6 Pizza Cookbooks Every Pizza Maker Should Own (2021)


Whether you are a beginner pizza maker or have some experience slinging dough, learning to make better pizza from a world-renown cookbook is unbeatable. I own a small library of pizza and bread books (11 at my last count) so I’ve put together a shortlist of my favorite ones here.

Pizza popularity has exploded in the last 10 years, and so too have the cookbooks. These 6 books are classic books which I feel all add something different. You could happily collect them all over time for a nice collection. But if you’re on a budget for just one book then I would buy this one:

My Top Pick: The Elements Of Pizza by Ken Forkish

This is my favorite pizza book as it makes a number of amazing pizza doughs, all with clear instructions and no unnecessary steps. A beginner can follow the simple steps for fool-proof pizzas, or more experienced bakers can really dive into the theory. Learn about dough ratios, fermentation, and cooking techniques for world-class pies.

What’s inside?

If I was to buy one pizza cookbook then this would be it. This book really does look into every element of pizza dough and leaves no stone unturned. It has chapters on the history, all the different styles, the ingredients, methods, and equipment, all before going into the dough recipes and the actual pizza topping recipes themselves.

It has some amazing detail of the dough and how different ratios of ingredients and time can change the outcome. In total, it has 12 different doughs you can make depending on how much time you have. From quick “same day” dough to a 48-hour fermented masterpiece. It also has detailed instructions on pizza-making methods to take the dough from a doughball and into a stretched pizza ready for the oven.

What I like about this book is the no-nonsense approach Ken takes. Some other books have certain “secrets” you must follow that the author swears by. This book just gives you the important principles to follow – in reality a good dough and a hot oven will do the rest.

The author, Ken Forkish, owns several pizzerias and bakeries. This is his second book after the acclaimed Flour Water Yeast Salt – one of the best bread-making books of all time. He has taken his methodical approach to bread dough to research the best dough in pizza making. Sometimes almost scientific-like, but very easily digestible for the reader.

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Pros

  • Unbelievable detail for the pizza nerds out there.
  • Simple and no-nonsense recipes to follow.
  • Gives you an example timing schedule for each dough.

Cons

  • Very minor, but I find his dough balling technique a little unconventional where he folds it in on itself. I prefer the Pizza Bible method.
  • Not many other cons to this book; it has it all and I always find myself learning new stuff when I pick it up.

What’s inside?

This might be the most comprehensive pizza book out there and one I absolutely love for its recipes and coverage of basically every pizza style known. It’s written by 12-time pizza World Champion and overall pizza legend, Tony Gemignani.

The first chapter is a “Masterclass” on making pizza and goes through step by step each part of the pizza-making process. This information is absolute gold dust for any beginner pizza maker, and I consider this some of the most useful information I’ve learned in the craft. While many recipes will skip over the finer details, this guide tells you EXACTLY what to do at each step. It covers buying the right ingredients and equipment, some short theory, mixing and shaping dough balls, and finally the stretching, topping, and baking of the pizza.

Using this “master dough”, the book then covers many styles. It’s primarily a US-based pizza book so covers regional American pizzas first like New York, New Jersey, Detroit, St Louis. Chicago style has its own chapter with a dough variation and lots of recipes ideas for toppings and fillings of deep dish, cracker-thin, or skillet pizza.

Sicilian style has a chapter and covers how to cook the dough in a sheet pan instead of stretching. It has some tasty recipes ideas like the Purple Potato and Pancetta and the Grandma Pie. California style is a chapter that rounds up a mix of unconventional recipes, ancient-grain flours, and surprising flavors.

After the American styles (half the book), we have the Italian. Wood-fired Napoletana pizza has a detailed section on dough, sauce, mozzarella before diving into the other Italian styles like from Rome.

The final sections of the book cover other worldwide styles and also lots of other Italian-American sides like meatballs, bread, and leftover dough ideas. There are even cocktail recipes. It all blends very well together and is an absolute pleasure to read and eyeball all the images and recipe ideas.

Pros

  • Tony might know the most about every different style out there, and will teach you too.
  • The book is presented very well with dough recipes, topping recipes and other suitable accompaniments.

Cons

  • The actual pizza dough recipe I find overly complex and a few unnnecessary hoops to jump through, like using iced water and lots of yeast to slow fermentation. Why not just use less yeast and plain water? Over time I have learned to simplify my recipe with the same results (my recipe), but still follow the basic principles.

What’s inside?

This book goes down a similar vein to The Elements Of Pizza. It’s super in-depth and well researched on the fundamentals which make great pizza. Rather than listing every pizza style known, it focuses on the important bits of dough – the flour, fermentation, different ovens, and tools.

The author, Marc Vetri, trained as a chef in Italy before returning to the States and opening a number of acclaimed restaurants, and writing a number of books. It shows – the book is well laid out and presents a wealth of information from outstanding research.

What I like about this book is its unpretentious nature. Marc wants to help you make better pizza with whatever oven and tools you have available. It’s based around 3 doughs – puffy Naples style, thin and crunchy Romana, and pan pizza Al Taglio. Marc focuses on Italian recipes, but with an American influence.

The first few chapters are on the art and science of pizza – mainly ovens, flour, and dough. They follow Marc’s visits to Italian pizza legends like Franco Pepe. You can skip these chapters if you just want to get making pizza, and go straight into the recipes.

The second half of the book is just as fulfilling. It has 11 pizza dough recipes for different styles and hydrations. A great thing about this book is that Marc offers different recipes and instructions for cooking in different ovens. A home oven is cooler and needs more water in the dough – so he accounts for this by specifying doughs with different hydration percents.

He then has detailed instructions on how to stretch and cook many different styles, like wood-fired Naples, home oven Naples, cast iron pizza, grilled pizza, wood-fired and home oven Romana, personal pizzas… the list goes on – it’s very thorough.

Overall this book is a complete mastery of pizza. It leaves no stone unturned for making great pizza either at home or in a wood-fired oven. I would recommend it to anyone – it’s definitely one of the best pizza books ever.

Pros

  • Unbelievable detail about the most imporant part of pizza – the dough.
  • Has easy options for beginners, or advanced options for experienced.

Cons

  • The dough recipes don’t show bakers percent which is useful to scale up or down the quantities.

What’s inside?

This is the latest pizza cookbook to my collection as it’s fairly new, printed in 2021. It is written by Anthony Falco who was the chef who popularized Roberta’s in Brooklyn, New York. I knew of Falco as he is fairly well known online, especially from his YouTube pizza dough recipe with The New York Times – so was excited to read his book.

What I like about this book is that it’s from an actual New York-rooted pizza expert. A lot of the other pizza books are from Italians or US bread bakers with an interest in pizza. So it’s good to have a proper NY one too, naturally, it focuses on more American styles of pizza. I love his recipe for pepperoni and pickled chili, with a side of homemade ranch dipping sauce. Or his tomato flavor bomb sauce from roasting whole tomatoes and garlic in oil.

The pizza recipes are split into 3 sections of dough – thin and crispy, “Neapolitan-ish”, and pan pizza. He’s not afraid to break the rules and not follow conventions such as his Neapolitan dough. There are the usual sections on flour, tomatoes, cheese, and equipment that you find in other pizza books.

On the downsides, I would say the book is a little on the advanced side for beginners. All the doughs use a wild yeast starter, similar to sourdough, which is an extra hurdle to grow and manage if you are starting out. Sometimes the instructions can be a bit thin, which tilt it towards a book for serious pizza makers and restaurateurs.

The book also doesn’t flow great. Each page seems to have different fonts and formatting, and there are random pages thrown in. This makes it hard to follow and also hard to find important information. That being said, it’s a great book for its insights. As Falco now consults restaurants, this book would also be ideal for someone looking to start a business.

Pros

  • Great insights from a genuine pizza expert who grew a restaurant and then consulted around the world.
  • Not too opinionated – he encourages you to break the rules.

Cons

  • Formatting of the book makes it hard to follow sometimes.
  • Slightly advanced for the beginner – good if you want to push your skills.

What’s Inside?

This book is definitely a classic due to the author Jim Lahey popularising an easy, no-fuss dough recipe. The famous recipe is essentially a no-knead dough, where the ingredients are mixed in a bowl and left to naturally bond and ferment overnight. I see the “Jim Lahey no-knead” method pop up all the time across internet forums and comments – I think people just love its simplicity.

The book is based around this one recipe, and Jim’s tips for stretching and loading a pizza. This is then followed by an extensive list of recipes split into tomato sauce based, white sauce based or with no sauce. Jim has obviously spent a decent amount of time experimenting with flavors and coming up with new recipes for his restaurants, which he shares in the book. Most of them don’t follow normal preparations, so it’s quite refreshing to read all the unusual combinations. Like his spinach-based “Popeye Pie”.

The book has a strong focus on quality ingredients, mostly of Italian origin, and it’s this route that Jim takes in his recipes for world-class pies.

The final section is about “toasts, soups and salads” which has some more interesting suggestions to feed your guests while they wait for their pizza. At around a quarter of the book, I couldn’t help but feel this was added to pad out the page number. With Jim’s obvious knowledge as a bread baker, I think it would have been better to include some more details on dough and why his method is a winner across the globe.

Pros

  • Great to try the famous no-knead recipe for yourself
  • Lots of unique topping ideas

Cons

  • Focuses on 1 style of pizza
  • Fairly short book with a quarter of it dedicated to other recipes

What’s inside?

This is a newer book, first published in 2020, but I thought it was a great addition to my collection. It’s got a lot of content in it, which comes from the two brother’s journey of setting up a number of pizza restaurants in London after touring around Italy.

The book has the usual backstory and history of pizza, before diving into different cities styles of pizza and the best restaurants – covering Naples, Rome, Paris, London, New York, New Haven, and Chicago.

It has a good section on making Neapolitan pizza dough and making pizza in their preferred method – using a frying pan (skillet) and placing it under the broiler to mimic a hot pizza oven. What I like about this section is the 20 pizza recipes they give with a full-page image next to it – from pepperoni and spicy honey, to mortadella and pistachio.

The book is sprinkled with pages of extra pizza info such as the best drinks with pizza, interviews with chefs, and even pizza box art. It’s all great information but sometimes the flow of the book can be hard to follow as it has so many interruptions.

Pros

  • Awesome colorful imagery – there is so many photos of pizzas, ingredients and pizzerias.

Cons

  • A bit opinionated and focused towards Neapolitan style pizza. They dismiss the idea of using a pizza stone or steel to cook pizza which I don’t agree with at all!
  • So much content that it can be hard to follow.

Extra Suggested Reading

What’s inside?

This is a bread book primarily – but focuses on sourdough and does have some pizza recipes. It is perhaps the most famous sourdough cookbook from the detailed instructions on forming a sourdough culture and fermenting a dough. This method has gone on to become a standard in the sourdough community. This dough can then be used to make pizza as instructed in the book.

This extra step of using wild yeast, rather than packet yeast means that this method is more advanced and takes longer. I would recommend this book to anyone, but not the first book for a beginner pizza maker. It’s obviously a great buy if you want to get into making sourdough too.

What’s inside?

This is the first book from Ken Forkish before he wrote his pizza book, The Elements Of Pizza. It’s one of the most comprehensive bread books of all time and goes through all types of yeasted, pre-fermented, or sourdoughs. It’s a fantastic book to learn how dough works. I bought this a year or two after his pizza book when I wanted to make better bread. It did that, but also helped me view pizza dough from a different angle. Pizza dough is just bread dough handled in a different way!

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