How to make restaurant-quality pizza at home

Pizza perfection

<p>V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock</p>

V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock

Takeaway and restaurant pizza can be pretty good, especially when cooked in a searingly hot, wood-fired oven. But there's something truly satisfying about making it yourself, and it's easier than you might think. Here's our guide to creating pizza perfection, with tips and tricks for the best dough, the all-important crisp base, and a huge choice of sauces and toppings. There are speedy pizzas, some that take a little more time, gluten-free and vegan options, yeast-free pizzas, and new twists on favourites.

The best flour to use



Strong Italian 00 flour, or pizza flour, is the best flour to give a crisp, light crust with lots of big, airy pockets. It's very finely ground and the Italians love it for pasta-making too. It's reasonably easy to find but failing that, use a strong bread flour instead or a 50-50 mixture of strong flour and plain flour. The result won't be exactly the same, but you'll still have a tasty pizza.

Making dough

<p>Luca Santilli/Shutterstock</p>

Luca Santilli/Shutterstock

Pizza dough consists of just four ingredients – flour, yeast, water and salt. It's by working and kneading the dough that the gluten protein in the flour expands and stretches, which will cause the dough to rise. You can knead by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. It usually takes around 10 minutes. Check it's kneaded sufficiently by pressing the dough with your finger – it should bounce back.

Allow the dough to rise



Leaving enough time for the dough to rise will give it a better structure and improve the flavour. Recipes will vary, but as a rough guide, allow four hours for it to rise, covered with a damp cloth or oiled clingfilm. You can also leave it for 24 hours in the fridge for a slow rise which will add even more flavour. Follow our recipe for perfect pizza dough. It calls for fresh yeast but just halve the quantity if using active dry yeast.

Get the recipe for pizza dough here

Rolling out the dough

<p>V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock</p>

V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock

Once the dough is ready to shape into pizzas, it will be stretchy and pliable, so you can pull it into shape with your hands. Otherwise, use a rolling pin to start with. It should be uniform in thickness all over, and it's easy to coax it into being even by simply pulling the dough.

Sauce: fresh tomatoes

<p>luigi giordano/Shutterstock</p>

luigi giordano/Shutterstock

A fresh tomato sauce for pizza needs a specific type of cooking tomato, namely San Marzano. They have thick skins and flesh, and contain much less water than salad tomatoes. Plus they're sweet and low in acidity, with few seeds. Skin the tomatoes before roughly chopping and cooking with a little garlic and seasoning until thickened.

Sauce: tinned tomatoes

<p>Foto Sajewicz/Shutterstock</p>

Foto Sajewicz/Shutterstock

There's nothing wrong at all with using tinned tomatoes for the sauce. However, buy Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano. Although they will cost a little more, cheaper brands tend to be too watery and not as sweet. Take the tomatoes out of their juice and mash them with your hands or a potato masher to keep the texture, and add a little sea salt and black pepper. A simple yet tasty sauce.

Sauce: passata



For a speedy, easy sauce, try using passata – tomato sauce which has been strained of its skin and seeds. Good Italian brands will be thicker and sweeter so buy the best quality you can. Add a little sea salt and perhaps a pinch of dried oregano, depending on your recipe. Ladle a little into the centre of the dough, then use the base of the ladle to spread it evenly and thinly all over the surface.

Cheese: block mozzarella

<p>Anna Shalam/Shutterstock</p>

Anna Shalam/Shutterstock

Mass-produced block mozzarella is used for commercial pizzas, as well as for home-cooked. It's quite solid, easy to grate, melts very well without burning and becomes quite stretchy. It's rather bland, so add some freshly-grated Parmesan on top of the tomato sauce before scattering the grated mozzarella over.

Cheese: buffalo mozzarella



For an authentic Italian pizza, buffalo mozzarella is the cheese of choice. And when making a classic margherita, Parmesan is also used, to add a salty, more savoury flavour to the relatively neutral mozzarella. Other good melting cheeses are provolone, fontina and Cheddar, which can be combined with buffalo mozzarella. Ensure to drain fresh mozzarella well before using it on pizza.

Get the recipe for classic margherita pizza here

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How to achieve the crispy base

<p>Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock</p>

Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

Most of us don't have the luxury of a pizza oven at home, so what's the best way to get that crisp base? The oven needs to be at its hottest and use a pre-heated baking stone, metal pizza dish, baking tray or cast iron pan. This almost replicates a pizza oven, ensuring the base sears quickly and is evenly crisp. Alternatively, start the pizza in a very hot cast iron pan on the hob, then pop it under the grill to brown the top.

Getting pizza into a hot oven

<p>New Africa/Shutterstock</p>

New Africa/Shutterstock

The question is – how do you get the assembled pizza on to a hot baking stone or metal pizza dish? Use a pizza paddle or a rimless baking sheet, well dusted with semolina or flour. Then it simply slides off into the oven without sticking.

Invest in a pizza cutter

<p>Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock</p>

Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

They're not expensive and cut pizza perfectly, so it's worth buying a pizza cutter. They also make easy work of cutting pastry, especially difficult-to-handle filo and puff pastry.

Make your own chilli oil

<p>Tim UR/Shutterstock</p>

Tim UR/Shutterstock

A drizzle of chilli oil really peps up a pizza. It's very easy to make and is so versatile. It also adds punch to a simple pasta dish, livens up a stir-fry and gives extra zing to a cheese toastie.

Get the recipe for chilli oil here

Roman pizza



In Naples, home of pizza, pizza dough, by law, can only be made with flour, salt, yeast and water. In Rome, cooks add olive oil to the dough, which makes it more pliable and makes it easier to roll out more thinly. So typically Roman pizza is much thinner and more crispy than its Neapolitan cousin, often sold in rectangular slices in takeaways.


<p>Ratov Maxim/Shutterstock</p>

Ratov Maxim/Shutterstock

Translated as 'trouser leg', calzone was invented in Naples as an easy on-the-go food. It's basically a pizza which is folded in half before baking, often stuffed with mozzarella, salami and ricotta. Our recipe is for mini calzones, which make a great party snack, stuffed with Parmesan and vegetables. The quantity would make two to three larger-sized calzones.

Get the recipe for calzone here


<p>Natallia Harahliad/Shutterstock</p>

Natallia Harahliad/Shutterstock

Whereas calzone is definitely Italian, stromboli was invented in Philadelphia in the 1950s. It's like a stuffed pizza, where a rectangle of dough is topped with tomatoes, ham and cheese, leaving a narrow strip around the edges. The edges are glazed to make it stick and it's rolled up into a sausage shape before baking, then cut into slices. It makes great sharing food and you can vary the fillings according to preference, but there must be cheese.

Pizza bianca

<p>Ryzhkov Photography/Shutterstock</p>

Ryzhkov Photography/Shutterstock

This is white, as opposed to red, pizza, with no tomato sauce. It's a wonderfully cheesy option – the base is usually covered in ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan. Crème fraîche can be used in place of the ricotta, and it could also topped with ham or salami, green olives, artichoke hearts or anchovies.

Yeast-free instant pizza

<p>EVERYDAY COOK/Hodder & Stoughton</p>

EVERYDAY COOK/Hodder & Stoughton

With a simple dough made with flour, yogurt, water and baking powder, there's no resting or rising involved in this pizza, and it's topped with melting mozzarella, courgettes, artichokes and mushrooms. Start cooking it in an ovenproof frying pan before finishing off in the oven. This ensures the base is crisp.

Get the recipe for yeast-free instant pizza here

Speedy shortcut pizza

<p>Steven Joyce/Conran Octopus</p>

Steven Joyce/Conran Octopus

By using fast-acting, easy-blend dried yeast, you can rustle up this pizza in under an hour, with only a 10-minute rise. It will be even quicker if you use a stand mixer with a hook attachment to knead the dough. The topping calls for passata, mozzarella and garlic, but experiment with adding whatever ingredients you fancy, like pepperoni, sliced black olives and grated Parmesan.

Get the recipe for speedy shortcut pizza here


<p>Mehmet Cetin/Shutterstock</p>

Mehmet Cetin/Shutterstock

Popular in North Africa and Turkey, these spicy lamb pizzas called pide are often sold as street food. The dough is similar to pizza dough, although it contains oil so the base can be rolled very thinly. The minced lamb is flavoured with chilli, tomato, garlic and dried mint, which is much more intense than fresh. Traditionally, there's no cheese but it's tasty with some feta crumbled over.

Get the recipe for pide here


<p>Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock</p>

Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

In northern Spain, these pizzas are known as coca. Rectangular in shape, they are topped with tomato, a local creamy blue cheese, garlic, smoked paprika and a local sausage similar to salami or chorizo. It's a very good combination for any pizza.

Get the recipe for coca here

Vegan pizza

<p>Vegan: The Cookbook/Phaidon</p>

Vegan: The Cookbook/Phaidon

Pizza is pretty tough on vegans, without that lovely bubbling cheese. But this recipe uses vegan mozzarella, which is not a bad substitute, plus shredded shallots, Brussels sprouts and slices of roasted lemon which have a very intense citrus flavour.

Get the recipe for vegan pizza here

Gluten-free pizza


Although you won't achieve the same light, crisp and airy result with a gluten-free base, it still works pretty well. Ready-made gluten-free bases are widely available in shops now – some made with gluten-free flour, some based on puréed cauliflower. Or try our recipe for gluten-free focaccia dough, either using gluten-free strong flour, or the flour blend as directed in the recipe. Simply add your favourite toppings.

Get the recipe for gluten-free focaccia here

Margherita naan pizza

<p>Nik Sharma/Chronicle Books</p>

Nik Sharma/Chronicle Books

Homemade Indian naan makes a great pizza base. The dough traditionally uses ghee (clarified butter) but substitute with olive oil if you prefer. Our recipe also includes milk and yogurt for a soft bread, filled with pockets of air. Topped with a little chilli, mozzarella and tomatoes, this Italian-Indian hybrid is definitely worth a try.

Get the recipe for margherita naan pizza here

Try a new topping: mushroom and truffle

<p>Dave Brown/Quadrille</p>

Dave Brown/Quadrille

Sliced chestnut mushrooms are cooked with lots of garlic to release their juices, which are thickened with flour to make a rich liquor. Add in some mozzarella, Parmesan and fresh basil for a wonderful hit of tasty, savoury flavours. Truffle oil is drizzled on the pizza once cooked – it's very strong, so use it sparingly.

Get the recipe for mushroom and truffle pizza here

Try a new topping: double pepperoni and spicy honey

<p>Dave Brown/Quadrille</p>

Dave Brown/Quadrille

Honey infused with fresh chillies may become an addiction! It needs at least 12 hours to infuse, but will keep for up to three weeks to drizzle over roasted veg, use in salad dressings, whatever you like. But when combined with two different types of pepperoni, mozzarella, fresh chillies and olive oil, it's a seriously good pizza topping.

Get the recipe for double pepperoni and spiced honey pizza here

Four cheese pizza



Quattro formaggi, four cheese pizza, is always a big hit. But which cheeses should you use? The Italians often combine mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and fontina, which is a very good melting cheese. You could substitute it with Emmental. The blue cheese must be soft and creamy, with a good strong flavour.

Sourdough pizza

<p>V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock</p>

V. Matthiesen/Shutterstock

We're not going to suggest you begin to perfect the art of sourdough bread-making just for a pizza, but if you're a sourdough convert, the dough makes a very flavoursome base. Just add your favourite toppings and follow our-step-by-step guide to making sourdough.

Get the recipe for sourdough bread here

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