I wish I had a photo of the pizza we ordered at a little osteria while visiting a small Italian city along the Italian Riviera, but it was so delicious that we gobbled it down before I even thought about a photo op. (Perfect Italian-Style Pizza Dough Recipe can be found at the bottom of the article).
Authentic Italian-Style Pizza:
The Italian town, Ventimiglia, was an amazing and relaxing place for a leisurely lunch sitting outside under an umbrella. The street views and relaxed pace of Italy added to the overall experience of our food memory and left me with the thought: How did they make that pizza dough?
After our lunch, we visited this Italian boarder towns huge street market; hosted each Friday and I found myself collecting the ingredients I needed to recreate the lunch in our Italian kitchen.
That pizza dough! I was in love and now focused on my need to recreate it because honestly it ruined all other pizza for me and I knew it the moment I took my first bite. I became temporarily blinded to the stunning beauty of the area and could see only pizza.
I knew I would return to the Untied States a tad bitter about the American pizza choices.
The Italian Rivera pizza, which is very different than American pizza, was personal size, the dough was thin and crunch yet had a chewy bite and topped simply with several small dollops of sauce, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and we ordered the addition of the Italian version of pepperoni; essentially picante salami as I found out on my journey through the open-air street market.
My brain is redirecting to a side jaunt of the Italian buffalo mozzarella because for years I pictured buffalo mozzarella being made from the milk of the giant buffalo like the ones we’ve visited in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, USA, and it was only after watching a show about “fromage” on the headrest screen of our Air France in-flight entertainment selection that I discovered that the buffalo in the hills around the Italian Mediterranean are in fact, just a particular breed of furry, water buffalo that live a bit more like mountain goats than your average American cow. These European water buffalo are so unlike their American namesake that charge and snort in fury and they would actually be more visually understood if you saw them standing in a field in China.
I must admit that when I see buffalo burgers on any U.S. restaurant menu I think to myself, “What is the fascination with this overly dry meat? Pass.” And, I always entered the decision-making-process of fresh buffalo mozzarella over a fresh ball of the regular American stuff with this same bias until having tried buffalo mozzarella on the pizza in Italy. Wow! Wow! I’ve lost so many years…
There’s no comparison.
Click over and read an article I came across following one mans quest to find buffalo mozzarella in the United States. Hilarious! It’s harder to find than you’d think!
If you have an Italian market near you that has the option of buffalo mozzarella… buy it for your pizza! It most likely won’t be Italy on your plate, but it’s far better than anything else you’ll find in the States and when mixed with my perfect, seriously, my perfect, southern Italian-style pizza dough recipe you’ll find yourself there.
My second thought on the topic of wrong perceptions is that all tomatoes are tomatoes.
Nope! The difference between a tomato found along the French or Italian Rivera taste completely different than tomatoes I’ve found anywhere in the United States or the UK. What’s the difference? Sweetness and lack of acidity in the southern European varieties and its growing environment, not the variety, is what makes all the difference: The dance of the Mediterranean air seasons the tomatoes perfectly!
At my local Italian market here in the Twin Cities I searched through the imported canned tomatoes and found most of them were Italian variety tomatoes grown in California. That doesn’t cut it… keep looking. I finally found a can of imported, Italian tomatoes to use in my sauce.
Thank you Cossettas for the selection of both tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella along with a pizza flour that was perfect for my pursuit of the perfect Italian homemade pizza. Did I mention they also had picante salami? So good!
Back to the pizza crust. I watched many videos and read endless recipes trying to discover what the secret was to making the perfect southern Italian-style pizza crust. If you’re a fan of Chicago deep-dish, or bread-dominate pan pizzas than this is not your pizza crusade and you will not be happy with this perfect, simple and easy pizza dough recipe that I have created.
If you’re looking for an easy at-home recipe that holds the secrets of the perfect Italian-style pizza dough that is both crispy and chewy then follow my lead because you will be in awe once you taste it! My son has crowned me “la regina della pizza.” That’s “The Pizza Queen” for those like myself who don’t speak Italian.
This recipe has so very few and such simple ingredients, but the process has to be performed correctly. It’s like a dance to get these ingredients to do a Tarantella; an easy dance to follow with direction.
My added recommendations: Use TIPO “00” flour, use Mediterranean Sea salt, if you can find it (Walmart has it in their standard grinder) and room temperature water is actually warm over in southern Italy as climate control is a hand fan.
Southern Italy does not offer the perfect indoor environment found in many American households, so when you add room temperature water you should get it from the faucet running a bit warm; not hot!
The first step. Get two mixing bowls. Measure out your flour into the first bowl. Warm up your water to “southern Italian room temperature water” and pour it into your second bowl.
Take a 1/3 cup of your flour and dump it over the water and with your finger make a hole which will serve as a well to dump in your yeast. That’s the next step: Pour the yeast in the hole and with your finger stir it around. It will look like a watered, gluten mixture. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes and you will see it begin to look similar to a pancake when it’s ready to flip; several bubbles in the surface.
Then mix your salt into the remainder of the dry flour and dump the dry flour into the yeasted flour-slurry. Get a wooden spoon, or any utensil you prefer, and stir it around. It will pull from the bowl quickly into a ball. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and begin to fold and turn the dough, adding flour as needed to remove the stickiness. Knead for several minutes.
You’ll start to see the pizza dough forming into a soft and elastic dough.
Stop kneading and oil your clean bowl with a few teaspoons of olive oil and a drop for the top of your dough to keep the plastic wrap from sticking. Place your pizza dough ball in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap then cover with a towel and let it sit for a couple hours.
I did find many Italian pizza dough recipes placed the dough in the refrigerator to rest overnight. I didn’t have that time, so I tried it on a shorter rise and found it yielded a perfect crust. I also placed a portion in the fridge to try the next day and can offer that it turned out the same. The extra time made zero difference.
After two hours, I rolled out the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it further. I noticed it had lots of air bubbles; so many in fact, that it reminded of popping those plastic packaging blisters. I then set it aside with the plastic wrap and towel cover while I prepped my toppings and set the oven to heat to 450 degrees.
I made a pizza sauce while waiting for the dough to sit using the imported tomatoes. Yum. The pizza sauce was also a very simple creation to mimic the sauce we had in Italy.
Once the dough was ready, I tore off a small ball sized piece of dough (about the size of one of those blue racket balls; larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball).
I pushed the dough out into a circle of sorts onto a lightly-floured pizza pan. I used some extra virgin olive oil on the top to help get the dough, which is very elastic, to hold its shape. I used maybe a 1/4 tsp of the extra virgin olive oil to do this and then put the dough into the oven to prebake for 3 minutes.
The dough had begun to blister and to brown and this helped it to hold its shape nicely for the toppings. Note: I use a convection oven that shortens my cooking time due to the fan. You may need to add one to two additional minutes to your cooking times depending on the oven.
I topped the pizza traditionally with scattered sauce (not covering the dough entirely as you see in the States) and placed several little circles of the buffalo mozzarella very lightly, as they don’t use much cheese on Italian pizzas. I also added some fresh basil and the picante salami, otherwise known as pepperoni to the top and then slid the dough onto the oven rack to cook until the toppings melted and the dough finished cooking (between 3-5 minutes). *This dough would easily stand up to being placed directly on a grill to add a fire-grilled, traditional Italian taste from charring the dough. Simply place the dough directly on the grill grate after the first crust which could be done in the oven, or on a grill-safe pan.
Your cooking time will vary depending on the volume of sauce and toppings you select. Traditionally in Italy they always place one black olive, with a pit, in the center of the pizza.
Pull the pizza from the oven and enjoy!
Depending on the size of your oven you can do two pizzas at a time; cooking side-by-side. I wouldn’t recommend using both oven racks because it will limit the crispness of the upper racks pizza dough.
In Italy they served the pizzas as a personal pizza on a small pizza pan and they offered a selection of extra virgin olive oil with fresh garlic or olive oil mixed with red pepper flakes to drizzle on top.
I’d recommend making both. Recipe
Enjoy the pizza party that will happen with this pizza; even if it’s just you because you will find yourself, smiling, dancing and having a pure-joy pizza moment.
This is THE pizza dough; easy, delicious… utterly amazing! This recipe will be your new standard for homemade pizza dough.
Perfect Italian-style Pizza Dough Recipe
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- 1 1/4 cup room temperature water (read notes above about warm water
- 1 tsp salt (use Mediterranean Sea Salt if possible)
- 2 1/4 cup flour (use TIPO “00” milled flour)
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for bowl and to press out dough)
- 1/4 cup extra flour for rolling surface and kneading
Top off your pizza the Italian way with a flavor drizzle. Click for my recipe.