Italian Pizza with Pesto

Want to make Italian style pizza at home? Here’s a recipe for REAL Italian pizza and all the resources you need to make it at home.

Italian pizza

Want to make REAL Italian pizza at home? We’ve got your back. For over 10 years, Alex and I have been studying the art of making artisan pizza at home. We’ve even made several trips to Italy to do it: we brought back secrets from Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast! Here, we’ll help you understand how to make the best pizza crust, best homemade pizza sauce, and cook the pizza just right with the best pizza stone. Let’s make Italian pizza together! Ready to get started?

Related: Homemade Pizza for Beginners | Pizza Topping Ideas

Italian style pizza

What is Italian pizza?

Before we start: what is real Italian pizza? We all know American style delivery pizza is nothing like Italian pizza. But just like any popular food, there are many different styles of Italian pizza based on region and method.

There’s a Roman pizza chef called Bonci who’s made a name for himself making rectangular thick crust pizza with incredible bright colored toppings (see our Rome post for more). But in Naples, the birth place of pizza itself, the pizza crust is thin and supple, covered in tangy tomatoes, most often a simple margheritaflavor.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll define Italian pizza as this: pizza with elegantly simple flavors, and a soft, thin crust, cooked in a very hot oven. This is closest to the Naples style pizza and the definition we used in our Neapolitan pizza post. In this Italian pizza recipe, we’ve created an elegantly simple pizza: our perfect crust, delicious tangy tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, with homemade basil pesto on top.

how to make italian pizza
Italian peel on the Conveyor pizza peel

What you need: the tools for Italian pizza

Now, before you start making Italian pizza, you’ll need a few special tools. If you’re in it to win it, you absolutely need these two things to make the perfect pizza crust. Here are the tools you’ll need to make truly great Italian pizza:

  • Pizza stone: A pizza stone is what makes Italian pizza crust crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Here’s the best pizza stone we recommend, and a bit more on pizza stone care.
  • Pizza peel: A pizza peel is used to slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. We recommend this Standard pizza peel or this Conveyor pizza peel. The conveyor pizza peel is absolutely worth the extra investment since it makes it very easy to slide the pizza out of the oven.
Real Italian pizza

How to make pizza dough

To make a great Italian pizza, you’ve got to start with a good Italian pizza dough. Alex and I have been working on our recipe for over 10 years. In honing our dough recipe, we’ve learned a few things from some of the premiere pizza restaurant chefs in America, who themselves have studied the pizza in Naples! Our best tip for next level Italian pizza dough is to use great flour! The flour we use is called Tipo 00 flour; it’s what Neapolitan pizza restaurants use. It makes for a beautiful, supple and fluffy dough. We buy our Tipo 00 flour online.

We have a few pizza dough recipes that you can make depending on your tastes and equipment. Our Best Pizza Dough is our preferred method; we make it using stand mixer, but you can also knead it by hand. Our Easy Thin Crust method is similar but makes a thinner dough that you roll out. Or, you can try our quick pizza dough made in a food processor. Below is a video of Alex showing how to make and stretch the Italian pizza dough.

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How to make Italian pizza sauce

This Italian pizza uses our Best Pizza Sauce recipe: it’s our best recipe because it brings big flavor with high quality ingredients, but only takes 5 minutes to make! In a blender, you’ll simply whiz together canned fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and a little salt. It makes the most flavorful pizza sauce you’ve ever had, reminiscent of pizza straight out of Naples! The important thing here: use fire roasted tomatoes. Fire roasted tomatoes are becoming easily accessible at most grocery stores in the US. If you can’t find them, use the highest quality tomatoes you can find.

Homemade pesto

How to make homemade pesto

In this Italian pizza recipe, we’ve gone super simple: tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and homemade pesto. That’s it! And the simplicity of the flavors is truly stunning. This pesto recipe we used is our Best Basil Pesto recipe. It’s made by whizzing up fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor until they form a bright green paste. Or, we have a few other pesto recipes to choose from: Basil Cashew Pesto, Basil Walnut Pesto, or even Vegan Cashew Pesto.

In this recipe you can also substitute a high quality store bought pesto if desired. Of course the flavor is better with homemade pesto, but these days there are lots of great purchased options as well. Note that the color on purchased pesto can sometimes look more brown than green, so if you’d like the bright green in the photo, homemade pesto is best.

Looking for more pizza recipes?

Outside of this Italian pizza recipe, here are some of our favorite pizza recipes:

Italian pesto pizza

This Italian pizza recipe is…


Italian pizza

Italian Pizza Recipe

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 7 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 7 minutes
  • Yield: 8 slices 1x


Want to make Italian style pizza at home? Here’s a recipe for REAL Italian pizza and all the resources you need to make it at home.




  1. Make the pizza dough: Follow the Best Pizza Dough recipe to prepare the dough. (This takes about 15 minutes to make and 45 minutes to rest.)
  2. Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500°F. OR preheat your pizza oven (here’s the pizza oven we use).
  3. Make the pizza sauce: Make the 5 Minute Pizza Sauce.
  4. Prepare the cheese: If using fresh mozzarella cheese, slice it into 1/4 inch thick pieces (see the photo). If it’s incredibly watery fresh mozzarella (all brands vary), you may want to let it sit on a paper towel to remove moisture for about 15 minutes then dab the mozzarella with the paper towel to remove any additional moisture.
  5. Bake the pizza: When the oven is ready, dust a pizza peel with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use a rimless baking sheet or the back of a rimmed baking sheet. But a pizza peel is well worth the investment!) Stretch the dough into a circle; see How to Stretch Pizza Dough for instructions. Then gently place the dough onto the pizza peel. 
  6. Spread the pizza sauce over the dough using the back of a spoon to create a thin layer. Add the mozzarella cheese. Top with a few pinches of kosher salt.
  7. Use the pizza peel to carefully transfer the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake the pizza until the cheese and crust are nicely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes in the oven (or 1 minute in a pizza oven).
  8. Dollop with the basil pesto. Slice into pieces and serve immediately.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Italian pizza, Italian style pizza, Real Italian pizza, Is pizza Italian

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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