With just a little effort, the home cook can really up their pizza game. Ten years ago, I moved to the suburbs and immediately realized all the pizza was mediocre at best and if I wanted to once again have pizza anywhere near as good as a place in the city (even a city like Boston with an Ok but not stellar pizza rep) I was going to have to make it myself.
Since then, I’ve tried many different flours, recipes, toppings, and dough. Top it with whatever you want, what will really elevate a pizza is a great dough.
Here’s my list of my favorite pizza types and pizza dough for any occasion.
First, do you really need to make your own dough?
No, of course not, but it a makes it a lot more fun and rewarding. And it usually tastes better. And it’s really not that hard.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own dough, you can almost always find frozen dough at the supermarket. Or a local pizza place will often sell you some dough to bake at home.
If you do decide to make your own dough, it doesn’t take a lot of ingredients or a lot of time to make, but you will benefit a lot from letting it ferment in the fridge for a few days. It will taste a whole lot better. So if you plan on having pizza Friday or Saturday night, you should try to remember to make the dough mid-week.
Everyday Friday Night Pizza
This is the pizza dough I’ll make most often. This NY-style dough is not fussy and it’s easy to work with. It is similar to the classic thin crust Neapolitan but has a little more heft and a little more chew than it’s cracker-like cousin. Using a food processor brings the dough together in 30 seconds flat and it only needs a solid 24 hour ferment before it’s ready to bake. This recipe makes enough for 3 pies.
Family-style, Feed a crowd Pizza
Sometimes called Grandma or Sicilian pies, if you’re throwing a party or having family over for Sunday night dinner, make a double recipe of this pan pizza and add a green salad and you have dinner covered. These square sheet pan pies can be made same day. It’s ready to eat within hours, no fridge ferment, and it doesn’t even require any rolling or stretching or messing up your counter. Everything takes place in the bowl of a stand mixer and an oiled sheet tray. Check out my recipe and routine here.
Cheesy & Indulgent Pizza
I’ve never been to Detroit, we actually first tasted Detroit-style pizza in Chicago, but I’m considering a trip just to taste this pizza where it was invented. Made correctly, it is definitely not every week or even every month pizza but it is really cheesy and really good. And, aside from the special pan, it’s really easy to make. Make it for special occasions and go for the corner pieces. This is my full prep and recipe for making Detroit pizza at home.
Wood Fired or Grilled Pizza
The grandaddy of dough. This is where pizza started. So simple, but so hard to get just right. Neapolitan pizza is made from nothing but flour, water, salt, and yeast. No oil, no sugar. The flour is generally a high-protein flour, often of the Italian “OO” type, which is ground extra fine, giving it a unique texture and the ability to absorb more water without becoming soupy. This is critical for cooking in a hot wood-fired oven or on a grill. It cooks fast.
With so few ingredients, the key to great Neapolitan pizza dough is a good long fermentation period (at least 72 hours in the fridge) during which time starches will break down into simpler sugars, yeast will create flavorful by-products, and gluten formation will occur, allowing you to stretch the dough out easily and making for a dramatic rise and good charring in the oven.
I’ve gone through a lot of pizza dough recipes since I started making most of my pizza at home but when I’m asked “what’s the best pizza recipe you know?” it’s still a tough question to answer. It really depends on your mood, how much time you have, and how many people you’re serving.
When I’m in the mood to fire up the grill or heat up the broiler, I might take my time and make a Neapolitan-style lean dough. If I want to relive my childhood without stepping out my apartment door, it’s a New York-style. Company coming over and I want to feed a crowd without messing up the kitchen? It’s Sicilian-style square pie all the way.
Any way you slice it, I’m making it at home and it’s worth the effort.