Neapolitan pizza dough is not the easiest dough to make. The most important thing you need is patience. And a little understanding about the ingredients and how to use them. With the explaination and all the detailed steps in this article you will certainly be able to make a great version of your own Neapolitan pizza.
The ‘True Neapolitan Pizza’
The inhabitants of Naples consider their city the birthplace of the pizza. Naples is also home to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). This association monitors the protection of the ‘True Neapolitan Pizza’ around the world.
Because not everything the world would call a pizza is a ‘Verace Neapolitan Pizza’ in the eyes of the Neapolitan people. Most of it would sooner be like sacrilege to them.
The association has set up rules a Neapolitan pizza should meet to be allowed to carry the ‘Verace’ predicate. These rules are extremely strict. For example, the association has determined which flour is suitable, which material and ingredients a pizza chef should work with, how hot the wood oven should be, and how many seconds the perfect pizza is allowed to spend in the oven.
Pizzaioli (pizza chefs) who are affiliated with the association must strictly comply with these rules, that are checked by the association. Only then can their pizzeria carry the AVPN quality mark.
The strict rules for Neapolitan pizza
The Neapolitan pizza rules are so strict that as a amateur pizza chef you would never be able to apply them the full 100%. Still I personally find it a beautiful thing that the Italians, and the Neapolitans in particular, take so much effort to preserve their pizza traditions. And think of it like this: if you use the recipe for pizza dough below, you are one step closer to reaching the ‘True Neapolitan Pizza’.
For hobby pizza bakers the Neopolitan pizza dough has many secrets to be learned
Below is the official recipe for Neopolitan pizza dough of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This recipe is first of all a literal translation of the instructions the Neapolitan pizzaioli must observe.
But i it is also good to keep in mind that experienced pizzaioli know what to do with fairly brief instructions. They understand the ‘white art’ of making pizza dough because this is what they grew up doing. The art is passed on from father to son for many generations in Naples.
For amateur pizza bakers the Neopolitan pizza dough has many secrets. To help you understand the recipe and method of dough making, there is plenty of additional information in this article to help you out. And if you have any questions left, please post them in the comments.
The official AVPN recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough
As a starting point, the Neapolitan recipe uses 1.7 to 1.8 kilos of high-quality 0 or 00 flour (for example of the Italian brands Caputo, Le 5 Stagioni or Molino Dallagiovanna, who have currently all been approved by AVPN).
With this amount of flour, you can create about 10 to 11 pizzas, depending on how big you make your dough balls. For a Neapolitan pizza, a ball of dough should weigh between 260 and 285 grams.
Ingredients Neapolitan pizza dough
- 1 litre of water
- 50-55 grams of fine sea salt
- 1 tot 3 grams of yeast
- 1.7 / 1.8 kilos of flour, type ’00’
A brief elaboration with the ingredients for Neapolitan pizza dough
Many pizza dough recipes start with the flour. The starting point for this recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough is one litre of water. The other ingredients and their quantities are balanced to that. If the water in your region is soft enough you can use tab water, which is perfect for pizza dough. However, if your local water is extremely calcareous it is better to use mineral water.
The amount of salt in the Neapolitan pizza dough might be a bit much for some tastes. But this use of salt has a bit of history to it. During summer it can be hot in Naples. In the past Neapolitan pizzeria’s were just to small to have big refridgerators. It is also part of the tradition to make Neapolitan pizza dough on room temperature. Salt helps slow down the yeast, and that comes in handy during hot summer days.
The Neapolitans prefer to use fresh brewer’s yeast. Because the dough has a long rising time (minimal 8 hours), you don’t need much yeast.
If you make this recipe with 1.7 kilos of flour, the hydration is 59%. Are you using 1.8 kilos of flour, then your hydration will be 56%. It’s really up to you. If you bake your pizza in a regular kitchen oven with a maximum temperature of around 300 degrees Celsius, the higher hydratation works best.
Always make sure to use a high-quality pizza flour. For Neapolitan pizza dough you preferably use a 0 or 00 flour with a value of W250-320. This is an average-strong flour. Also make sure your flour has 11,5% to 13,5% of protein. The flour you buy at your local supermarket is probably not strong enough. Your dough will collapse after a few hours.
The Secret To Perfect Pizza Dough
If you would like to learn more about making Neapolitan pizza dough using the right flour with the right W value, you might like our ebook ‘The Secret To Perfect Pizza Dough’. It is written by the Italian maestro pizza maker Giuseppe Anedda. In the ebook Anedda shares his many years experience with you. And also some secrets only the true like Anedda pizzaioli know.
Kneading Neopolitan pizza dough by hand
The classic way of making Neapolitan pizza dough is by mixing and kneading the ingredients by hand.
Let’s look at all the steps of this Neapolitan dough recipe:
- First dissolve the salt into the water.
- Use the flour to make a ‘volcano’ on your work top: a mountain with a large hole in the middle
- Poor the water mixture into the hole you’ve created.
- Use your fingertips to make slow circling movements through the water. While doing so you gradually take some flour from the edges of your flour mountain. This way the flour has the chance to absorb the water.
- Once you have mixed about 10% of the flour with the water, you add the yeast. If you were to let the yeast get into direct contact with the salt, then this would affect the working action of the yeast.
Continue to slowly mix the ingredients this way. Do this until all the flour has been absorbed. In the beginning you will have a wet and mushy mush. This will automatically become a more coherent dough mixture.
By the way, mixing the ingredients takes about 10 minutes.
Once everything has been mixed, you start kneading. Do this for at least 10 minutes and no longer than 15 minutes. Your dough is ready when there are no more lumps of flour visible. Your dough will feel like a beautiful, soft, elastic ball. With the stickiness of a post-it.
Kneading Neopolitan pizza dough with a (kitchen)machine
If you would like to make your pizza dough by means of a kitchen machine or kneading machine, then proceed as follows:
Pour 1 litre of water into the mixing bowl and add between 50 and 55 grams of salt. First, make sure the salt is well-dissolved into the water.
Subsequently add 170 grams of flour (10 % of the total) and the yeast. Turn on the machine and gradually – but continuously – add the rest of the flour.
Mixing these ingredients should take approximately 10 minutes.
Preferably you let the machine turn at a low speed (10-15 minutes) until the dough has become a beautiful ball. To reach the perfect consistency, it is important that the flour absorbs all the water.
The mixture should be sticky, soft and elastic to the touch. Don’t knead the dough too long. This will heat up your dough too much and this will harm the gluten network of your dough.
Letting your Neapolitan pizza dough rise
Once your pizza dough has been kneaded, you must let it rise. Neapolitan rules prescribe that the rising takes place in 2 steps.
After the kneading of the dough you first let it rest for two hours at room temperature (preferably at 25 degrees Celsius).
During the first rising, place the dough underneath a moist kitchen cloth (not soaking wet!) so the pizza dough doesn’t dry out. The moist cloth prevents a hard crust from arising on the dough due to evaporation of the fluids in the pizza dough.
AFTER TWO HOURS of rising you divide the pizza dough into smaller portions. For this you can use a dough scraper or a spatula. Subsequently you take these portions – each portion should weigh between 180 and 250 grams – and manually (staglio a mano) turn them into small balls (panetti).
Now these little balls should rise one more time. This time for 4 to 6 hours. Italian pizza chefs use special, shallow dough crates for this. If you don’t have these, then you can place the balls underneath a slightly moist cloth again at room temperature.
After the rising the dough balls are processed into pizzas. According to the Neapolitan rules you are only allowed to do this manually. Absolutely forbidden is the use of a rolling pin or a machine, which turn dough balls into flat bases.
Frequently asked questions about the Neapolitan pizza dough recipe
As said at the beginning of this post, the official Neapolitan recipe for pizza dough is not the easiest of dough recipes for the beginning pizza chef.
Let me line up a few frequently asked questions for you that readers sent us:
Is it true that you only use 3 grams of yeast on 1.7 kg of flour? And do you use fresh or dried yeast?
It is true that the Neapolitans don’t use much yeast. This is because the dough rises for a long time; at least 8 hours. In that case you only need a little bit of yeast. The Neapolitan recipe uses 1 to 3 grams of fresh brewer’s yeast. Whether you use 1 or 3 grams is kind of a technical story. 3 grams usually is a safe choice though. Would you really like to learn how to master all the details of the process? Then the ebook ‘The secret to perfect pizza dough‘ is highly recommendable. The ebook explains all technical details elaborately. Of course, you can also make pizza dough with dried yeast. In that case you do have to alter the proportions a bit. Use fresh yeast in a ratio of 3:1. So: 3 grams of fresh yeast = 1 gram of dried yeast.
Why isn’t the dough divided into balls until after the second rising? Can you divide the dough after the first rising?
The theory behind the first bulk rising is that the dough can first develop as a greater whole. This working method is a chosen starting point of the Neapolitan recipe. However, it is certainly possible to make the balls immediately after the kneading and subsequently let them rise. Many pizza chefs work this way. These are two different rising methods that both work.
I would like to make a dough that I let ripe in the cold store for 24 to 48 hours. I would like to use the Neapolitan recipe and then create a mixture of caputo 00 flour, criscito and manitoba flour. Which ratio should I apply for the flour mixture?
First let me say this: in the old days, pizzerias in Naples did not have cold stores. The dough was actually always made at room temperature. Thus, that is the most classic way of making dough. But because pizzerias want to offer the same quality every day, nowadays the dough is indeed often made by means of the cold technique (= in the cold store). The advantage is that you can let it ripen slowly, until up to 72 hours. For long rising times it is particularly important that you use a strong type of flour. Regular wheat flour from the supermarket is not suitable for these types of long rising times.
To answer your question: If your flour is strong enough, then you don’t have to mix. All the famous Italians flour brands offer flour types that are suitable for long rising times. Would you like to let your dough rest for 24 to 72 hours, then you can indeed mix the very strong manitoba with your pizza flour. Do make sure that your 00 of 0 pizza flour is still the main ingredient. In theory you could also make a pizza from 100% Manitoba, but officially your pizza will no longer be a Neapolitan pizza. Opinions about mixing flour (and in which proportions it is still officially Neapolitan) vary anyway. The amount of Manitoba that you add is entirely up to you as a pizza chef. But you could, for example, try 1 kg of 00 flour and 800 grams of manitoba.
You can buy Criscito, or mother yeast, in dried form. Use it together with the regular yeast in a ratio of 20 tot 50 grams per kilo of flour.
My dough is shrimping and doesn’t easily roll out (let alone by hand), what am I doing wrong?
There are two possible answers to this problem:
1.) Perhaps you over-processed / kneaded the dough too long.
2.) It could also be that you have used a strong type of flour and that you didn’t let your dough rise long enough. This also results in a tough dough that is difficult to process. In this case, next time let your dough rise at room temperature for at least 8 hours. Also check my blog about the 60 rule for the right temperature of your surroundings and ingredients.
Is it possible to freeze some left over dough balls?
Yes, if you have any dough balls left, you can easily freeze them for later use. Please note that freezing dough is not in compliance with the Neapolitan rules…but if that’s okay for you, please check our blogpost about freezing pizza dough.
Enjoy making your own Neapolitan pizza and please drop us a message or question below about making your own Neapolitan pizza.
Last update: November 2017.
Ciao, Stefan & Peter