pizza 101: new york style

If you're like me, you've been repeatedly burned by promises of "New York style pizza." Expecting a savory pie with a thin, chewy, flexible crust and a poofy edge, you instead get the same limp, tasteless crap, swimming in sauce, that you've been served time and time again.

For years I looked for an authentic slice of New York, and I'm pleased to say I've come very close. Several readers have asked for the recipe, but I've been reluctant to post it because it's a work in progress. With that as a caveat, here's my recipe to date, complete with the time increments, methods, and brands I've always used. Does that stuff make a difference? Who knows? It's just how I've always done it. Hence "to date."

Indispensable components of this recipe are the pizza brick, high-gluten flour, and cold-rising. Without any one of these elements, the recipe will produce crap crust. You west coast people won't know the difference, so knock yourselves out.

Niche stuff you'll need

If you want authentic NYC pizza, there's no getting around buying a pizza stone and peel. If like me you live in the sticks, you might also need to mail-order the high-gluten flour. (Note: it's also used for bagels, which are surprisingly easy to make. If you want to try, get this too.)

Sauce for one pie
Timeline: 24-48 hours to go

3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB onion, finely chopped
1 TB garlic, finely chopped
1 14 oz can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes
1 tsp fennel seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1/8 cup red wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh basil
1 tsp fresh oregano

  1. Puree the can of tomatoes in blender, liquid included.
  2. Heat oil in saucepan and add onion and garlic. Saute at low heat for 3 minutes, until garlic becomes aromatic. Don't brown it.
  3. Add tomato puree and other ingredients.
  4. Simmer slowly on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Do not boil.
  5. To let the flavors meld, refrigerate sauce for at least 24 hours until you're ready to use it.

Dough for one pie
Timeline: 26 hours to go

3½ cups high-gluten flour
1 and 1/8 cups warm water
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp instant yeast
¾ tsp salt

  1. Mix all ingredients in heavy-duty stand mixer. Once dough ball forms, knead at medium speed ("4" on my Kitchen Aid) for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove dough. It should be soft, not sticky to the touch, and unusually light.
  3. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Making the pizza
Timeline: 2 hours to go

Sauce for one pie
Dough for one pie
Corn meal
Grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
Boar's Head pepperoni, sliced
Whatever else you like

  1. After 24 hours have passed, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the counter so that it can warm and relax for 1-2 hours.
  2. Place the brick on the medium rack in your oven, pushing it all the way against the back wall (to prevent your pie from sliding off) and removing the top rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for an hour or more. It takes time for the brick to heat.
  3. Using a little flour to keep it from sticking, roll the dough until it's impossibly thin. Thin, thin, thin. If you're asking "is this thin enough?" it's not thin enough. It should exceed the diameter of the bread peel by several inches.
  4. Set the peel on top of the rolled out dough and, leaving 1.5 inches of overhanging dough, use a paring knife to trace the shape of the board.
  5. Cover the peel generously with corn meal. This is what keeps the dough from sticking.
  6. Taking care not to let the dough shrink and thicken, transfer the dough to the peel. Tuck and pinch the overhang upon itself so that the pie fits the peel perfectly. This thick, pinched edge gives the crust its NYC poofy edge.
  7. Add a thin layer of sauce. This is where most people go wrong—sauce is just supposed to moisten. You should be able to see the beige of the crust through the sauce, still.
  8. Sprinkle a layer of whole moz. You don't need as much as with skim moz. A single layer through which you can still see the sauce is perfect.
  9. Pile on the toppings.
  10. Transferring the pizza from the peel to the stone is a skill that develops over time. Before you try it, jiggle the peel and ensure that the pie is loose and read to slide. With the back edge of the peel touching the back of the oven, tilt the peel and shimmy the pie on to the brick.
  11. After 10-15 minutes, when the bottom of the pie is a deep, golden brown, use the peel to remove it from the brick. Let it cool for a good 15 minutes. I've found that letting it get to room temperature only makes it taste better. Slice into wedges and serve. If you rolled the crust thin enough, a warm piece will droop over your fingertips, just like in Manhattan.