The Italians take their pizzas seriously, which is why, in June of 1984, Antonio Pace put into writing the precise rules for the preparation of the “veraci” (original) pizzas. He was against the commercial industrialization of the modern day pizza. He was horrified by the ready-to-eat and frozen pizzas that he felt had very little to do with the original, traditional pizzas. In the beginning, there were only 20 members of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which is located in Naples, Italy. Today, hundreds of pizza restaurants throughout Italy and all over the world are members.
We have been making the Vera Pizza Napolitana since 1997 at Café Napoli. Now, we teach our students the wonderful intricacies of making a traditional Napolitana pizza at our Napoli Culinary Academy and Catering.
There are two types of “Vera Pizza Napolitana”: The Marinara (garlic, tomato, oil and oregano) and the Margherita (oil, tomato, mozzarella or fi or di latte, basil and grated cheese). It is important to note that the Vera Pizza Napolitana must be made from a base of a risen dough cooked in a wood-burning oven, making sure that the consistency is easy to manipulate, soft and elastic.
The form and shape of the traditional wood-fired oven used for Vera Pizza Napoletana has remained unchanged over the centuries. The double dome forms a natural heat chamber, enabling it to accommodate high temperatures. The domes are constructed in tailor-cut stones or bricks, sealed and built to ensure mechanical stability. The entrance to the oven is usually closed with a cover or a sliding door.
The outlay of the oven has strict measurements. The first entrance dome has a height of 18 to 20 inches, and the maximum height of the entrance ranges between 8.3 and 9.8 inches. The base of the oven must range between 56 and 60 inches in diameter. Ovens of a higher diameter do not provide an area where six pizzas can be contemporarily cooked and managed effectively. The base of the oven is normally divided into four areas and built around a mixture of sand and salt, which aids thermal distribution and isolates the pizza from thermal bacteria. Wood that does not hold any moisture, smoke or produce odors that alter the aroma of the pizza in any way is required to cook Vera Pizza Napoletana. The association recommends woods such as oak, ash, beech and maple.
The following are the ingredients needed for making the dough:
• 1 liter of water
• 2.5-3 ounces of sea salt
• 2.2 ounces of yeast (a low degree of acidity is a must)
• 3.75 pounds of fl our (highly refi ned fl our, free of bran or germ)
Blend the flour, water, salt and yeast. Pour a liter of water into a mixer, then dissolve the salt, add 10 percent of the total amount of the fl our, and then add
1 ounce of the yeast. Start the mixer, and then gradually add 4 ¼ pounds of fl our until the desired dough consistency is achieved. This process should take about 10 minutes. Mix the dough at a low speed for 20 minutes until the dough forms into a single ball. To obtain the optimal dough consistency, it is very important to control the quantity of water, so that the fl our is able to absorb it all. The mixture should be sticky, soft and elastic to the touch. The preparation of the dough in the mixer should be done without causing it to become warm.
The characteristics of the dough should be as follows, a variance of ±10% is tolerated. Fermentation temperature 80 F
Final pH 5.87
Density 0.79 g/cc (+34%)
Remove the dough from the mixer, and place it on a surface in the pizzeria where it can be left to rest for 2 hours, covered by a damp cloth. This way the dough’s surface cannot harden, nor can it form a crust caused by the evaporation of the moisture released from the dough.
With the aid of a spatula, the mixture is cut into strips from which pieces are broken off and then shaped into balls. The formation of the balls must be done exclusively by hand. This technique is known as “staglio a mano”. The small dough balls are called “panetti”. The dough balls must weigh between 6.3 ounces and 8.8 ounces.
Once the individual dough balls are formed, they are left in “rising boxes” for 4 to 6 hours. By controlling storage temperature (keeping at room temperature), these dough balls can then be used at any time for the following 6 hours.
Following the second rising, the dough ball can be removed from the boxes using a spatula and placed on the preparation bench in the pizzeria on a light layer of fl our to keep the dough from sticking to the work area. With a motion from the center outwards, and with the pressure of the fingers of both hands on the dough ball, the base is turned over and around many times. In doing this, the pizzaiolo forms a disk of dough (disco di pasta). From the center, the thickness is no more than 0.4 centimeters (variance ±10 percent is tolerated), and the border that is no greater than ¾-inch, forming a frame or crust. The crust, known as “cornicione,” is one of the identifying features of the product. The base must be prepared by hand. The pizza maker’s skill enables him or her to determine the movement of air in the base ensuring it moves from the center towards the periphery, thus forming “the cornicione”.
The following are ingredients for the pizza toppings:
• San Marzano tomatoes
• Natural fi or di latte or bufala mozzarella
• Basil or oregano (herbs must be fresh)
“Pizza Marinara” San Marzano Tomatoes: 2.4– 3.5 ounces Olive oil (Virgin or Extra Virgin): 4–5 ounces (variance of +20% tolerated) Garlic: One clove Oregano: 1 ounce Salt: As needed
To make a classic Pizza Margherita, use a spoon to place the pressed, peeled tomatoes into the center of the pizza base, then using a spiral motion, cover the entire surface of the base with the sauce excluding the raised border (the addition or substitution of peeled tomatoes with fresh tomatoes is allowed).
Add salt uniformly (if it has not previously been added to the tomato) to the tomato sauce. Spread thinly sliced strips of bufala mozzarella or fi or di latte evenly over the pizza base.
A few basil leaves should then be placed on top of this, from the center outwards. Using a traditional copper oil canister and the same spiral motion, starting from the center and moving out, pour extra virgin olive oil over the pizza. Vera Pizza Napoletana must be cooked on the stone surface of the pizza oven and not in dishes or pizza pans.
Using a wood or aluminum pizza peel and a little fl our, the pizza maker transfers the garnished pizza using a rotary movement. The pizza slides rapidly with a quick wrist movement performed by the pizza maker onto the cooking surface of the oven without allowing the condiment to move. The cooking of the Vera Pizza Napoletana must be done exclusively in a wood-fi red oven that has reached the essential cooking temperature of 905 F. The pizza maker should monitor the cooking by gently raising the edges of the pizza using a metal pizza peel.
The pizza should be slightly rotated, changing the side that is directly facing the fi re, taking care to ensure the pizza stays in the same area of the cooking surface and to ensure that the pizza does not burn due to exposure to a different temperature. It is important that the pizza is cooked in a uniform manner across its entire circumference.
At the conclusion of the cooking, the pizza maker removes the pizza from the oven with a metal pizza peel, and places it
on a fl at, dry work surface. Cooking time should not exceed 60-90 seconds.
After the cooking, the pizza should have the following characteristics: The tomato should have lost all excess water, and should be dense and consistent; The buffalo mozzarella or fi or di latte should have melted on the surface of the pizza; the basil, garlic and the oregano will develop an intense aroma, and will appear brown, but not burned. And there you have it: a Vera Pizza Napolitana! 09.09.09
The following temperature guidelines should be met:
Cooking surface temperature: about 905 F.
Oven dome temperature: about 800 F.
Cooking time: 60-90 seconds.
Final dough temperature: 140-145 F.
Final tomato temperature: 167-176 F.
Final oil temperature: 167-185 F.
Final mozzarella temperature: 140-158 F.