This pepperoni pizza has a gorgeous hand stretched thin crust, just the right amount of acidity from a no-cook tomato sauce, an even blanket of gorgeously browned mozzarella cheese, crispy pepperoni, and fresh basil to finish.
It bakes up in just a few minutes on a pre-heated baking steel and is a great addition to any pizza night.
I've shared so many unique pizza recipes on my site already, it's about time I made a space for the one I make most often: plain thin crust pepperoni pizza!
You might not think you need a full recipe for something as seemingly basic to make as cheese and pepperoni pizza, but there are a few tips and techniques I've picked up in my years of pizza making that I wanted to share with you.
Before doing my own deep dive into homemade pizza making, I thought most pizza doughs were fairly similar. That all types of mozzarella cheeses were interchangeable. That any old tomato sauce would work just fine. Oh how wrong I was.
A well made thin crust pepperoni pizza hot out of the oven with a leopard-spotted bottom, crisp-chewy outer crust and balanced ratio of sauce to cheese to toppings is elegant in its simplicity.
Simple recipes are all about the specifics. You can certainly use different cheeses or pepperoni or sauces or pizza doughs and techniques than what I recommend and still end up with a tasty pepperoni pizza. But if you'll get a slightly different pizza than what you see here.
You don't need to get fancy to make a gorgeous pepperoni pizza at home. Like I said, it's simple! But there are a few things you can do to make yours turn out reliably well every time.
And that's what we're here to talk about.
🥘 Ingredient Notes
Here are the ingredients that you'll need to make this thin crust pepperoni pizza recipe! See recipe card for quantities.
- Pizza Dough - I used my overnight thin crust pizza dough recipe here, as usual. This dough has been formulated specifically to stretch super thin and bake up extra crispy on a baking steel. While you can use any pizza dough you like, you will get better results with a homemade pizza dough that has a longer rise time because the gluten has more time to relax so it can be stretched thinner, which will bake up crispier. I don't recommend using store bought pizza dough if you're after a truly thin crust pizza; it just doesn't stretch as well.
- 5-Minute No Cook Pizza Sauce - My favorite go-to classic red pizza sauce is made with a 6 ounce can of unsalted tomato sauce, dried basil and oregano, salt, and a clove of garlic. My full pizza sauce recipe makes enough for 3 pizzas; you'll need about 2 ounces of sauce to make just one pizza.
- Mozzarella Cheese - Low-moisture whole milk mozzarella cheese that you grate by hand is the best melty cheese for pizza (more on this below). It comes in a shrink-wrapped block, a square with soft, rounded edges. I usually use Galbani, Dragone, or Wegman's store brand mozzarella. You can use pre-shredded low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella cheese, but it has anti-caking starch added to prevent clumping (nothing wrong with that) which does cause the cheese to brown faster.
- Pepperoni Slices - I like using Hormel's "original" pepperoni slices or the Wegman's store brand pepperoni slices. Unlike the more artisanal brands of pepperoni or fancier cured pepperoni meats, they tend to have less fat in them which means they won't mess with the cheese melting. Pepperoni is optional if you want a plain cheese pizza, of course.
- Powdered Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese - No classic pizza pie is complete without a dusting of finely grated (powdered) cheese. My favorite finishing cheese for pizzas is Locatelli's Pecorino Romano, but any powdered pecorino or parmesan cheese will do.
- Fresh Basil - Thinly cut in a chiffonade. Wait until the pizza is out of the oven or in the final minute of cooking to cut the basil so it stays fresh!
Remember: Pizza toppings should always be ready-to-eat (or pre-cooked) before adding to your pizza!
🧀 Why Use Low Moisture Mozzarella Cheese on Pizza
I've tried at least a dozen brands and styles of mozzarella cheese on my pizzas over the years. The one I keep coming back to is also the one used by many American pizza makers for this style of thin crust pizza: Low-Moisture Whole Milk Mozzarella cheese.
When you use low-moisture whole milk mozzarella cheese on your pizza, you'll get a flat, even layer of cheese with small spots of browning across the surface. The cheese strands completely melt into one another, creating a beautifully dimpled surface with dots of sauce peeking through.
For pure meltability, nothing beats low-moisture mozzarella. While fresh mozz exudes water as it melts and becomes more soupy than melty, The best low-moisture mozzarella should stretch and stretch, yet still remain dry enough that the pizza crust remains intact.Serious Eats, ranking the best low-moisture mozzarella cheeses for pizza
The moisture content is especially important when it comes to pizzas using deliciously fatty toppings like pepperoni.
In the heat of the oven, the fat in the pepperoni melts out onto the surface of the pizza. A high moisture cheese + a high fat topping means you'll definitely end up with a soupy pizza.
🥓 How Much Pepperoni to Use
Depending on the brand and the amount of fat in the pepperoni you choose, pepperoni can add a lot of grease to your pizza, so I tend to use a less is more approach.
- For a 10-12" pizza, that's usually about 12-13 slices of pepperoni.
- For a 13-16" pizza, that's more like 15-18 slices of pepperoni.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good greasy pizza. There is absolutely nothing wrong with fat in your food. I just prefer a suitably greasy pepperoni pizza with a sturdy thin crust bottom to a soupy pepperoni pizza with a soggy, soft crust.
Too much grease can prevent the bottom of the crust from crisping, so make sure you leave some space between your pepperoni slices!
♨️ Preheating Your Pizza Steel
Start by preheating your oven to 500°F with a baking steel or pizza stone (read my baking steel review to know why I recommend a steel over a stone!) arranged as close to the heating unit as possible.
Pizzas are best when they cook quickly at high heat, and a baking steel helps bring your home oven closer in temperature (550°F) to the high heat of a wood fired pizza oven (700°-900°F).
In most ovens, you'll want it about 7 inches below the broiler unit at the top of your oven. In ovens with a bottom drawer broiler, just get the baking steel as close to the heating unit in the oven as possible, and place an inverted sheet pan in the broiler area.
The inverted sheet pan gives you a flat surface to slide the pizza onto for the final minute of broiling.
Take your pizza dough out of the fridge 60-90 minutes before you plan to stretch it, preheat the baking steel for at least 60 minutes, and use this time to prep the sauce and pizza toppings.
🥣 How to Hand Stretch Pizza Dough for a Thin Crust
To get a chewy outer crust with a crispy thin crust pizza bottom, you need to hand stretch your pizza dough. This allows you to control the thickness of the outer crust while getting that nice, thin crust bottom.
Pre-shaping the dough and storing it in round deli containers in the fridge trains the dough to hold its circle shape as it stretches. I've written all about how to do this in my guide to hand stretching pizza dough so head there for more detail.
As always, make sure you use plenty of flour, let gravity do most of the work, and stretch on the backs of your hands as the dough gets thinner so you don't poke holes through the dough!
If at any time the dough seems like it's going to tear or it's fighting you and doesn't want to stretch, let it rest for a few minutes (even just 60 seconds!) on the counter.
Dust a pizza peel with semolina flour and plop your stretched pizza dough on top. It's now ready for sauce and toppings!
Why semolina flour? Semolina flour is coarser and rounder than all purpose flour and will help your pizza slide off the peel and onto the baking steel easily. This is another tip I picked up from Andris, the founder of the Baking Steel company. He uses a 50/50 blend of all purpose and semolina flours, but I find I prefer just the semolina.
🍕 How to Make Pepperoni Pizza
No matter your cooking ability, making a pizza is one of those things almost everyone knows how to do. I won't belabor the process here. But I do have a few quick tips to share, so let's get to it.
Make the pizza sauce by whisking together tomato sauce, salt, dried basil and oregano, and a finely grated clove of garlic.
Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce with the back of a spoon. You want about 2 ounces of pizza sauce, approximately two tablespoons.
Get the sauce closer to the edge than you think. You only need about half an inch of bare crust around the outside rim.
Why do you spread pizza sauce with the back of a spoon? The curved back of the spoon glides gently over the delicate pizza dough.
Because the edges of the spoon are curved away from the dough, they won't catch or tear it the way a knife or spatula would!
Now it's time for cheese and pepperoni.
Spread the cheese in an even layer on top of the sauce. You want to be able to see the sauce peeking through it.
Top with pepperoni and then dust with finely grated or powdered parmesan cheese.
Leave some space between the pepperoni slices; they move around a bit as the cheese bubbles up.
And get some of the parmesan cheese on the edges of the crust too — a cheesy crust is a good crust!
Give the pizza a little shimmy back and forth on the pizza peel to make sure it isn't stuck. If any parts seem to be sticking, carefully lift them up and dust additional flour underneath.
Launch the pizza onto the baking steel:
- Place the tip of the pizza peel an inch or two in front of the back edge of the baking steel.
- Lift the handle of the peel up slightly at about a 20 degree angle.
- In a quick movement, thrust the peel forward about an inch, so the edge of the pizza slides off the end of the peel and onto the steel. Then pull the peel back and out of the oven, keeping the tip of the peel on the steel the whole time to let the pizza slide off.
Cook this thin crust pepperoni pizza for about 2-3 minutes, then use the peel or a long spatula to help rotate the pizza and bake 2-3 minutes more. This helps avoid hot spots in the oven for even browning.
To finish, broil the pizza for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese and crust are as browned as you like.
Remove the pepperoni pizza from the oven with the peel (sometimes it helps to use a pair of tongs to gently grip the edge of the crust and tug it onto the peel). Top with thinly sliced fresh basil, then slice and serve immediately!
Note: Broilers are VERY hot and their power can vary widely from oven to oven. Once you switch to broiling, check on your pizza every 30 seconds to make sure it doesn't burn!
Every oven is different, but thin crust pizza does cook quickly — after the first 5 minutes on the steel, the pizza dough will be cooked through. After that, it's all about the cheese.
What you're really looking at to determine if it's "done" is the browning on the crust and cheese. Some of that comes down to personal preference!
🔪 Suggested Equipment
- Pizza Steel - I use the Original Baking Steel to make all of my pizzas (note: I bought my Baking Steel with my own money but love it so much I became part of their affiliate program; use code TPK10 for 10% off!). A pizza stone will also work if that's all you've got, but your pepperoni pizza may take slightly longer to cook.
- Pizza Peel - A wooden pizza peel is the best tool for getting your pizza in and out of the oven. If you don't have a pizza peel, an upside down sheet pan will work for sliding it on to the steel. To remove it from the oven without a peel, use tongs (gently) or two spatulas to slide it off of the stone and onto a sheet pan.
- Pizza Cutter - You'll want a good, sharp pizza cutter. There are plenty of trendy, unique pizza cutter designs out there but you really can't beat one like Winco's 4" pizza cutter which is less than $10 and was designed for restaurants and the food service industry. If style is as important to you as functionality, however, Mercer Culinary makes a great pizza cutter with a "millennial purple" handle.
⏲️ Storage Notes
Wrap any leftover pepperoni pizza slices in foil or plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
Reheat day-old or cold pepperoni pizza in a dry skillet over medium heat, or on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes (or until the cheese is melted again).
This pizza sauce recipe makes enough for 3-4 medium (10-16") pizzas. The sauce will stay good in the fridge for up to 7 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. After 3 months it won't be "bad" but you may notice a degradation in flavor or texture.
👩🏻🍳 Practical Pizza Tips and Recipe Notes
- Freeze the Mozzarella: If the mozzarella cheese is too soft to grate, pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes then try again.
- Using Store Bought Pizza Dough: Store bought pizza dough has LOTS of yeast in it to help it stay active longer. I really don't recommend using store bought dough as it's almost impossible to get a truly thin and crispy crust with it. If you DO use store bought pizza dough, you'll want to divide it in half or in thirds when you get home, pre-shape it into balls, and let it rise in the fridge (if not using immediately) or at room temperature if using within an hour or so.
- Don't Get Stuck: Once you add the sauce to the pizza, work quickly to add the cheese and toppings and get the pizza into the oven. The longer the pizza sits on the peel with the moisture from the sauce and the weight of the toppings, the more likely it is to stick to the peel!
- Let the pizza dough warm up: Hand stretching refrigerated pizza dough takes a bit of practice. You'll have a much easier time if you let it sit at room temperature for 60-90 minutes before stretching it.
- Room temperature: Room temperature is considered around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
💭 Recipe FAQ
I haven't tested any other methods, so can't tell you precisely how to do this. There are plenty of resources online that can guide you through the process of using an inverted baking sheet or pizza screen/pizza pan instead. Look for instructions that use a high temperature (500°F+) and a short cooking time for best results.
This pizza doesn't work super well with the popular "cupping" pepperoni. It's not sturdy enough to support all that weight. The cupping style of pepperoni works better on a pizza with a thicker crust and thicker cheese layer. That said, it's not like anyone's going to stop you if you really want to use them here. It's your pizza! You're in charge!
Yes, and no. It was certainly inspired by New York-style pizzas. And in the sense that this is a hand-stretched, thin crust pizza with a simple uncooked tomato sauce flavored with basil and oregano, yes, this pepperoni pizza has many of the characteristics associated with New York-style pizzas. But I don't have the authority to declare if this is or isn't a New York-style pizza. There are so many incredibly specific factors that go into making a true New York pizza; this pepperoni pizza doesn't check every box!
Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza
Pizza Sauce (Makes enough for 3 pizzas)
- 6 ounces salt-free tomato sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Pepperoni Pizza Assembly
- 1 ball overnight thin crust pizza dough (200-250 grams)
- 2 ounces pizza sauce
- 1 cup low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup pepperoni
- 1 sprig fresh basil (2-3 large leaves)
- ⅛ cup parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano)
- Preheat oven with baking steel at 500°F for 1 hour prior to baking. Remove pizza dough from fridge and allow to come to room temperature at least 60-90 minutes prior to stretching.
- Make the pizza sauce. Whisk together tomato sauce, salt, basil, oregano, and finely grated garlic.
- Grate the cheese. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate the mozzarella cheese. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Lightly dust a wooden pizza peel with semolina flour.
- Hand stretch pizza dough. Stretch the pizza dough into a round about 10-16" in size, depending on how thick you want it or the size of your dough ball. (See: How to Hand Stretch Pizza Dough.)
- Sauce it. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread about 2 tablespoons of pizza sauce almost all the way to the edge of the crust. Add more sauce only if needed, but a thin layer is more than enough.
- Cheese and toppings. Add the mozzarella cheese and top with pepperoni slices, leaving some room between slices. Finish with a dusting of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Pepperoni Pizza Baking
- Shimmy. Give the pepperoni pizza a shimmy on the wooden pizza peel to make sure that no parts of the crust have stuck. Dust additional flour underneath any stuck spots if needed.
- Launch. Open the oven and line up the tip of the pizza peel with the back of the steel. Tilt it at an angle (20° or so) and give it a quick thrust to help the pizza begin sliding off. As the pizza slides, pull the peel straight back, keeping the tip of the peel on the steel, depositing the pizza on to the hot surface to begin cooking.
- Bake. Bake the pizza for 2-3 minutes, then use the pizza peel to rotate it in place on the steel so it cooks evenly. Bake 2-3 minutes more, then broil for 1 minute or until as browned as you like. Remove from the oven.
- Basil. Stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them into a log. Chiffonade the basil by slicing the log into thin ribbons. Top the hot pizza with fresh basil ribbons. Serve immediately.
- You can also make the pizza sauce in a bullet blender or mini food processor.
- This pizza sauce recipe makes enough sauce for 3 medium 10-15" pizzas. Topping quantities provided are for 1 medium pizza.
- Hand stretching is CRUCIAL for getting a thin, crispy pizza crust.
- If the mozzarella cheese is too soft to grate, pop it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes prior to grating.
- Once the pizza has sauce on top of it, don't let it sit too long on the peel before baking. The longer it sits, the more likely it will get stuck! You don't need to rush like you're in a pit crew, but try to get the pizza toppings on and the pizza in the oven in less than 10 minutes.
- Storage: Once cooled, wrap pizza slices in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.