(Close to Perfect) Neapolitan Pizza at Home

I may have mentioned in the past, my need for perfectionism. Especially when it comes to most things food-related. Who am I kidding? More like ALL things food related.
So it has caused me some stress that up until yesterday, I have never really been able to replicate Neapolitan pizza at home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have never made good homemade pizza, it just never turns out quite the way I hope. The fact that I don’t have a 900 degree forno oven is probably the root of my problem, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
Neapolitan pizza
Legit Neapolitan pizza in Naples.
After some pretty extensive research on sites such as Serious Eats where a guy named Kenji has dedicated a  “serious” amount of time to experimenting and perfecting the homemade pizza, I came up with 2 methods to bring the delicious pizza of Napoli into your very own home!
The key here is heat. Your oven needs to be so piping hot that you think anything that goes in it will immediately burn. Thing is, it won’t. It will however end up with the perfect char on the bottom and around the edges. We’re talking a combo on 550F (or however high your oven will go) and the broil setting.
Neapolitan pizza
Without Papers Shroom Pizza
Neapolitan pizza
Cibo Funghi Pizza
Method 1 – Oven only
Make the dough as described below and proceed to shape it – but refrain from topping! We are going to give the dough a head start so it can fully cook. I was slightly paranoid that putting the toppings on from the beginning would perhaps burn the veggies and cheese to a crisp before the dough itself was cooked through (although I might take a risk and try this next time).
Put the pizza dough on a parchment lined sheet tray or pizza stone or whatever you have and whack it in the oven. Broil it for say, 2-3 minutes until it gets charred but not too crispy. Really the main thing is to keep your eyes on it because everyone’s oven is different. The main point is that you want to start browning the dough but not crisp it too much because you still need to cook it further with the toppings.
Remove it from the oven, top it with delightful things like perhaps some sauteed mushrooms, blue cheese and basil and put it back in at 500-550F for 5 minutes tops. The benefits of this method is that you get relatively even browning and cooking although the crust could have had a bit more chew to it.
Neapolitan pizza at home
Neapolitan pizza at home
Method 2 – Pan and oven combo
Shape but don’t top the dough, same as method 1. This is where things start to sound a tad strange. Take out the biggest non-stick frying pan you have and get it heating over high heat – but upside down. You heard me, the concavity of the pan will allow the dough to stretch over it, preventing it from shrinking up. Once it’s almost smoking, cook the prepared dough, about a minute per side. There should be nice, splotchy charred bits, similar to naan bread.
Put the par-cooked dough on the baking vessel of your choice and top it. Bake at a combo of broil/550F for about 5 minutes. Voila! I liked that this method kept more of a doughiness in the crust, although you could argue that aesthetically, it wasn’t quite as pretty.
The verdict? Either of these methods are about as close as you are going to come to making Neapolitan pizza in the comforts of your own home. Yep, they’re definitely a bit more work than topping some dough and popping it in the oven but the outcome is pretty darn impressive!
Neapolitan pizza at home
Neapolitan pizza at home

Neapolitan Style Pizza Dough
From Serious Eats

4 cups bread flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
4 tsp. salt
13 ounces (just over 1 1/2 cups) water

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the dough hook attachment. Knead on low until the dough comes together. Then turn it up to medium and let it go for about 7-10 minutes until a smooth, elasticy dough develops.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and allow to rise. I made the dough first thing in the morning and let it proof all day, punching it down as needed so it didn’t overflow out of the bowl. You can also make it a few days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.

About 20-30 minutes before you are ready to make your pizza, portion the dough into balls (2-4 depending on how big you want your pizzas). Allow them to rest before forming your pizzas.

When you go to stretch them out, be liberal with the flour, the dough is super sticky! Proceed with baking, using one of the 2 methods described above.

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