Making Neapolitan pizza is a labor of love, and while there’s no getting around the time commitment, once mastered it’s a delicious skill you’ll have forever. You’ll need some special equipment to make this recipe, like a pizza steel and peel, so make sure you’re prepared before getting started. A pizza steel is like a pizza stone but made out of steel. If you don’t have one, you can use any piece of steel, as long as it’s at least ¼ inch thick. An upside down cast-iron grill pan also works if it sits flat in the oven. The sauce freezes well if you want to make a big batch to speed up the process for the future.
- Combine water, yeast, and olive oil in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer, add the liquid first, then whisk in the salt.
- Add all of the flour and mix with the hook attachment on the slowest speed until the flour and water have combined. Continue kneading for 10 minutes (if your mixer struggles with the dough, dump it onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes until smooth).
- Form into a tight ball and let rest at room temperature in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let the dough double in size 3 times, punching and folding into a ball again each time. The proofing will happen at different speeds based on temperature and how active the yeast is. The dough is ready after the third punch down when you touch it and it doesn’t bounce back.
- Portion the dough into 6 equal rounds and keep in a covered box at room temperature until they’ve doubled in size. At this point your pizza is ready to cook. You can keep the dough portions in the fridge for up to 4 hours.
- On low heat, simmer olive oil, garlic, and bay leaf until garlic is soft. Do not brown the garlic.
- Add tomato, rinse out can with ¼ cup of water, and add to the sauce.
- Add the oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes. If it reduces too much, you can always add a little more water.
- Preheat oven to 500°F with a pizza steel on an oven rack approximately 4 inches below the broiler. When ready to cook your pizzas, turn on the broiler.
- Coat the dough ball completely with flour, then stretch on a lightly floured pizza peel, being careful not to press down on the outermost crust edge until the dough is aproximantly 12 inches in diameter. Start by gently pressing the dough from the center out until you’ve depressed all but the outermost edge. Then, using the back of your hands balled as loose fists, gently stretch the dough. This should all be done with plenty of flour so it doesn’t stick. If there are any holes, discard the dough and start over with a new one. Any sauce leaking through will ruin Christmas. Once the dough is the desired size, drape the dough on one arm and, using your free hand, gently tap the pizza peel to remove any excess flour. Then lay the dough on the peel and stretch to form the correct shape.
- Moving quickly, ladle your sauce and arrange your cheese and toppings. Less is more here: Too much weight and your pie won’t slide from the peel. Drizzle with olive oil and add a few basil leaves, then slide the pizza onto the steel and cook until the bottom is crispy and the crust is beginning to blister, about 3 minutes. Pull and let cool. Pizza time!
Daniel Holzman started his culinary career at the age of 15 working for Le Bernardin. He attended the Culinary Institute of America with a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation then embarked on a 15 year culinary journey through some of the country’s finest kitchens including Palladin, Napa, The Campton Place, Aqua, Jardiniere and SPQR where his food received 3½ stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2010 Daniel returned home to team up with his childhood best friend to open The Meatball Shop on New York City’s Lower East Side. Daniel’s culinary experience includes work with consumer packaged goods having launched multiple nationally distributed brands. Daniel is an avid traveler, writer, photographer, and teacher. He is the author of the bestselling Meatball Shop Cookbook, founder of Project Foodie, an online free culinary school and has appeared in countless broadcast segments, local and national publications, as a judge, competitor and the focus of reality television programming and authors a bi-weekly column for TASTE.