Readers of this blog will know that the classic Neapolitan pizza is my favorite style of pizza to make at home. But sometimes, I want something a little bit different. Especially when I’m cooking for more than one person. This is the perfect opportunity to bake one of my favorite pizza recipes—this fluffy pan pizza with homemade pizza dough recipe.
My version of the homemade pan pizza is a cross between a Detroit style pizza and the traditional Sicilian (or “grandma”) style, except we’re using less cheese and fresher ingredients. Much lighter and healthier compared to either of those styles. But trust me, the fresh mozzarella, tangy fermented dough and San Marzano tomatoes more than make up for it in terms of flavor.
The key to this style is letting the shaped dough rise in an oily pan for 1-2 hours before baking, to achieve optimal fluffiness and crispiness.
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What You’ll Need:
- Single 500 gram pizza dough (no-knead recipe here)
- Standard (approx.) 9in x 13in baking pan ( Or whatever you have. The smaller the pan the thicker the crust.)
- Plenty of extra-virgin olive oil
- 100 grams of fresh mozzarella cheese (or 7/8 cup)*
- 60 grams (or 1/2 cup) low moisture cheese of your choice (mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, etc.) shredded
- Several large spoonfuls of San Marzano tomato sauce (recipe here)
- Dried oregano
- Fresh basil leaves
*I recommend getting a food scale if possible, and measuring your ingredients in grams instead of cups. See why here.
I like to keep my toppings simple, but of course feel free to add pepperoni (and the like) if you so desire. If you follow my steps properly, then this recipe is quite versatile – get creative and tailor-make it to your family’s taste!
Fluffy Pan Pizza
- 500 g pizza dough
- Several dash extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g fresh mozzarella cheese
- 60 to 100 g low moisture mozzarella/parm/cheddar cheese blend
- 2 pinch dried oregano
- 2 leaves fresh basil
- 60 to 100 g San Marzano tomato sauce
Prepare Your Dough
- Prep your dough. If coming directly from the fridge, allow the dough to sit for 2-3 hours until it reaches room temperature. Place in a well oiled pan and drizzle oil on top of dough. Gently press and stretch the dough until it reaches the edges of the pan. If the dough is too elastic and recoils back, let it sit for 10-15 mins and try again. It will eventually reach the edges of the pan.
- Once your dough is prepped in the pan, cover it tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit for 2-3 hours. During this time the dough will rise up. This is what makes the crust fluffy and airy when baked.
Top The Pizza
- Add shredded low moisture cheese to the edges of the crust. This cheese will fry in the oil and becomes crispy and tasty. Spread whatever is leftover evenly around the middle of the dough.
- Break your fresh mozzarella cheese into chunks and place them evenly around the pizza.
- Spread sauce in dollops or stripes across the top of the cheese. You can use as much or as little as you like, but I try to go 50/50 with sauce and cheese (see photos).
- Spread dried oregano, fresh basil leaves and some extra Parmesan cheese. Lightly drizzle some olive oil on top.
Bake Your Pizza
- Preheat your oven to 450F and place pizza on the bottom rack. Check pizza after 10 minutes to see if crust is cooking too fast or slow. The bottom crust should be lightly golden by this point. If it’s cooking too fast, place it on a higher rack and let bake for another 5-10 minutes. The pizza is done when the cheese and toppings are cooked to your liking. The cheese should be lightly golden and melted, not a deep crusted-over brown (unless you like it that way).
Pan Pizza Step 1: Prepare your dough:
If you’ve followed my homemade pizza dough recipe, you should have a ball of dough that’s been sitting at room temperature for a couple of hours. We want the gluten structure of the dough to be nice and relaxed for easy shaping.
(If you’re using a different dough recipe, or store-bought, just form it into a ball and let it rest outside of the fridge until it reaches room temperature.)
Next, pour a generous amount of olive oil in your baking pan and rub it all along the sides so that none of the dough sticks.
Place your relaxed dough ball into the pan and using the flat part of your fingers gently knead and spread it out. Make sure your fingers are slightly oily as you do this or else the dough will stick. Once the dough gets to the point where it slides back towards the middle as you spread it. Next, cover it up and let it rest for 10 minutes then come back and try again. Because the pan is so oily, it will likely take several attempts before the dough is stretched and relaxed enough to reach edge-to-edge. Just make sure you stretch it evenly so there is equal thickness.
Let It Sit
Once your dough reaches the edges of your baking pan, cover it tightly with cling-wrap. Now let it sit for at least 1-2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. During this time the dough will rise and become airy and fluffy. The bottom of the dough will also form tiny little bubbles where it touches the pan and the oil. This will make the bottom of the crust nice and crispy when cooked.
After 1-2 hours have passed, your dough should have risen and you should notice little air bubbles popping up on the surface. This is exactly what we’re looking for—it means the dough is now full of air and will make for a nice and fluffy crust when baked.
Note that you want to be very gentle with the dough as you prepare the pizza because if you press too hard it will push the air out and deflate it.
Pan Pizza Step 2: Add Cheese:
First, place your shredded cheese (not the fresh mozzarella) along the outer crust of the dough where it touches the edges of the pan. As the pizza bakes, this cheese will essentially fry along the oily sides of the baking pan and create a really tasty and crispy crust. Spread the rest of the shredded cheese
Next, break your fresh mozzarella into chunks and spread them evenly around the rest of the pizza (see picture below). Don’t worry about covering the entire dough – you won’t be able to with only 100 grams. The empty spaces between the chunks of cheese is where we will put the sauce and other seasonings.
Pan Pizza Step 3: Add Sauce
Now for the sauce. Instead of covering the entire pizza in sauce like you normally would, we’re just going to place several dollops strategically between the chunks of cheese. Don’t over-do it though – less can sometimes be more and we don’t want to weigh down the dough too much either. For the 500 gram dough we’re using, you probably want something similar to the picture below.
You should now have a pizza that’s about equally split between sauce, cheese and empty spots of dough. The bare dough spots will actually rise up as it cooks and get slightly crispy, which will pare amazingly with the saucy and cheesy parts.
Finally, we’re going to season the pizza. This is ultimately up to you, but I like to use dried oregano and fresh basil. Crush the dry oregano between your fingers and lightly sprinkle it all over the pizza, including the outer edges along the sides of the pan. Then tear 1-2 large leaves of fresh basil and place the pieces evenly around the pizza.
Finally, lightly drizzle some olive oil over the top of the pizza. The pizza is now ready for baking in the oven.
Step 4: Bake Your Pizza:
Preheat your oven to 445F and place the pizza on the bottom rack.
After about 10 minutes, I like to take it out and check the progress of the bottom crust. You may also want to use this as an opportunity to un-stick the dough from the bottom of the pan. Use a butter knife or spatula to detach the crust. The bottom crust should be starting to turn slightly golden, but not deep brown yet. If that’s the case, you leave it in for about another 10 minutes. If the crust looks like it’s cooking too fast, you can place it on the top rack to slow it down.
Keep an eye on the cheese during the final baking stage. Ideally you want the fresh cheese and sauce to be bubbling and ever-so-slightly golden. If the cheese is crusted over and browned, you probably left it in the oven too long. I like little puddles of melted cheese rather than cooked cheese (if that makes sense).
When the pizza is ready the crust should be a deep brown color. Take it out of the pan right away and place it on a cooling rack for 2-3 minutes before cutting into it. This is essential if you want a crispy crust, otherwise the steam underneath will have no way to escape and make the crust soggy.
And that’s it! Feel free to add or subtract as many ingredients as you like. For example, if you like an extra cheesy homemade pan pizza, try doubling the shredded cheese and spread it around the middle of the dough when prepping. I like a saucy pizza but maybe you’ll end up liking a little less. Or maybe you’ll like a little more or less oregano. Either way, use this recipe as your guide and you can have a yummy pizza tonight!