The Big Pizza Guide

Homemade pizza, with its slightly uneven, charred crust and searing-hot toppings, is a wonderful thing. Mix up your own dough, knead with love and shape with care, and cooking lunch becomes an occasion. Outdoor pizza ovens are becoming increasingly popular – adding woodsmoke and theatre – but conventional ovens do just fine, too. And if you’re short of time, try ready-made dough and bases, and add your own toppings – the possibilities are endless

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN PIZZA BASE

It’s best to make your dough the night before, to give it plenty of time to prove

1. Put 500g strong white bread flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and add ¼ tsp easy bake yeast and 1 tbsp fine sea salt. Incorporate 325ml warm water until you have a rough, sticky dough.

2. Knead vigorously on an oiled work surface for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 minutes; repeat twice, using more oil as needed. Prove in the fridge in an oiled bowl covered in cling film for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. 

3. Divide and shape the dough into 4 even balls, space on a floured baking tray, cover and rest for 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 250˚C, gas mark 9. Put a baking tray on the highest shelf. Shape each ball into a pizza base, then transfer 1 to a well-floured baking tray. Scatter with your favourite toppings and slide onto the hot baking tray. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until crisp and golden; repeat with the remaining bases. If you’re using a pizza oven, heat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Prepare your pizzas, then slide into the oven using a pizza peel. Cook until crisp, bubbling and slightly charred.


See the full recipe

HOW TO SHAPE PIZZA

Pizza bases are shaped differently, depending on where you are in Italy. Neapolitan pizza is known for its chewy texture, puffed and slightly charred crust, plus sparse toppings. In Rome, pizzas are ultra-thin, crisp and almost crustless, with toppings pushed right to the edge. 

NEAPOLITAN PIZZA

1. Place a dough ball on a well-floured surface and, using your fingertips, press around the edge to create a crust, about 1cm thick. Flatten the centre with your fingertips, then press with the palm of your hand to ensure it’s even. 

2. Lift the dough onto your knuckles, then pull and stretch the centre, rotating it as you go, until it is as thin as you can get it with a well-defined crust. 

5 ITALIAN PIZZA TOPPINGS

Spread a thin layer of simple tomato sauce, then scatter with your choice of these iconic pizza toppings

5 AMERICAN PIZZA TOPPINGS

After spreading with tomato sauce, add one of these toppings made famous in the United States

5 TIMESAVING PIZZA HACKS 

Dreaming of homemade pizza but no time to knead? Stock up on a few clever ingredients and pizza will only ever be a few minutes away

OTHER THINGS TO COOK IN YOUR PIZZA OVEN

If, like many of us, you’ve invested in a pizza oven for the garden, you’re probably wondering what else you can cook in it apart from pizza. The good news is that you can use it to cook many things you’d cook in a regular oven – and once heated up, most pizza ovens stay hot for hours.  

Try jacket potatoes, a tray of garlic and rosemary-scented root veg, or steak. You can even bake a loaf of bread ready for breakfast the next morning.