guide to Neapolitan pizza

What Is Neapolitan Pizza? The Ultimate Guide

One of the world’s most famous foods, pizza comes in all sorts of styles. None is more legendary than Naples‘ Neapolitan pizza. With a rich history, incredible ingredients and rules for how to make it, this is no ordinary pie. Whether you’re new to this traditional style of pizza or are already shovelling a slice in your mouth as you read, this guide to Neapolitan pizza will tell you all you need to know.

From what makes a “real” Naples pizza to where it comes from and how to make it at home, consider this your ultimate pizza resource. Drooling yet? You will be the time you finish this article…

The Ultimate Guide to Neapolitan Pizza

What exactly is Neapolitan pizza?

Neapolitan pizza is a traditional style of pizza from Italy. It’s different to other pizza styles in Italy and is instantly recognisable. There’s no mistaking a true pizza from Naples!

It’s all about the quality of ingredients: the combination of fresh buffalo mozzarella, ripe, sun-kissed tomatoes and fresh bread results in one of the greatest gifts to our tastebuds. Only fresh buffalo mozzarella (or fior di latte) is used, Italy’s famous San Marzano tomatoes from the volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius and Tipo 00 flour.

guide to Neapolitan pizza

How does it differ from other Italian pizza styles?

Unlike Roman pizza, which has a thick, crunchy crust, Neapolitan pizza has a puffy crust. The pizza is round, unlike pizza al taglio, which you’ll also find in Rome and is a long metre of rectangle pizza. Other Italian pizza styles include sfincione, a Sicilian-style pizza has a thick crust with a fluffy, sponge-like consistency. It is baked in a rectangular shaped pan, topped with tomato sauce, anchovies, onions, oregano, and a hard sheep’s milk cheese. For the final touch, the pizza is covered in breadcrumbs which help absorb some of the oil from the ingredient.

For Neapolitan pizza, there’s a strict set of ‘rules’ for what makes this style of pizza authentic!

It has a very thin, light dough that puffs up for a thick, chewy crust. It has a signature ‘soupy’ middle, with lots of rich tomato sauce. Because of this, the pizzas are usually pretty small (about 10 to 12 inches), making them closer to the size of a personal pizza.

guide to Neapolitan pizza

Where does Neapolitan pizza originate?

The pizza was invented in Naples back in the 16th century when early explorers brought the tomato back to Europe from Peru. People didn’t quite know what to do with the tomato, but poorer people weren’t so fussy: they simply put it on top of their flatbreads. Thus, the mighty pizza was born!

The city of Naples itself is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, protected as the birthplace of what is considered one of the world’s most culturally important foods.

Neapolitan pizza is perhaps the best example of food in Campania – the simple combination of incredible fresh ingredients.

Official Certification of Neapolitan Pizza:

While the technique and tradition of Neapolitan pizza was traditionally passed down from father to son, there’s now an official cert. The True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza napoletana, AVPN) is a non-profit organization and was founded in June 1984 in Naples. Its mission is to promote and protect in Italy and worldwide the true Neapolitan pizza!

The dough must be prepared by hand or a low-speed mixer, then left to proof for 8 hours or more. The pizza has to be cooked in a woodfired oven at a temperature temperature between 430-480C°. When it’s cooked, to be a ‘real’ Neapolitan pizza, it must tick the following points:

1. The Neapolitan pizza is roundish, with a diameter max 35cm
2. The Neapolitan pizza presents a raised edge (the famous “cornicione”), swollen and free from burns, 1-2 cm
3. The Neapolitan pizza must be soft and and fragrant

Traditional toppings:

The true Neapolitan pizza must be garnished with ingredients that are preferably from the region of Campania.

  • The peeled tomato crushed by hand doesn’t have to look too dense but chunky.
  • In case of fresh tomato, it has to be chopped in slices.
    The buffalo mozzarella (chopped in slices) or the fior di latte (chopped into strips) have to be spread uniformly on the pizza.
    The grated cheese (if used) has to be spread on the pizza with a circular and uniform movement of the hand.
    The fresh basil leaves are only on the condiments.
    Pour the extra virgin olive oil with a spiral motion.

There’s less traditional versions of course, with all sorts of toppings. But what makes this pizza so perfect is its simplicity. With such amazing dough, tomatoes and charred crusts, it needs very little in the way of extra toppings.

Margherita Pizza:

  • Tomatoes
  • Sliced mozzarella
  • Basil
  • Extra virgin olive oil

guide to Neapolitan pizza

Marinara Pizza:

  • Tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Oregano
  • Garlic

Where to find the best Neapolitan pizza?

Well, obviously in Naples itself! We have the very best places for pizza in Naples here.

Around the world, we’ve also featured some incredibly authentic Neapolitan pizzerias in Europe, USA, and Asia. Some other guides on where to find the best pizzas include a Naples pizza guide by Nomad Epicureans.

What is the correct way to eat it?

If you’re wondering if Italians eat pizza with their hands and are curious exactly how to eat pizza in Italy, then this is the video for you! 2 Food Trippers, the ‘self-proclaimed Naples pizza experts’ have all the tips you needs for eating this pizza just like the locals do…

Recipes: How to make Neapolitan pizza at home

There are so many different takes on the classic Naples pizza that it would be wrong to say that one is definitively right. With that in mind, here are a selection of great recipes that have been created by true pizza lovers!

While you won’t get the same woodfired crust without a proper oven, you can give it your best shot…

1. Perfect Neapolitan Pizza Recipe

You can cook this recipe in a standard oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit along with a preheated pizza stone inside.

Recipe by Sonja And Alex

Guide to Neapolitan Pizza

2. Neapolitan Pizza Dough

With only four ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, and water), this pizza dough yields airy, perfect crusts that are a great starting point for making pizza at home. Use this recipe for a foolproof dough time and time again.

Recipe by Thursday Night Pizza.

Guide to Neapolitan Pizza

3. Perfect Neapolitan Pizza

It is important to get the oven and baking tray/baking stone as hot as possible before loading the pizza. In a home oven, a proper pizza can still take as little as 6 minutes.

Recipe by My Pizza Corner.

Videos of how to make Neapolitan pizza:

For an in-depth look at what the perfect pizza looks like – right at the source in Naples – this video is worth a watch. The passion and dedication to the art of pizza making is clear for all to see…

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Sarah Clayton-Lea
Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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