How to Make Neapolitan Pizza Like the One in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Updated: Feb. 10, 2024

Did you drool over the Neapolitan pizza Julia Roberts devoured in 'Eat, Pray, Love?' Now you can make your own authentic version of it at home.

If you have ever blissfully savored the most perfect bite of food, it’s easy to relate to a pivotal moment in the film Eat, Pray, Love. As Julia Roberts’ character takes the first bite of Neapolitan pizza from L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Italy, she swoons, “I’m in love. I’m having a relationship with my pizza.”

Described by an Italian travel website as a “sacred temple of pizza,” L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele began serving pies in Naples, Italy, in 1870. The pizzeria famously only serves two options: margherita and marinara pizza.

Now, there’s no need for a passport, and you don’t even need to own a wood-burning pizza oven. With this recipe and special at-home technique, you can create your own Neapolitan-style pizza in your kitchen. The recipe makes one serving—perfect to enjoy all by yourself. For one 10-inch pizza, it uses 1/4 pound of pizza dough. This can be a homemade dough, or one you have purchased from the grocery store or your favorite local pizza joint. If you are serving more people, the pizzas can be made to order one at a time. Don’t worry, the technique is quick!

What Is Neapolitan Pizza?

Neapolitan pizza is known for its perfectly thin crust that is chewy, yet crisp. It is also bubbly and browned without being burnt. This ideal crust is obtained by cooking it in a wood-burning oven at very high heat (up to 900°F) for only 60-90 seconds.

If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven, you are one step closer to achieving this high-heat cooking method for the pizza. But if you don’t have this piece of equipment or live somewhere where you can’t cook outdoors year-round, don’t worry, this recipe is the perfect solution.

Neapolitan Pizza vs. New York Pizza

While there are similarities between Neapolitan and New York pizzas, there are several distinct differences.

  • Each Neapolitan pizza is a single serving and arrives on a plate whole and uncut. From there, you can use your hands to tear off pieces or use a knife and fork. The piece can then be folded in half and devoured. New York pizza is typically made as larger-sized pies and cut into wedge slices.
  • Neapolitan pizza is defined by its pillowy, chewy crust. New York pizza tends to have less chew and is sturdier to support a variety of toppings.
  • Neapolitan pizza is made with a sauce consisting of only tomatoes and salt. New York pizza can use a variety of tomatoes, sometimes tomato paste, and typically adds a few more ingredients to the mix, such as garlic, herbs and spices.
  • Neapolitan pizza is cooked in a wood-burning oven, whereas New York pizza is often prepared in gas or coal-fired ovens.
  • Neapolitan pizza is dotted with slices or strips of fresh mozzarella as opposed to the grated mozzarella evenly sprinkled all over on a New York pizza.

How to Make Neapolitan Pizza

Ingredients

Neapolitan Pizza Like the One in 'Eat, Pray, Love' ingredientsKristina Vanni for Taste of Home

1/4 pound homemade or prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1/2 cup passata
2 ounces fior di latte or fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into strips
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Step 1: Prep the skillet

pizza dough in skilletKristina Vanni for Taste of Home

On a floured surface and with floured hands, press and stretch the pizza dough into a 10-inch circle.

Place an 11- or 12-in. cast-iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the oven on to broil. Have oven mitts nearby for transferring to the oven. Once the skillet is very hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully place the stretched 10-in. pizza dough in the hot.

Do you know?  You can freeze pizza dough. Try the best way to store pizza dough for future pizza nights or last-minute cravings!

Step 2: Add the toppings

Pizza toppingsKristina Vanni for Taste of Home

Spread the passata over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2- to 3/4-in. border around the edge. Add the fresh mozzarella or fior di latte strips, grated pecorino cheese and fresh basil leaves. Carefully lift up one corner of the crust to see if it has started to take on some color and begin to crisp. If necessary, continue to cook in the skillet until the bottom of the crust becomes golden, about 1 to 2 minutes more.

Step 3: Broil the pizza

broiled pizza in skilletKristina Vanni for Taste of Home

Using oven mitts, transfer the skillet to the oven. Broil the pizza for about 2 to 3 minutes, rotating as needed, until the crust looks puffed and evenly browned and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Watch the oven carefully and do not walk away as the crust and toppings can burn quickly.

Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully transfer the pizza to a large serving plate. Drizzle with additional olive oil and serve immediately.

Tips for Making Neapolitan Pizza

Making Neapolitan Pizza in a Pizza Oven

If you do happen to have a pizza oven, you can assemble your pizza according to the instructions above and pop it right in the oven. For the authentic pillowy and crispy crust, keep the cook time short—about 60 to 90 seconds—if your oven gets up to 900°. For ovens that don’t reach 900°, keep the pizza in for a little longer in order to get the right texture.

Quality Ingredients Are Key for a Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizzas have few toppings, but every component is of the highest quality. The sauce should be simple and comprised of only tomatoes and salt. This allows the natural acidity of the tomatoes to shine through. For this recipe, look for passata in the grocery store. It is the perfect uncooked tomato puree for the pizza.

The cheese should be fresh mozzarella cheese or, even more traditionally, fior di latte cheese. Fior di latte is made using exclusively cow’s milk whereas mozzarella is made with buffalo milk. I noticed that at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, they cut their fresh cheese into strips and then sprinkle it over the pizza. That’s another small detail you can do at home for an authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Enjoy without guilt

Finally, this pizza is meant to be savored and enjoyed without a bit of guilt. This quote from the film sums it up perfectly, “I’m just through with the guilt. So this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to finish this pizza, and then we’re going to go watch the soccer game, and tomorrow we’re going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.”

How to Watch ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Eat, Pray, Love can be streamed through Amazon Prime Video or rented through AppleTV+.