This Is the Secret to Creating Perfect Neapolitan Pizza at Home
Renowned pizzaiolo Daniele Uditi shares the secrets to billowy, charred pizzas that expertly blend the traditions of Italy and regional flavors.
When chef Daniele Uditi moved to California from Italy 10 years ago, he was accompanied by a secret companion. In his suitcase, he’d hidden a container of his family’s sourdough starter, a living, growing, flavor-improving treasure known in Italian as a crescere, the critical ingredient in transcendent pizza dough.
Born of the ambient yeast of Naples, the spiritual seat of perfect pizza, this crescere became the foundation on which Uditi refined his craft as a pizzaiolo, absorbing the culinary influences of California, its farmers markets, its produce, and its multicultural foodways, eventually producing the billowy blistered crust served at Pizzana, the restaurant chain he helms with Candace and Charles Nelson, the culinary entrepreneurs behind Sprinkles Cupcakes.
The sleek Pizzana restaurants are the minimalist backdrop for Uditi’s vibrantly topped, expertly baked pies. Take, for example, his elote pizza, an homage to his Mexican wife: Adorned with charred corn, spicy mayo, cotija, Oaxaca cheese, and cilantro, it channels all the flavors of Los Angeles street corn, albeit with Neapolitan flair. His sole d’oro is topped with peak-season Sungold tomatoes, dressed with garlic, shaved zucchini, squash blossoms, and basil, and tastes like a freewheeling weekend visit to the farmers’ market.
In pizzas such as these, Uditi has developed a formula that’s a perfect balance of Southern California and Southern Italy, with all of the technique but none of the orthodoxy. Here, we present a masterclass in Uditi’s next-level West Coast pizza perfection.
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Daniele Uditi’s Pizza Dos and Don’ts
Don’t Toss Your Dough
Tossing does nothing to make pizza better. It’s show-offy at best and will lead to torn crust at worst. Stretch it by hand on the counter to make sure your crust has an even and consistent thickness from edge to edge.
Do Use a Pizza Stone
You’ll never get the crunchy bottom crust if you cook your pizza on a sheet pan. Preheat the stone in your oven at 500°F a good half-hour before cooking. For super crunchy crust, turn on your broiler to get the stone extra hot five minutes before you cook your pizza.
Don’t Over-Top Your Pizza
Too much moisture is the enemy of pizza and overtopping your crust will make it soggy. Throw on just enough toppings to get a perfect mix of each ingredient in every bite. You want some of the crust visible in between the toppings.
Do Put the Cheese on Last
Most cheeses cook faster than dough, so only add your cheese three to five minutes before the pizza is fully cooked.
Do Cool Your Pizza on a Rack
Immediately transfer your cooked pizza to a wire rack. If you put it on a wooden pizza peel or board, that crisp bottom you worked so hard for will steam and get soggy before you can enjoy it.
Do Finish with Oil
For extra richness and flavor, drizzle your pizza with extra-virgin olive oil once it’s out of the oven. If you add it at the beginning, it will smoke and develop a bitter taste.
Frozen pizza is a culinary convenience we can get behind, particularly when an eight-minute bake in the oven yields Daniele Uditi’s classic margherita, pepperoni, or creamy cacio e pepe. Order frozen pies from Pizzana at goldbelly.com.