Pizza seems like one of those things that you just can’t recreate at home. And in some ways there is some truth to that: real wood- or coal-fired pizza ovens regularly top 700°F, a temperature far exceeding the paltry 450°F that most home ovens top out at. Higher heat means that the dough can cook quickly before the cheese burns and toppings overcook, a flash of broiling heat to puff up the crust, melt that cheese, and lightly singe a basil leaf or two.
But just because it takes a special oven to reproduce those truly authentic Neapolitan flavors, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fantastic experience making pizza at home. And just as the styles of pizza have evolved over the years, so also has its accessibility—we’re going to include some very unusual recipes in this article.
The differences between pizza styles
As a food enjoyed around the world, pizza appears in many styles. We’re going to be focusing on the most popular ones in the United States. Today, there are three main types of pizza served in the US: traditional Neapolitan, New York style, and Chicago style.
New York style is the kind popularized on TV and in movies: the pizza is huge, probably a couple feet in diameter. It’s thickly covered in cheese and usually has pepperoni as well, and it’s served with a parmesan shaker and a chili flake shaker so that diners can customize it to their fit. The American classic.
The second type is Chicago deep-dish pizza. Often derided by New Yorkers as a casserole, this massive slab of meat, cheese, and bread is surely an impressive sight to behold. Though the ingredients are largely similar, the sheer scale of the thing makes it worth experiencing—if you can lift it off your plate.
The third kind is the original: Neapolitan. The classic is the Margherita: named after a queen of Italy, it’s an exercise in Italian minimalism. Cheese, tomatoes, bread, a leaf of basil. The colors of the Italian flag. The country’s most classic ingredients. Nothing more, nothing less. But there’s elegance in simplicity, and today, Neapolitan pies are considered the most haute cuisine of all pizzas.
Making pizza at home
Now that we’ve primed you on pizza styles, it’s time to make your own. And that starts with the dough. We have a simple homemade pizza dough recipe that will blow your socks off every time. The key to this recipe is allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator. This is known as a slow rise—the long time spent at low temperature slows down the growth of the yeast, allowing it to develop much more complex and interesting flavors over the course of its rise.
After you’ve made your dough and let it mature during its slow rise, divide it into pizza sized portions and go to town—it’s time for toppings!
Dressing your pizza
If you’ve never made a pizza before, it can be tempting to really pile it on. But as a seasoned pizzaiolo (that’s Italian for someone who makes pizza), I can tell you that the old adage holds true here: less is definitely more. Go easy on the toppings at first. Stack your pizza too high, and you’ll end up with a soggy mess: many toppings release water or oil as they cook, and too many toppings will swamp your pizza, turning the center of it into a cheesy, soggy, watery mess on top of dough that is barely cooked! What’s worse, this soupy patch at the center will rip and tear as you attempt to remove your pizza from the oven, making a huge mess. Dinner will surely be ruined.
A good rule of thumb with toppings is that you should always be able to see the layers beneath. Even if you’re being especially generous with cheese, you should be able to see some sauce underneath it. When you add your toppings, make sure you can still see the cheese beneath them. Say it with me: less is more.
With that crucial lesson imparted, we can move onto some true pizza recipe inspiration.
Vegetarian pizza variations
Though American pizzas typically include a lot of meat, traditional Italian recipes typically make light use of the ingredient. We find that it’s perfectly possible to have a great pizza entirely without meat. One of our favorite recipes is a beautiful mixed vegetable pizza, with salty black olives providing a counterpoint to the richness of the mozzarella cheese.
Vegan and gluten-free pizza
What’s that? Don’t eat cheese? Can’t eat gluten? Do not despair: we have a recipe for you. With our delicious vegan, gluten-free pizza recipe, you and your most sensitive friends can finally enjoy pizza together. Because when you get right down to the base of it, that’s what pizza is all about: bringing people together.