Neapolitan Pizza 101

October 07, 2016
By Morgan Bergren, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Neapolitan pizza, or pizza Napolatena, originated in Naples, Italy. This original style of pizza is known for the simplicity and high quality of the ingredients, along with the time-tested cooking techniques that produce incredible flavors. Classic Neapolitan pizza ovens served as our inspiration when we designed our Artisan Fire Pizza Oven; it’s the best way to cook perfect Neapolitan pizzas at home. New to this style of pizza-making? We have compiled a glossary of the most important terms, standards and specialty ingredients that define Neapolitan pizza. Read on to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to make seriously delicious Neapolitan-style pizzas at home.

Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletena (VPN)

The VPN (or “True Neapolitan Pizza Association”, in English) is a certification body in Naples, Italy that verifies that pizzerias are following traditional techniques and traditions to produce Neapolitan pizza. Authentic Neapolitan pizzas must be made with specific ingredients using approved equipment. These standards include cooking each pizza for just 60-90 seconds in a traditional forno, or pizza oven at 800-degrees (or hotter).

Classic Neapolitan-style pizza baking in the Kalamazoo outdoor pizza oven


An authentic Neapolitan pizza oven, or forno, is dome-shaped and wood-fired, with a 5-inch thick floor. The extremely high cooking temperatures (800-1000 degrees) have traditionally relied upon wood, but it’s really the heat of the flame – not the wood – that delivers the flavor. The Kalamazoo Artisan Fire Pizza Oven was designed to mimic the heat of a traditional wood-fired pizza oven and delivers intense heat in excess of 800 degrees. Its gas-powered flame dramatically reduces preheating time; the Artisan Fire Pizza Oven is ready to cook in 20-45 minutes, compared to 3 hours or more for a wood-fired oven.

The Kalamazoo Freestanding Artisan Fire Pizza Oven

Traditional Neapolitan pizza

There are three official variations on the classic Neapolitan pizza. The first is pizza marinara, which is a cheese-less pizza topped with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil. A pizza Margherita is topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. Swapping the cow’s milk mozzarella for mozzarella di Bufala creates the final official variant: the pizza Margherita extra. All Neapolitan-style pizzas have a thin, hand-stretched crust. Interested in making one at home? Try our Artisan Fire Pizza Dough recipe, topped with our classic raw tomato sauce, and use restraint when adding cheese, herbs, and other toppings.

Pizza Margherita

D.O.P. (or DOP)

An abbreviation for Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, or “denomination of protected origin”. When you see this mark on an Italian food product, you can be sure that it hails from a strictly defined geographic area in Italy and was produced according to stringent, traditional standards. Making your own Neapolitan-style pie? Look for the D.O.P. certification on San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella cheese, and olive oil.

00 flour

Italian flours are graded from 00 to 2, and the numbers indicate how finely ground the flour is and how much of the outer husk of the wheat is included. 00 flour is very finely milled Italian flour from the center of the grain, with a high burning point that makes it perfectly suited for the intense heat of a traditional Neapolitan pizza oven (or our Artisan Fire Pizza Oven). We use a blend of 00 and bread flour in our Artisan Fire Pizza Dough recipe for optimal results.

San Marzano tomatoes

An heirloom-variety plum tomato grown in volcanic soil near Naples, Italy. Authentic San Marzano tomatoes are grown under strict guidelines set by the D.O.P., although the tomatoes grow well outside of Italy and can be sourced from the United States as well. With thin skins, thick flesh, deep red color, and few seeds, each tomato produces firm pulp with excellent flavor. San Marzano tomatoes are the preferred variety for making classic Neapolitan pizza sauce.

Mozzarella di bufala

Fresh mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk. When produced in specific regions of Italy, this specialty product has the protection of the D.O.C. This is considered the original variety of mozzarella, with a creamy texture, delicate flavor, and richer taste than mozzarella made from cow’s milk.

Fior di latte or fiordilatte

“Milk’s flower,” in English, is fresh mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk. Outside of Italy, this is the standard “fresh mozzarella” you’ll find in most grocery stores. It can be used interchangeably with mozzarella di bufala.

Pizza peel

This is an essential tool for any Neapolitan pizza maker! Slide it under your assembled pizza in order to transfer it into your pizza oven, or build your pizza right on the peel itself. Use it again when it’s time to rotate you pizza as it cooks and pull it out of the oven. Kalamazoo has hand-selected pizza tools used by professional chefs in Italy, including two essential pizza peels. Our Pizza Master’s Kit is essential for making perfect Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Kalamazoo's essential pizza making tools

With the right ingredients, techniques, and a high-heat pizza oven, delicious Neapolitan-style pizzas are within reach at home!