Is there such a thing as a single Italian pizza recipe that’s better than all the rest? And if so, what is it? In my opinion, no. At least not in a universal sense. The fact is that there are many types of Italian recipes for pizza and they all range in flavor, style, and technique.
Don’t worry though, we still got you covered. In this post I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to discover your favorite Italian pizza and how to make it right at home!
What is an Italian Pizza Recipe
The reality is that we all have our personal preferences. Ask 10 different Italians what an Italian pizza recipe is and I promise you’ll get 10 different very passionate answers. Some Italians like their pizza thin, others like brick oven pizzas, and yet others prefer thick pizzas like my Sicilian husband.
Different regions are known for different styles of pizza.
For example, Naples is known for their Neapolitan pizza. Sicily however is known for pizzas with thick crusts topped with red sauce. And in Northern Italy you’ll find more white pizzas along with fold over pizzas, such as scacciata.
So let’s figure out how to make a real pizza recipe that’s still Italian and yet is exactly the kind you like!
So what makes an Italian pizza, well… it’s really about the dough, ingredients, and methods you like best.
When I was in Italy, they had lots of various types of pizzas. But the common denominator was that they were all fresh and used simple ingredients. I never saw a Chicago-style pizza, and I never saw a pizza that was loaded with greasy oil and lots of different meats like we often see today.
No, not in Italy. Maybe in the U.S. but certainly not in Italy.
Fresh and Simple Ingredients
The Italians are all about fresh when it comes to their pizza recipes. From anchovies to eggs (yes eggs), to salmon, cheese, and fresh herbs.
So if you want to know how to make an Italian pizza, start simple, because that’s the Italian way. Will most of us be able to make a truly certified authentic Neapolitan pizza, realistically… no. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get pretty close to it!
Here are some helpful tips that will help you create the best Italian pizza, the way you personally like it.
About Italian Pizza Dough
There are different types of Italian pizza dough used all across Italy. Some recipes use 00 flour for the pizza base and others use regular flour. But it’s not just about the type of flour used that determines flavor and texture; the method of cooking influences it too.
Specialty pizza flours
00 flour is generally used for a more stretchy crust for thin pizzas like the Neopolitan style pizza. This flour can be used in both your regular home oven or a brick fire oven. However to get the right charred result, you need to bake it at very high temperatures requiring a special pizza oven or pizza stone.
You can buy 00 flour online. Look for quality brands such as King Arthur flour.
Basic Italian pizza dough
But if you’re like me at all, sometimes you just want a basic pizza dough recipe, nothing fancy, no special types of flours to use, etc. Just simple and great tasting. Not every pizza needs to be cooked in a 900F brick oven!
Here’s my easy Italian pizza dough recipe that uses plain white all purpose flour and create a perfect ball of dough every time. I use this as my go-to dough for thin or thick pizzas. This is a must-have in your recipe box!
You can cook fresh pizza dough the following ways.
- In an oiled pizza pan. I use a stainless steel pizza pan with great results.
- On a pizza stone.
- In a pizza oven.
- On a grill. Yes, that’s right – you’ll see my images later in this post.
For an easy Italian pizza recipe, I recommend using my recipe with the regular flour. If you really want that Neopolitan version, use 00 flour but I don’t have lots of tips because you also really need special equipment for cooking it correctly.
Thick Pizza Crust Secrets
Yes, Italians like thick pizza crusts too. But thanks to my Italian mother-in-law who is the master at making thick crust pizzas, I finally learned the secret. Check out my post where I explain how to make a thick crust pizza, and it’s easy!
Nope, there’s a secret and I’m spilling the beans so you can know how to make it just like I do in my kitchen. The good news is you can still use my regular pizza dough recipe. In a nutshell, it’s simply a matter of letting it rise twice. But if you want more details check out my article.
Homemade Italian Pizza Recipes
When we think of an Italian pizza recipe, the first thing that comes to mind is a delicious homemade crust. If you use my dough recipe that I shared above, then you know that you can use the dough to make an easy Italian thick or thin pizza.
If you want a basic pizza like the one in the image above, go ahead and use my romano cheese pizza recipe that I learned from my Sicilian in-laws. It’s easy and can be served with or without toppings.
It is made with fresh dough, olive oil, garlic, and topped with sauce and Romano cheese. No other cheese is used, it’s a very simple recipe and the flavor is outstanding.
We make this recipe many times and it never lets us down. My recipe at the end of this post is based off of that recipe.
Italian Pizza Sauces
Most Italian pizzas use a standard tomato pizza sauce. But not all do. I explain this under the section about red and white pizzas. But to make your own pizza sauce is very easy.
The recipe should be simple and using something like spaghetti sauce as a substitute won’t cut it. That’s because of the primary herb used in a true pizza sauce is oregano and garlic and not much else except perhaps some black pepper.
I make my own homemade Italian pizza sauce recipe which not only tastes amazing, but is extremely economical. My recipe will produce more for less than what you’d buy at the store.
Choosing Pizza Toppings
What toppings are common on Italian pizzas? The list is endless. We tend to stereotype Italian pizzas based on popular pizza chains and it’s quite unfair to the Italian food enthusiast.
Here’s a list of options.
- Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini and basically anything that grows in a garden.
- Fresh cheese (the kind you find soaking in water).
- Fresh herbs such as basil leaves, arugula or fresh oregano. Using dried herbs is reserved for the sauce.
- Sliced meats such as salami, pepperoni, or prosciutto.
The big take away here is to keep it fresh and don’t overcomplicate the pizza.
Using Fresh Vegetables
Although fresh vegetables are ideal for toppings, life isn’t perfect, and neither is my kitchen. Having fresh vegetables on hand isn’t as common as I wish. So many times I need to use what I have in the freezer instead.
As an Italian I grew up walking in the garden in my bare feet collecting all sorts of fresh vegetables for our meals. Unfortunately that was then, and not now. But here are some easy Italian pizza recipes using both fresh or frozen vegetables that turn out amazing.
This isn’t a bad thing. For example, my ricotta and spinach pizza uses frozen spinach and it tastes amazing because we mix the spinach together with the ricotta.
Another vegetable that works well for an Italian pizza is frozen (and thawed) broccoli which I use in my broccoli pizza recipe. If you are using fresh broccoli, that works too. You just need to steam the broccoli before topping the pizza.
Italians also use eggplant on their pizzas. I have a great recipe for an eggplant pizza where the eggplant is sliced and baked with the pizza. There’s no need to broil the eggplant either, the high temperature and the cooking method I use takes care of that. It’s a very easy pizza recipe!
My Sicilian mother-in-law however likes to cook down the eggplant in a saucepan with herbs and tomatoes and then adds that to her pizza. It’s very good, but does take longer to prepare.
So you can see that there are many ways to make a delicious pizza with a wide range of vegetables and cooking methods.
Herbs for an Italian Pizza
PRO TIP: Whenever using fresh herbs that have oils in them, it’s important to not add them as a topping before you bake the pizza. Otherwise the oils will bake off and the flavor will not be noticeable.
For choosing which herbs to use on an Italian pizza, the most common is basil. You can use fresh whole basil leaves which are always placed on top of the pizza after baking. If using pesto from fresh basil, then you can add this as a topping before you bake the pizza or halfway through.
Want a naturally peppery flavor to you pizza – then an arugula pizza recipe is what you’re looking for. It goes great on a white pizza. This easy Italian pizza recipe uses roasted red pepper and ricotta and of course olive oil and garlic. The flavors blend perfectly.
Oregano is another herb associated with pizza. It’s considered the secret ingredient to a good pizza sauce, having gained popularity after WW2 solders returned from Italy with this culinary tip for their wives.
I rarely add it as a regular topping except for my ciabatta bread pizza where I like to top it liberally with this herb. Delicious!
White Pizza vs Red Pizza
A true Italian pizza can be either white or red. Both are completely legit and I make both types frequently in our house.
A white pizza means it doesn’t contain any tomato products, whether in the sauce or as a topping. If you’ve ever heard of a bianca pizza, it’s simply a white cheese pizza, since bianca in Italian means “white”.
White pizzas come in all various forms. My recipe for bianca pizza uses 4 different Italian cheeses. You can serve it with or without toppings and I give tips for making it either way.
A red pizza uses a red tomato sauce and in the US at least, this is what we often think of when we hear the term Italian pizza. By far this is the most common type of pizza. There’s no wrong or right on which toppings to add, but remember the Italian way is the simple way.
Start adding on pineapple chunks and roasted duck and it’s not really Italian anymore. Use ingredients that are grown in Italy – pineapple is not one of them!
Traditional Pizza Margherita
A margherita pizza is one of the more popular Italian pizza recipes, especially when dining out so it deserves mentioning. It is usually baked in a brick oven that reaches extremely high temperatures leaving the edges slightly charred.
If you don’t have one of these expensive ovens (I certainly don’t), then you can try making a margherita pizza on a grill – my favorite way! Here’s an image of one above using tomato slices, mozzarella and basil with my homemade dough.
As long as you have tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, plus of course the olive oil then you’ve got a margherita pizza.
Over the years we’ve taken liberty with ways to make it, such as using chopped tomatoes or sliced tomatoes instead of a traditional thin fresh tomato sauce. I think any are fine as long as they stick with the basics and only use those ingredients.
Remember that these pizzas are very thin, and not made with a thick crust.
Origin Fact or Fiction?
The origin of the margherita pizza is from the Naples region and is named after Queen Margherita in 1861 when Italy became a unified country. Actually, the truth is there are lots of story variations about the origins, so take it with a grain of salt. I recommend checking out this great article on the topic about the origins of margherita pizza.
In the end, the best Italian pizza recipe is the one you enjoy the most that adheres to the core basics of Italian pizza making. I’ve included an easy blueprint below for using my dough to make a delicious pizza. Let me know in the comments if you tried this recipe, and any changes you made to make it your own!
Making an Italian Pizza Recipe
- 1 homemade pizza dough
- 1 cup pizza sauce or to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese or to taste
- extra virgin olive oil used for drizzling on top and for greasing the pan
- 1 garlic clove
- Preheat oven to 350F. For thinner crusts, use 375F.
- Roll out the pizza dough to about 1/4" thick for a regular crust pizza. For a thinner pizza, roll it out even thinner.1 homemade pizza dough
- Oil a pizza pan liberally and place dough inside. If using a pizza stone, this is not required.
- Mince a garlic clove and mix with some of the olive oil and brush on the top of the dough.
- Top with pizza sauce by evenly spreading the sauce around leaving about 1/2 inch of the crust exposed.1 cup pizza sauce
- Add a layer of Italian cheese such as Romano or Parmesan or grated fresh mozzarella.1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
- Add your desired toppings.
- Drizzle with olive oil across the top of the pizza.extra virgin olive oil
- Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and toppings are ready.
- Add any fresh herbs immediately after taking the pizza out of the oven.
- For a crispier crust, you can cook the pizza right on the rack (rub bottom with a little bit of olive oil), pizza stone, or even on a grill. Place a pan on the rack underneath to catch any dripping olive oil.
- I have found cooking time always varies, especially with the number of toppings used, and the thickness of the dough. So adjust as needed!
- If using a lot of toppings, bake the pizza crust for about 5 minutes prior to placing any toppings on. I do this quite often, especially if I’m using juicy tomatoes as a topping.
- If making a white pizza, skip the step for the pizza sauce and use either ricotta or nothing and go straight to the cheese. I recommend rubbing the pizza with olive oil that’s been mixed with minced garlic.