the balls to rest and raise for an extra 3-4 hours.
After the resting time, your pizza base is ready to be baked!
Baking the pizza base
Once your dough is ready, it's time to bake your pizza base.
- Preheat your oven to 250C-280C. If you have the fan option, place the baking tray (or pizza stone) on the middle rack, otherwise, place the baking tray on the lowest rack.
- Spread each ball of dough with your hands to form a large circle, rather than using a rolling pin.
- For a classic pizza Margherita, spread just enough marinara sauce on top, leaving a border.
- Place it in the oven and cook it for about 3 minutes, then add sliced mozzarella (make sure to pat the slices dry with kitchen paper) and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven, scatter a few basil leaves on top and serve.
I like to add all sorts of veggies to mine, and one of my favourite combos is kale, mushrooms, mozzarella, and caramelized onions (pictured below). Truly delicious, give it a try!
Tips for the best pizza dough
After many years of making it at home, I can safely share all the tips you need to make the best pizza dough:
- Flour & water.
Pay particular attention to the type of flour you use, and to the water temperature. These two aspects are critically important to achieve a really perfect result.
- Add sifted flour.
Sifting the flour avoids the formation of lumps, and allows good oxygenation of the dough.
- Salt should be added as late as possible.
It's best to mix it with a little bit of the water you'll be incorporating into the dough.
- Stop kneading when the dough is compact and elastic, moist but not sticky.
If you lightly dip your finger into the dough and the hole bounces back slowly, then the dough is ready.
If you're using a mixer, stop mixing when the dough comes off completely from the bowl.
- Let the mixture rest until at least doubled in size.
Long fermentation allows the enzymes contained in the flour to trigger the chemical processes that transform the starch (carbohydrates) into simple sugars and the gluten (proteins) into simple amino acids.
These processes give the pizza base great digestibility, having performed part of the work that otherwise our stomach should have carried out.
- Do not mix your dough too much.
This may cause it to overheat and the glutinous mass to break, and at that point, the dough will no longer be usable.
- Invest in a good pizza stone.
For the best baking results, I recommend hands down investing in a good pizza stone.
All you have to do is preheat it for 30 minutes and is guaranteed to give a quick, evenly-baked delicious pizza in the comfort of your kitchen.
- Open the pizza by hand
The technical term that we use in Italy is "open the pizza", which means rolling out the dough into a flat disk by hand, rather than using a rolling pin. Basically, you stretch and widen the dough until forming a flat disk.
- Sprinkle the working surface with a little semolina
This is a very old trick to add some crunchiness to your base. You can swap the flour with a tiny bit of semolina and sprinkle it onto the working surface, then proceed to "open" the pizza. Semolina is kind of grainy, and it will add a lovely crunchy texture to the base.
- Form the base on baking paper or a pizza peel
Transfering the pizza base from the kitchen counter onto the baking tray can be tricky. To make things easier, "open" the pizza directly on a sheet of parchment paper, or even better, on a pizza peel. This will make the whole transferring bit a total breeze and 100% mess-free.
Overnight pizza dough
Lots of you have asked if it's possible to make the dough in advance. Absolutely yes, you can make the pizza dough the night before, let it rise overnight and use the next day.
Prepare the dough and transfer it into a lightly oiled bowl, and gently rub a little extra oil onto the surface of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise overnight in the fridge.
The next day, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes.
Divide the dough into 2-3 pizza balls, and let them rest on a lightly oiled tray covered with a damp kitchen towel.
Let the dough balls rest for 30 minutes, then stretch each ball into the pizza base, top with your favourite ingredients and bake.
Can I freeze the dough?
Helpful tools for homemade pizza
You can totally do the whole process by hand, however, there are a few kitchen tools that I recommend:
- Standard mixer: does a better job than me at kneading the dough and saves me a TON of energy.
- Dough scraper: helpful for cutting the dough into smaller pieces, but a sharp knife will do the trick too.
- Large baking tray: both for letting the small pizza balls rise and then bake them.
- Pizza stone: is not necessary by any means, but it helps distribute the heat better, and this means crispy pizza crust every single time.
- Pizza peel: this is basically a shovel-like tool used for transferring the pizza to and from the oven.
More traditional Italian recipes to try:
BEST Italian Homemade Pizza Dough
For The Dough:
- 500 ml lukewarm water
- 1/2 tsp dry active yeast (or fresh yeast 0.17 oz/ 5 gr) (1.5 gr)
- a pinch of sugar
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 900 gr medium-strong flour (aka bread flour)
For Pizza Margherita:
- 400 gr marinara sauce
- 300 gr fresh mozzarella balls sliced and pat dry with kitchen paper
- handful of basil leaves
- Place 450 ml of lukewarm (do not use hot water!) water in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar on top, mix and let it rest for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is nice and bubbly.
- In a separate small bowl mix the remaining 50 ml of water with the sea salt and set it aside.
- Pour the water + yeast mixture into the mixer, add the olive oil, and using your dough hook attachment, start mixing on a low speed, and slowly incorporate the sifted flour.
- Mix together all ingredients for about 5 minutes, adding the water+ salt mixture towards the end, and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still too sticky sprinkle in a little more flour, if it's too dry add a little more water.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean work surface sprinkled with flour and work it with your hands until smooth and even.
- Transfer the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place (about 24-27°C) and rest the dough for about 2-3 hours, until it has doubled in size. To check if the dough is ready, lightly dip your finger into the dough, if the hole bounces back slowly, then the dough is ready.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6-7oz (180-200gr) pieces with the help of a dough scraper or a sharp knife.
- Work each dough piece with your hands until forming a smooth and even ball, then transfer into a lightly oiled tray and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel.
- Allow the dough balls to rise for an extra 3 hours, and use within 6 hours.
How to bake the pizza base:
- Preheat your oven to 250°C-280°C. If you have the fan option, place the baking tray (or pizza stone) on the middle rack, otherwise, place the baking tray on the lowest rack.
- Stretch the pizza ball with your hands forming a large circle, and spread just enough marinara sauce on top, leaving a border for the pizza crust.
- Carefully slide the pizza onto the baking tray or pizza stone and place it in the oven. Bake the pizza for about 3 minutes. Add sliced mozzarella and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven, scatter a few basil leaves on top and serve.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post was originally published in June 2018 and updated with more helpful info and pictures.