Best Pizza Dough by a Master Baker

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana pizza dough recipe. It makes my all-time favorite pizza dough using a delayed-fermentation method.

Best Pizza Dough by a Master Baker

I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to learn how. Maybe I should rephrase that - I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to find the right teacher. For a long time I didn't really know where to look for guidance - I just knew I wanted pizza the way I'd enjoyed it in Rome and Naples. The key is good pizza dough.

Best Pizza Dough Ever: Watch the Video 

I was smart enough to know early on, if you have bad pizza dough, you're destined to have bad pizza. Figuring out the dough factor was not as easy as you might think. As I got going, my oven gobbled up the fruits of many deflated attempts - a little yeast here, a lot of yeast there, this flour, that flour, knead by hand, knead by mixer, high baking temps, lower baking temps, and on and on.

Crust Styles

Then I was given a hint. A gift, really. My friends and I would visit a favorite tiny pizza place in San Francisco quite often. We would go to eat, but also to try to absorb some of the good pizza karma flowing from their single-shelf, Baker's Pride oven. A lot of time was spent there, not because we wanted to know their secrets really - but primarily because the food was so good. Hours would pass as we chatted over thin-crusted pizzas with slightly puffy, blistered edges. It became the crust I would try to emulate at home.

Best Pizza Dough by a Master Baker

The Source

One day in the aforementioned pizza shop, I noticed a copy of Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice on a bookshelf near the prep area. It must have been recently published, and my curiosity was piqued. Sure enough, the book contained an interesting (and meticulous) description of how to make just the sort of pizza I was after. The dough Peter uses for his Napoletana pizza in this book is rooted in a delayed-fermentation method - different from the other techniques I'd tried up to that point. Game on.

Make Ahead Pizza Dough

If you like to wait until the last minute to make pizza dough, you are out of luck here. The key is the overnight fermentation. You end up with a golden, beautiful crust with the perfect amount of crunch and subtle yeasty undertones. If you try this recipe and like it, Peter also went on to write an entire book about the quest for the perfect pizza, fittingly titled, American Pie. It's a great reference for those of you who really want to geek out on pizza.

Close up of a slice of pizza.

Give Peter's dough a try, and if you are interested in baking world exceptional breads, be sure to spend time with his book

Topping Strategy

I'm going to leave you with the dough recipe. It's up to you to play around with the toppings. The best advice I can give you is to take it easy on that front - a little goes a long way. My favorite is a simple pizza margherita made with this tomato sauce, a few torn up bocconcini cow's milk mozzarella balls, and a few pinches of salt before placing the pizza in the oven. And, don't forget the magic touches. When the pizza is hot from the oven, give it a quick dusting of freshly grated Parmesan, a tiny drizzle of artisan-quality virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of basil cut into a chiffonade. Serve pronto!

Oven Temperature

As far as oven temperatures go - I have great results at 450F degrees WITH a pizza stone. Go buy a pizza stone immediately if you are serious about making great pizza at home. They are cheap and make a huge difference in your crust.

This is the stripped-down, adapted version of Peter's Napoletana pizza dough recipe. If you want all his great side notes, tips, and back-history on the recipe, please pick up the book.

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Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

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3.72 from 233 votes

Peter's recipe says the olive (or vegetable oil) is optional. I use it every time - always olive oil, not vegetable oil. I love the moisture and suppleness it adds to the dough, and it makes your hands soft too.

  • 4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
  • Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting
  1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.
  2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.
  3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)
  4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.
  5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
  6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective.
  7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other toppings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.
  8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.
  9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press) - reprinted with permission.

Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I LIVED on marinara pizzas when I was in Italy. I couldn't get enough of them. It's a good thing I did - because it is impossible to find the same thing in the states. Pizza dough scares me. My big thing right now is breads because they're a huge challenge. I guess I should pick up this book and try it out. It sounds like you're on the same page as me with taste!


very cool. I happened to take a pizza making class last night, given by George Di Pasquale of the Essential Bakery up here in Seattle, and one tip he gave was if you are going to add oil, at it as late as possible. Oil (or any fat) gets between the strands of gluten, and doesn't allow them to stretch and elongate (hence why fat is called "shortening"). It's harder to get the dough the perfect combination of crisp and chewy when you add the oil early. Another random note: he recommended never using bread flour - always organic all-purpose unbleached. And the pizzas we made turned out amazing!


This recipe reminds me of the Pizza Places in New York and watching at the windows of the guys tossing dough,to the aroma of it baking in those brick ovens yummy......... To those who try this you will enjoy.


I am curious about this recipe now. So far I had been using one from a Bread''s book or Wolfang Puck's, which was nice, but not the crispiness I like. It looks like the temperature of the water has a strong effect here, as well as chilling?

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Hey Heidi, Why do I need a pizza stone? What difference does it make? Excited to try the pizza dough! Need to unpack my new kitchen, first ...


Beautiful pizza, Heidi! Bellissima e deliziosa!

Thanks for this. I haven't made pizza in a long while and your post is inspiring me to give it a whirl this weekend. Perfect excuse to buy some cheese over at Cowgirl Creamery.


American Pie is a very good guide. I'm half way through it. All the recipes are tasty... His other books are worth it too!


I'm going to guess it's pizetta 211. ah, how i long to be in san francisco again. san franciscans are truly blessed with good food everywhere.


Yum. How gorgeous that looks. After years of smelling burning cornmeal, I've switched to dusting my peel with flour; works great. Here's a topping idea that won me 1st place in a local pizza contest: a little bit of purchased alfredo sauce, sliced mushrooms sauteed with fresh thyme, caramelized sliced onions, spinach sauteed with garlic and top off with some crispy cooked, crumbled bacon (cook the mushrooms in some of the bacon fat).... and mozarella of course...v p.s. B-4 it goes in the oven, I like to brush the rim of pizza dough with garlic-flavored olive oil and sprinkle with flakey salt.


It's neat to see Peter receiving praise. He's a teacher at my school, Johnson + Wales University, in Charlotte, NC. Though I'm not in the culinary dept., all of my friends that are constantly talk about how great of a teacher he is. Oddly enough though, he doesn't teach bread class. Bizarre huh?


Hi Heidi - you've given me an excellent reason to read Peter's book again, your pizza looks 'best ever' indeed!

Heidi, please share what this tiny pizza place in SF is that you're referring to! I'm racking my brain trying to figure out where you mean... options include Viccolo, Escape from NY, and Arizmendi, but none of them have the definite "it" factor. So, if you would be so kind as to share please, I'd love to hear what place sparked the inspiration for your great pizza oeuvre!


I'm just getting started with my pizza obsession after a weekend with friends who make truly spectacular pizza.... I can't wait to try this recipe. So thank you for posting! It looks fantastic.

For some reason, everyone says it's the water that makes the difference... I don't know. But for a thin crust in an electric oven (that will never get like a wood oven crust) just one rise is good. For a higher crust, punching the dough down and letting it rise again for an hour gives a thicker crust. An Italian housewife taught me (1) to put the oven at the max, whatever that is, and never open in the first five minutes (myth?). (2) To get a raised crust on the pizza you should leave it untopped around the edges, and that's where the raised crust will form (wherever there is no sauce). (3) Using a rolling pin compacts the dough and it will "contract" in the oven, rather it should be gently enlarged with the hands and finger tips (or spun around over your fists and thrown up in the air for fun if you can swing it! I can't!!!)... I've found with her advice, my pizzas always come out wonderfully...In Italy. In the U.S. I just can't seem to make them work!!!!! The son of a very successful baker in the DC area gave me Carol Field's The Italian Baker as a gift because his father learned to bake from her. It is a very good book for pizza, also (and her book Focaccia for focacce). I have had great success with her recipes. 3LC

I'm saving this recipe too. Sounds lovely. Besides who wouldn't want to eat a great pizza ?


You can't make pizza like in Italy without the flour. Italy have 2 type of flour Type "0" and type "00". When you are able to use "00" then you can make Pizza like Italians do!


I worked for a while in a nice Italian place - got to be very good at using the rolling pin to roll out dough. My wife still can't figure out how I do it and has stopped trying. I've also figured out that my pizza stone fits on my outdoor gas grill. I toss a chunk of mesquite on the side of the grill and turn out some of the best pizza I've ever produced. The best part is that during the summer, I can make pizza without heating the entire house.


I'm a big fan of this recipe already! His recipe and your version both say that it can be left in the fridge for up to three days, but I find that I actually like it best if it's been in cold fermentation that long. Overnight is great, but that's become my "quick" version. (sad, isn't it? :) Two or three days in the fridge in the same way you say to prep them for the freezer, and this is EVEN MORE heavenly. I've never made it without the oil either, and I don't think I'll bother trying! And last, I had to give up on peels and flour/cornmeal. I have good luck with parchment paper, and I just have to make sure there's not a lot of extra paper around the pizza so it doesn't catch on fire. (I guess it's all the same problem with fiery things. :)


How about whole wheat? Have you tried substituting whole wheat flour for some of the flour? I guess you couldn't get it quite as light and crispy that way, which is a shame.


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