Turn your kitchen into the hottest pizzeria in town.

By Ananda Eidelstein
Updated: April 29, 2019
Greg DuPree

Cheesy, doughy, saucy, savory, crispy, that first bite into a slice of pizza gets all those taste buds riled up. From pizza Fridays to pizza parties, pizza is ingrained in us.

As a food editor at Real Simple, I dreamed of working on a pizza story, better yet, get home cooks to make restaurant-quality pizza right at home, in the comfort of their own kitchens. The challenge: a pizza dough recipe that could be used in different styles of pizza, but still keeping the process super easy. Ideally, this one pizza dough recipe would be able to be shaped and baked into a Neopolitan-style pie, and a Roman-style pie, as well as a Detroit-style pizza, a grandma pie, and a Chicago-style pizza. But first, research.

I took research very seriously (as you do when pizza is involved). First, starting in Bologna, Italy, visiting Berberè Pizzeria twice in two days because the sourdough crust made of organic flours was truly something special. Then, I stepped into the kitchen of Speedy Romeo in the Lower East Side of Manhattan to explore the techniques of Neapolitan-style pizza. Considering the end goal was to deliver on easy yet irresistible pizza recipes that stayed true to their style, I posed the question to Chef Justin Bazdarich, “could one dough work for different styles of pizza?” He thought it could, giving me high hopes to bring a versatile pizza dough into home kitchens.

Standing by the roaring hardwood fired Italian pizza oven, I pocketed a few tips on shaping the pizza into a perfect round without using a rolling pin (something you definitely do not want to do for a Neapolitan-style pizza, save it for the thin Roman-style one). The key, as seen in the Neopolitan-style Margherita Pizza is to press firmly with your fingertips, starting from the center and also using your palm to flatten the dough into a round. Starting from the center and working toward the edge allows for the border crust to form naturally. Bonus points: if you can rotate the dough on the surface with your palm and press and stretch into a large round all at the same time and really fast, just like the cooks at Speedy Romeo.

During my Roman-style pizza research, I stepped foot into Marta, a pizza restaurant near Madison Square Park in New York City, before lunch service on a frigid weekday. Chef Lena Ciardullo told me about her time in Rome as I vividly pictured her describing how sticky the dough was there before it’s cooked. At Marta, the dough is thin with a crisp crust that keeps you coming back for more, unlike a Neapolitan-style pie in which the crust is doughy and the middle turns soggy-like. This thin and crispy crust was the end goal for this style of pie. The topping? Well, there are endless possibilities, but I chose the traditional Roman topping of potatoes.

The rest of the time spent researching involved lots of test tasting at various pizza joints, including a couple in Japan, DADA in Kamakura and Seirinkan in Tokyo. Plus, diving deep into cookbooks from pizza masters like Chris Bianco with BIANCO ($24; amazon.com), Joe Beddia’s Pizza Camp ($21; amazon.com) and the folks behind EMILY and Emmy Squared, Emily and Matthew Hyland’s, EMILY: The Cookbook ($18; amazon.com). Even a clever illustrated guide to pizza by Dan Brensfield, Pizzapedia ($10; amazon.com)—which I highly recommend as a cute gift for the pizza fiend in your life.

In the kitchen, it was a beast of experimenting with different techniques and temperatures, a whirlpool of trial and error with delicious results. I was set on providing a dough that could pump out five different styles of pizza from a home oven, without a pizza stone and only the use of a rimmed baking sheet. Less than two pizza-filled weeks later (over 30 pizzas!), the master dough worked for five different styles of pizza. With just a tweak of technique, the master pizza dough recipe could lead to five homemade pizzas that feel like you just stepped into the hottest pizzeria.

Some extra tips for perfect pizza:

  • Always work with room temperature dough, it will stretch easier and you’ll have an easier time working the dough. If the dough pulls back when shaping, let it rest covered with a clean dish towel a few minutes.
  • Top the dough with the toppings on the baking sheet to avoid a disaster when attempting to transfer and ending up with a calzone instead (not the worst thing that could happen).
  • Make sure the oven is hot and properly pre-heated. It will ensure the crust is what it’s supposed to be and give it an actual chance of leoparding, light charring on the crust, in the Neapolitan-style pizza in particular.
  • Rolling dough into balls might seem gimmicky, but it’s not. Bazdarich says, “it keeps the dough from tearing”. To shape the dough into balls, grab edges of the dough and bring toward the center, pinching to seal. Flip and you’ve got a dough ball ready to be proofed.

Now go make some pizza dough and enjoy five of the most delicious styles of pizza right at home.

Master Pizza Dough

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Here it is: the reason you’ll never leave your house again: homemade pizza dough. Okay, that might be a bit extreme, but the reality is, with your own easy pizza dough recipe that is this simple, there’s no reason to ever order takeout pizza again. This easy pizza dough recipe makes one batch that can be transformed into different styles (like the recipes that follow).

Get the recipe: Master Pizza Dough

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza With Smoked Mozzarella

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Deep-dish pizza has a famous reputation, and many hard-core Chicagoans will insist it can’t be replicated outside of their hometown. This recipe makes a good case for a homemade version to rival the original. The key is to use a butter-coated cast-iron skillet and then dusted with cornmeal, which makes for a crisp crust with rich flavor.

Get the recipe: Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza With Smoked Mozzarella

Grandma Pie With Pepperoni and Pink Sauce

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Grandmas are often associated with delicious, comforting food, and this grandma-style pizza is no exception. Grandma pies, said to originate in New York, have one attribute that is highly likable (beyond all the ingredients), it's the fact that it can be made in a standard baking sheet. It's said grandma pies have a thin crust in comparison to a Sicilian slice, but why not a fluffy, soft, and tender crust, too? Sounds pretty dreamy and delicious.

Get the recipe: Grandma Pie With Pepperoni and Pink Sauce

Neapolitan-Style Margherita Pizza

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Do you remember that scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love, when Julia Roberts takes her first bite of pizza? She almost passes out from the bliss of tasting a slice. It’s that level of delicious that we’re going for here, with this classic rendition of the famous Naples pie. There are just a few toppings: crushed tomatoes, olive oil, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves, which means quality counts even more than normal.

Get the recipe: Neapolitan-Style Margherita Pizza

Roman-Style Pizza With Potato and Rosemary

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Roman-style pizza comes from—you guessed it—Rome. But of course, there, it’s not called “Roman” pizza but rather pizza tonde, which is crisp with a thin crust. The base is sturdy enough to hold up to a variety of toppings

Get the recipe: Roman-Style Pizza With Potato and Rosemary

Detroit-Style Pizza With Sausage and Peppers

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Detroit-style pizza has Instagram in part to thank for it’s rise to fame over the past couple years. It’s no wonder: the square slices are particularly picture-worthy. Detroit-style pizza is similar to a Grandma pie in shape, but boasts an extra-crispy crust and thick dough—not unlike a focaccia, but, you know, doused with tomato sauce and cheese.

Get the recipe: Detroit-Style Pizza With Sausage and Peppers

Photos by Greg DuPree

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