Neapolitan Pizza: Characteristics, Ingredients, and Traditional Methods

Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza, hailed as the quintessential pizza style, originates from Naples, Italy. This iconic dish is celebrated for its simplicity, quality ingredients, and artisanal preparation methods. It has earned a special place in the hearts of pizza lovers worldwide and is a proud symbol of Italian culinary tradition. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics, ingredients, and traditional methods that define Neapolitan pizza.

Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan Pizza

Characteristics of Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza is distinct for its unique characteristics, which set it apart from other pizza styles. Key features include:

1. Soft, Chewy Crust

The hallmark of Neapolitan pizza is its crust. Unlike the thin and crispy crusts found in Roman or New York-style pizzas, Neapolitan pizza boasts a soft, slightly chewy crust. This texture is achieved through a combination of specific dough preparation techniques and high-temperature baking.

2. Leopard-Spotting

A characteristic feature of a well-made Neapolitan pizza is the leopard-spotting on the crust. These small, charred spots are the result of the intense heat in a wood-fired oven, which creates a beautiful contrast between the dough’s golden-brown surface and its airy interior.

3. Minimalist Toppings

Neapolitan pizza emphasizes quality over quantity when it comes to toppings. The traditional Margherita pizza, for instance, uses just a handful of ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. This minimalist approach allows the flavors of each component to shine through.

4. Small Size

Neapolitan pizzas are typically smaller in size compared to their American counterparts, with a diameter of about 10-12 inches. This size makes them perfect for individual servings, ensuring that the crust retains its delicate texture from the first bite to the last.

Essential Ingredients

The authenticity of Neapolitan pizza relies heavily on the quality of its ingredients. The following components are essential to achieving the genuine taste and texture:

1. Flour

The dough is made from finely milled Italian “00” flour. This type of flour has a lower gluten content, which contributes to the dough’s softness and elasticity. The flour is mixed with water, salt, and a small amount of yeast to form the base of the pizza.

2. Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes, grown in the volcanic soil of the Mount Vesuvius region, are the preferred choice for Neapolitan pizza. These tomatoes are prized for their sweet, rich flavor and low acidity. They are typically hand-crushed and lightly seasoned to create the pizza’s sauce.

3. Mozzarella

Fresh mozzarella di bufala, made from the milk of water buffaloes, is the traditional cheese used on Neapolitan pizza. Its creamy texture and mild flavor perfectly complement the other ingredients. Alternatively, fior di latte, made from cow’s milk, can also be used.

4. Basil

Fresh basil leaves add a fragrant, herbal note to the pizza, balancing the richness of the cheese and the sweetness of the tomatoes.

5. Olive Oil

A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil before baking enhances the flavors and adds a subtle richness to the pizza.

Traditional Methods

The preparation of Neapolitan pizza follows a time-honored process that requires skill and precision. The traditional methods include:

1. Dough Preparation

The dough is made using the “poolish” method, where a portion of the flour, water, and yeast is mixed and allowed to ferment overnight. This pre-fermentation step develops the dough’s flavor and texture. After the initial fermentation, the remaining ingredients are added, and the dough is kneaded until smooth and elastic. It is then left to rise for several hours.

2. Hand-Stretching

Once the dough has risen, it is divided into individual portions and hand-stretched to form the pizza base. The dough is gently pressed and stretched using the fingertips, ensuring an even thickness and preserving the air pockets that give the crust its characteristic texture.

3. Wood-Fired Oven

Neapolitan pizza is traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven at temperatures around 485°C (905°F). The intense heat cooks the pizza in just 60-90 seconds, creating the signature leopard-spotting on the crust while leaving the interior soft and airy.

4. Assembly and Baking

The hand-stretched dough is topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by slices of fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves. A drizzle of olive oil is added before the pizza is placed in the oven. The pizza is carefully monitored and rotated to ensure even cooking.


In conclusion, Neapolitan pizza is a culinary masterpiece that embodies the essence of Italian cuisine. Its unique characteristics, from the soft and chewy crust to the minimalist toppings, are the result of centuries-old traditions and a dedication to quality ingredients. The meticulous preparation methods, particularly the use of a wood-fired oven, further enhance its distinctive flavor and texture. Whether enjoyed in a bustling pizzeria in Naples or a specialty restaurant halfway around the world, Neapolitan pizza continues to captivate and delight pizza lovers everywhere.