on the quest for the perfect at home pizza

When I was growing up, every Friday was pizza night in our house. Honestly, every Friday without fail. Even though my mom is the Italian one, it was actually my dad’s borderline addiction to melty cheese and crispy crust that allowed us to indulge in our favorite weekly tradition — no complaints from me! Now that I live on my own, I do my best to keep family rituals alive, albeit with my own little twist.

I may live in NYC where some of the best pizza outside of Italy can be found. Still, I couldn’t resist tackling the challenge of creating the perfect better-than-takeout-at-home pizza. Because, let’s face it, unless you’re eating your pie seconds out of the oven, it really just isn’t the same. I tried quite a few crust recipes but kept my toppings minimal and simple (an ode to my Neapolitan roots – hi mama!). My goal was to create a crust that would cook well in my little gas stove that reaches a max of 550F (though the dial SAYS 600F…). I was aiming for a crispy exterior, chewy interior, and the characteristic air bubbles on pizza in Naples.

First, I researched. I cracked open my cookbooks, I read countless online recipes, I watched SO MANY YouTube videos of pizzaioli sharing their secrets. Then I got to work and started testing a few different dough recipes until I came up with the one I thought was perfect.

When it came to baking the pizza, I knew I would need to do my best to get the oven as hot as possible – I borrowed some tips from my sourdough bread baking. I preheated the oven for 30 minutes, 15 minutes with the pan inside. The goal was to get the pizza base cooking as soon as the dough hit the pan to mimic the conditions in a professional oven as much as I could.

Instead of using a pizza stone, I opted to use my cast iron skillet. Why? Well, mainly because I don’t own a pizza stone and adding another pot, pan or gadget to my Tiny Kitchen is really not an option. I’m bursting at the seems! I already use my oven as additional storage, which gets really fun whenever I’m baking — more on that in another post!

Back to the pizza — even though I don’t own a pizza stone, I HAVE used them before, and I really think the cast iron skillet cooked the pizza more efficiently. I think it has to do with metal conducting heat better and the higher sides of the skillet helping to enclose the pizza, BUT those are just my theories. The good news is you can buy a quality cast iron skillet for a fraction of the cost of a pizza stone, and the applications are virtually endless. For me, a multi-use appliance/pan is always going to win out over a single-use option. Don’t forget this blog IS called Tiny Kitchen Confidential.

So without further delay, here is the recipe — pizza night just got upgraded!

Please note I only tested this method using thinner, Neapolitan style dough. If you try with a thicker, chewier crust, you might have to adjust the cook times.

CAST IRON PIZZA MARGHERITA

Time: 4 Hours
Servings: 2 pizzas in a 10 – 12 inch skillet

Dough Ingredients:

  • 500 g Italian 00 Flour (You can use All Purpose if 00 is not available)
  • 350 mL lukewarm water
  • 2 g dried yeast
  • 8 gr salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil

Toppings:

  • 8 tbsp Fresh or canned San Marzano tomato puree (4 per pizza, or more to taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • A pinch of salt
  • 300 g Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced and drained
  • Fresh basil leaves
  1. Dissolve the yeast in 150 grams of lukewarm water, stir to combine.
  2. Place the flower in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer with dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast and water mixture to the bowl with flour and mix gently.
  4. Add the remaining water little by little until it is incorporated and no dry flour remains.
  5. Knead the dough until smooth, then sprinkle the salt and knead again until full incorporated.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl prepped with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rise in the warmest place in your kitchen for 1/5 – 3 hours.
  7. Toward the end of the rise preheat your oven to the broil setting for 30 minutes (mine says 600F but my in-oven thermometer says 550). Just go as hot as you can!
  8. Meanwhile, divide the to into two equal balls and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  9. For the final 15 minutes of the preheat place your cast iron skillet in the oven.
  10. After the dough’s final rest start to stretch and push the dough into a 10-12 inch round. Tip – hold your hands out, have your thumbs touch and your pointer and middle fingers over lap, it should look like a triangle. Use this hand position to push the dough out starting from the center of the ball. Rotate as you go.
  11. Remove the VERY HOT skillet from the oven and place on a heat safe surface.
  12. Gently place your stretched dough into the pan. Mind your fingers! Remember, the dough starts cooking immediately!
  13. Place your sauce on the dough spreading evenly from the center outward, leaving space for an outer crust.
  14. Then sprinkle your cheese, place a few basil leaves and drizzle the entire pie with high quality olive oil.
  15. Carefully place into the oven under the broiler for 3-6 minutes depending on your oven. You want the crust to bubble!
  16. Remove from the oven and serve immediately!

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