When it comes to making great pizza, there’s no secret. Like most traditional Italian fare, success lies in using the best ingredients, taking your time, and keeping it simple. That’s why we’re going back to the basics, exploring the fundamentals of pizza: dough and sauce.
Here, you’ll find tips from Chef Chris Bianco of acclaimed Phoenix, Arizona restaurant Pizzeria Bianco, along with our Test Kitchen’s go-to pizza dough recipe. We’ve made a whole lot of pizza over the years, but a simple Margherita remains a favorite. It’s unfussy preparation relies on quality ingredients and a good crust—just the pizza necessities we like to focus on.
Our Test Kitchen swears by Food-Processor Pizza Dough, which makes fast and easy work of a process that would otherwise require some muscle (scroll down for the full recipe). Just mix the dough in the food processor, adding a water-yeast mixture little by little, until the dough comes together, then continue processing to knead the dough. Take it out, let it rise, and stretch it out — that’s it! Here are a few more dough tips from Chris.
Work ahead. The amount of time dough takes to rise depends on the ambient temperature. But Chris likes to make the dough the night before, or early in the morning, letting it rest in the fridge and then again at room temperature. “It’s very forgiving,” he says.
Give it time. If your dough is hard to stretch, it means you may not have proofed it long enough, he says. Also: “I don’t like to use a rolling pin for something that’s worked so hard to leaven and gain aeration and cell structure,” he says. Instead, you can use your hands to stretch the dough.
Strike a balance. When it comes to toppings, don’t overload the dough. “We’re talking about an appropriate amount of ingredients that the hydration of the dough can handle,” says Chris. “What we do as cooks is put ingredients in place so they can succeed.” He recommends assembling everything in balance so they cook evenly, melt properly, and don’t become overly soupy or overly dry.
Food-Processor Pizza Dough
- 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the flour and salt and process with 3 or 4 pulses. With the motor running on the dough speed, slowly add the yeast mixture, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Continue processing until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute, then process for 1 minute more.
Coat the inside of a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Divide the dough in half and roll out or stretch into rounds as directed in the pizza recipe. Makes two 12-inch rounds.
You don’t need a recipe for pizza sauce. That’s because traditional sweet-tart, vibrant tomato sauces have just one ingredient: top-quality tomatoes. Peeled and crushed—and sprinkled with just a touch of sea salt and fresh herbs, if you like—they are all you need for a great Margherita Pizza. While tomatoes are in season, you can use fresh ones, but throughout the rest of the year it’s best to seek out good-quality canned tomatoes, which are packed within hours of harvest for ultimate freshness.
When you’re ready to cook your pizza, simply spread crushed tomatoes on top of the dough, and then add the rest of your toppings. The sauce will cook with the rest of the pizza, changing texture and flavor in the oven (or on the grill).
“My pizza sauce is cooking on the pizza,” says Chris. “My role is putting the ingredients in a place and letting them succeed. So if I crush those tomatoes, all I need to do is to get them to the next stage, and by some of the juice evaporating, and it bubbling and it cooking, and kinda getting into that dough, it will give me the desired texture I want.”