Frank Felice’s Pizza Recipes
In 2016 I used my Thanksgiving holiday to make three different pizzas so I could finally write up the recipes for my pizza sauce(s) and for good working pizza dough. Homemade pizza was the very first thing I wanted to make on my own when I was around thirteen years old, and my mother helped me find recipes for dough and sauce, as well as to help me put those things together. Over the next six years, I’d make pizzas if anyone would even mention the word, using too much sauce so they’d be a bit runny, and with a lot of toppings and cheese. (The Cup o’ Pizza bit from Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” is a good reference, still mentioned by those members of my high school rock band who ate it. This Thanksgiving I also made a fourth pizza, a TRUE “Pizza in a Cup;” that was fun.) However, with pizzerias such as The Green Lantern, The Loose Caboose, Joseph’s House of Pizza, and the immortal Zimorino’s Red Pies Over Montana all pointing the way, I studied more about how good pies are made. Then, working at Corelli’s of Chicago in Boulder, Colorado I learned how to make Chicago style pizzas, and yes (insert shameful head hanging here), I learned to make the delivery pizzas quickly and consistently at Domino’s in Oregon. Along the way I have eaten excellent pizzas all over the world, and hoped I’ve learned enough to pass on this knowledge.
A word about style and place: I love both New York and Chicago style pizzas – I also like the kind of deep dish pizza that is Sicilian in origin, but is not like Chicago-style deep dish or stuffed pizzas. I don’t mind cutting the pizza into squares (alá Chicago flat pies), nor do I mind do rectangular pizzas vs. round shapes. I am happy to do any one of these!
What tops or is baked inside these pizzas? In America, anything you like. Most of the time you will use raw ingredients portioned out in such a way that everything is bite-sized or smaller. I find that I like chunks of things rather than finely ground (esp for sausages and other crumbly meats). If you are going to do a deep dish or covered pizza, you should cook the raw meat ahead of time. Green vegetables are usually raw, and some are placed on the pizza after the baking (arugula or basil leaves). However, if you are going to use green peppers on your pie, precook them (roasting them does a nice job), otherwise you will not cook them well enough during the baking. (nota bene: green peppers take over the taste of every pizza they’re on – if you are using them, you are always making a green pepper pizza with ‘accompanying’ ingredients.) My preference is for 1-3 items maximum, since for me, the pizza is mostly about the crust and the sauce.
If you are trying to do a true Neapolitan pizza, the only kind of cheese will be a fresh mozzarella (preferably Mozzarella di Bufalo). For all other pizzas here in the USA, my preference will always be whole milk mozzarella cheese. I do not find I need a cheese blend of any kind when using whole milk mozzarella. It’s pretty amazing on its own: rich and buttery, and the correct kind of gooey and stringy when it’s melted. Depending on the pizza, I may slice (some Chicago pies) or grate (New York or flat Chicago style pizzas.) them.
Additionally, a few years ago I finally decided to get serious about baking – this means that baker’s ratios and weighing one’s ingredients have become more usual for me to employ, and with pizza dough it seems to make a huge difference. Choose the correct flour: while bread flour (King Arthur’s for me), works for many of these pizzas, for the Neapolitan pizza, I found that ‘tipo 00’ Italian flours work the best. I also learned from baking bread that proofing the dough in the refrigerator was a necessary step, especially for making a great flavor profile. Typically, the dough for most of these pizzas can remain in the fridge for up to three days – the reward for your patience will be MOST excellent. For each batch of dough there can be specific means of shaping it (hands, rolling pin, etc.), but some styles may require one or the other for more successful pies.
Lastly: use the hottest oven possible (550 deg +) with a pizza stone (or baking steel), cooking the pizzas right on the stone. (Of course, this does not apply to Chicago deep dish or stuffed pizzas, which are made in a pan with steep sides) Use a peel with corn meal to move your pies in and out of the oven.
Pizza Sauce for Neapolitan Margarita Pizza
- 1 28 oz can of authentic, imported from the Naples region, whole, peeled, San Marzano tomatoes.
That’s it. The toppings for this pizza are so minimal that each of them must be absolutely first rate. The tomatoes from this region of Italy DO taste incredible, and I have not found their balance of sweet/acidic in any other tomato. Some cooks will try and balance a locally grown Roma or San Marzano with some vinegar, but it’s not the same. Spend the money. It’s worth it. Cento brand’s San Marzano’s are fairly easy to find in the USA, or can be ordered online.
For this pizza: dump the tomatoes into a bowl, and using your hand, crush the tomatoes, leaving some clumps. Once your dough is stretched and ready for assembly, use a flat-bottomed ladle to place a bit of sauce in the center of the dough, and spread using the bottom of the ladle out to the sides. Do not use too much sauce!
Pizza Sauce for New York, or Flat Chicago Pizzas
- 1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomato puree
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil 3 tsp granulated garlic
- 2-3 tsp onion powder - 2 tsp of salt
- 2 tsp of black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 cup of dry red wine (e.g., Bardolino, Valpolicella, Chianti)
- 1 cup of filtered water
Combine all ingredients in a bowl until all are well mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Do not cook.) Remove from refrigerator about an hour and a half before making pizzas, bringing it up to room temperature. Stir the sauce. Once the dough for your pizza is stretched, and ready for assembly, use a flat-bottomed ladle to place a bit of sauce in the center of the dough, and spread out to the sides using the bottom of the ladle - do not use too much sauce!
Pizza Sauce for Chicago Deep Dish or Stuffed Pizzas
- 1 28 oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl until all are well mixed. Once the dough for your pizza is in your pan and ingredients (incl. cheese) have been placed into the pie, use a ladle to spread about 3/8” of sauce across the top of the cheese (or covering dough), taking care to cover, but not get the crimped dough wet. Typically, you’ll sauce a covered or stuffed pizza halfway through the baking process, where you might sauce a deep dish right at the outset of baking.
The internet has proved to be a good resource for helping perfect dough making – The Food Lab’s “11 Essential Tips for a Better Pizza” is very good, as is “Just the Crust” from General Mills. Both have excellent tips, and a fair amount of science behind them. One of the main tips as I mentioned above, is using weighed ingredients, which has made success more of a sure thing in all of my baking, not just when making pizza dough. The pizza dough recipes that follow are largely those of Stellaculinary.com or SeriousEats.com with some modifications.
Neapolitan Pizza Dough
- 570 g “tipo 00” bread flour, pref. Italian in origin
- 11.5 g salt
- 10 gr instant yeast
- 375 g water (125˚F, 52˚C)
Combine flour, salt, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl until they are incorporated. Add the water into the dry ingredients little by little using your hands (hint: wear kitchen gloves) until all of the dry works are formed into a ragged ball and no flour remains at the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set in a warm part of your kitchen for 4-5 hours. Remove dough from bowl, and divide into 2-4 pieces. Place into quart sized plastic containers (each with a tight lid) or into Ziploc bags and refrigerate for 2-3 days. On the day you plan to bake, remove dough from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before you make your pizzas.
Preheat oven to as high as it will go (550˚F+), a minimum of an hour before baking.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With each ball of dough, slightly flatten, and then make indentations around the dough, with a lip around the edge, about 3/4” in size. Continue to flatten the dough with your palm, and stretch with your fingers until the flattened dough is about 8-10” in size. Now you can start to slap your dough from hand to hand, letting the weight of the dough stretch each time it moves onto a new hand. You may occasionally turn and toss the circling dough above your head, catching the dough and stretching it naturally. Once your pie is the desired size (ca. 14”) and thinness (1/4”-3/8”), place it on a pizza peel that has been lightly prepped with corn meal on top of it (so the pizza will easily slide from the peel and onto the pizza stone). Continue to shape until round – brush the edges with a bit of olive oil, and then top with whatever ingredients you wish to use. (Be sparing – Neapolitan pies are not overloaded – if you are using green leafy ingredients such as arugula or fresh basil, place those on the pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven.) Gently slide the pizza onto the baking stone with the peel.
Baking time will be quick – no more than 8-10 minutes (less, if you have a very hot oven that has been properly preheated); halfway through the baking time, turn the pizza on the stone. Remove from oven when the cheese is bubbling and the crust has browned. In Italy they didn’t cut the pizza for you – you did this at the table. However, you can cut the pizza into wedge-shapes right on the peel, and then slide the whole pizza off onto a large plate or metal pizza pan.
Note: Have some kind of means to puncture aggressive crust bubbling, especially under the cheese, et al. The pizza guys I met in Naples and on Capri used the same tool – a metre-long rod in which a single nail and been driven through. With this they could reach into the back of the brick-domed ovens to puncture the pies that were bubbling.
New York-Style or Flat-Style Chicago Pizza Dough
- 645 g bread flour (King Arthur preferred)
- 14 g sugar
- 10 g salt
- 12 g instant yeast
- 33 g extra virgin olive oil (or melted lard for Chicago pizza)
- 425 g water (125˚F, 52˚C)
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until they are incorporated (I use a stand mixer bowl for this). Add the instant yeast to the water in a large glass measuring cup and gently stir until well mixed. Let stand until foaming, ca. 10 minutes. Using a dough hook, run the mixer on low, gently adding the oil (or melted lard) and the water-yeast mixture, mixing until the dough forms onto the hook, about 40 seconds or so. Process for an additional 15 seconds, then remove from mixer and turn out dough onto a floured surface. Divide into 2-3 parts and mold into balls. Place into quart-sized plastic containers (with tight fitting lids) or into Ziploc bags. Refrigerate for 2-3 days. On the day that you will make the pizzas, remove the dough from the refrigerator, reshape into balls, and let rest at room temperature for about 2-3 hours.
Preheat oven to as high as it will go (550˚F+) a minimum of an hour before baking.
Turn out the dough you’re using onto a floured surface, and press flat using your hands and your fingertips. Using a rolling pin (marble ones work very well for this), continue to flatten the dough until you have a circular shape about 10” across. You can then continue to stretch the dough by slapping it back and forth between your hands as well as tossing the dough. However, so many restaurants here in the states will use a flattening machine to prep this pizza that I believe that using a rolling pin and then cutting to size will be the best way to make this kind of characteristic crust for this particular style of pizza. If you like your crust to be more irregular shaped, etc., just use your hands. Once the dough is shaped to a thickness of about 1/4-3/8”, lay it on your peel (already prepped with corn meal) and use a large round plate or pizza pan to cut the dough into a round shape. Remove your shaping pan – brush olive oil all around the edges of the dough at a distance of about an inch, and then sauce and place the ingredients on your pizza, taking care not to overload it. Slide the pizza into the oven and bake, turning the pizza with the peel hallway through the process. Bake until the cheese bubbles and the edges are browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into wedges (New York-style) or squares (Chicago-style) right on the peel, and then slide onto a large plate or pizza pan.
This dough will also work for thicker style, hand-tossed pizzas – use two balls of dough, and then roll the dough out to thicker depths, about 3/8-1/2”. Make certain your baking stone/steel is quite hot for this, so the bottom will assist in cooking the dough all of the way through. Cooking time may increase to 12-15’. For this style pizza I may also turn the edges of the dough inward to make a kind of crimp to make a more pronounced, prominent crust outside of the ingredients.
Sometimes I will use this dough to make rectangular square cut pizzas, much like I made when I first started making pizzas back in seventh grade (and modeled on those made in Hamilton, Montana at the Loose Caboose, and in Missoula at Santorini’s). Use a high quality commercial half-sized baking pan (not a flimsy cookie sheet) – oil or butter it well. Shape your dough to fit the pan, either trimming along the edge to remove excess dough, or folding it inward to enhance the size of the crust’s edges. Oil this, and then place ingredients. On this kind of pizza you can use a bit more sauce, cheese, etc., but you must still be careful to not overload the crust with too many wet items, or the bottom will be too soggy and may not cook all the way through. (On occasion, I have pre-baked this crust for 6-8’ to accommodate more wet items. If I do so, I brush olive oil over the entire crust before baking)
Chicago Deep Dish or Stuffed Pizza
- 500 g bread flour
- 150 g corn meal
- 100 g butter, melted
- 10 g instant yeast
- 13 g salt
- 50 g extra virgin olive oil
- 260 g water (125˚F, 52˚C)
Combine yeast and water in a glass measuring cup and gently stir until well mixed. Let stand until foaming, ca. 10 minutes. In a stand mixer’s bowl combine flour, corn meal, melted butter and olive oil. Add the water-yeast mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until a rough dough is made. Stop, remove the bowl from the mixer, cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and let stand for about 30-40 minutes. Remove cling wrap, and attach bowl to mixer. Add salt and mix on medium low with dough hook for 3-4’. Stop, and let dough rest for 4’, and then again knead with hook for an additional 3-4’. Turn out dough, and divide into 2 balls. Place these into airtight plastic containers or zip lock bags and refrigerate for 2-3 days.
Preheat oven to 500˚F a minimum of an hour before baking.
Butter a 14” pizza pan with 1 1/2” sides and set aside. (Cast iron is optimum for this – however, a tin-coated aluminum pan is also good.) Turn out dough onto a floured surface, and flatten with a rolling pin, shaping the dough into a circle whose diameter is about 16-18” and whose thickness is about 3/8”. Place dough into pan, pressing the dough along the inside of the pan, letting the dough initially hang over the tops of the pan’s edges. Trim the hanging dough away from the pan, leaving ca. 1/2”. Add sliced or grated cheese to the pizza, then toppings. Crimp the dough, and brush the crimped edge with olive oil. Add simple Chicago pizza sauce on top of the cheese and other toppings, and then bake for 40-50 minutes until the crust is dark golden brown, turning the pizza once during its time in the oven. Remove pizza from oven, slide it onto a clean cutting board, and cut into wedges – serve in a clean, warmed identical pizza pan.
If you wish to make a 12” stuffed pizza (crust on top of the cheese, sausage, pepperoni, et al), all of the instructions are the same up until after adding those toppings. At that point, you use the leftover dough to roll out another 14” circle of thinner dough (something like 1/4” or so) trimming it at the same time as the dough that lines the pan, leaving about 3/4”-1” of dough around the edges of the pan – this should then be rolled/crimped/shaped as one would do a regular pie, tucking the edge into the pan. Brush olive oil over the whole top, and then bake for 20-25 minutes. After this time period, remove pizza from oven and spoon sauce on top of the slightly browned upper crust, taking care to not get any on the crimped edges. Return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes or so.