The Joy of Pizza

Everything You Need to Know


By Dan Richer

With Katie Parla

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$21.99 CAD

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Learn to make artisan pizza the American way in this accessible, informative guide to the perfect pie from the creator of "the best pizza in New York" (New York Times).
Pizza is simple: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings. But inside these ordinary ingredients lies a world of extraordinary possibility. With The Joy of Pizza, you’ll make the best pizza of your life. 
Dan Richer has devoted his career to discovering the secrets to a transcendent pie. The pizza at his restaurant, Razza, is among the best one can eat in the United States, if not the world. Now, Richer shares all he has learned about baking pizza with a crisp, caramelized rim; a delicate, floral-scented crumb; and a luscious combination of sauce, cheese, and toppings that gets as close to perfection as any mortal may dare.
You’ll learn how to make Razza specialties such as:

  • Jersey Margherita, a new classic improving on Neapolitan tradition
  • Meatball Pizza, the first time Richer has shared the recipe for Razza’s legendary meatballs
  • Project Hazelnut, pairing the rich flavor of the nuts with honey and mozzarella
  • Santo, topped with caramelized fennel sausage and drizzled with chile oil 
  • Pumpkin Pie, a cold-weather pie with roasted pumpkin, ricotta salata, and caramelized onions
  • And many more inventive and seasonal pizzas, from Funghi (mushroom) and Montagna (arugula and speck) to Bianca (white pizza) and Rossa (vegan tomato pie)

Suited to beginning home bakers and professionals alike, these crusts begin with store-bought yeast as well as sourdough starter. Richer shows how to achieve top results in ordinary home ovens as well as high-temperature ovens such as the Ooni and Roccbox, and even wood-fired outdoor pizza ovens. 
The Joy of Pizza is rich with step-by-step photography, links to instructional videos, and portraits of every pizza before and after it meets the heat of the oven—so you’ll know exactly what to do to create superior results.
The ingredients are simple. The methods are straightforward. And the results are deliriously delicious.




To evaluate a pizza (straight from the oven), read each statement and find the numbered sentiment below that corresponds. Ideally, you want to score a 5 for each statement, a lofty goal that will keep you engaged in the process and key you in to where there’s room for improvement. Be quick, as you don’t want the pizza to get cold as you assess it. Scan the QR code to download and print additional rubrics.

The underlined statements apply to the round pie only.

1=Statement is not true at all

2=Statement is barely true but mostly incorrect

3=Statement is somewhat true but neutral

4=Statement is mostly true but not perfect

5=Statement is completely true and accurate

A. The Dimensions

  1. The pizza is of the appropriate overall size, between 28 and 31 cm (11 and 12 in)

  2. Topping diameter is between 22 and 28 cm (8.5 and 11 in)

  3. Rim diameter is between 15 and 30 mm (0.6 and 1.2 in)

  4. Rim height is between 15 and 30 mm (0.6 and 1.2 in)

  5. Crust center height is between 3 and 5 mm (0.1 and 0.2 in)

B. The Build

  1. The structural integrity is sound

  2. A slice can be held by the rim and stand horizontally without the point of the slice drooping downward (zero tip sag)

  3. The toppings are held securely on top of the crust without sliding

  4. The cheese to sauce ratio is appropriate. Of the topping diameter:

a. 60 percent of the area is cheese

b. 20 percent is tomato sauce

c. 20 percent is a rosy, pink blend of cheese and sauce

  5. The sauce, cheese, and toppings are distributed evenly throughout the topping area

C. The Bake

  1. There is no gumline (a layer of underbaked dough beneath the sauce)

  2. The undercarriage is firm and crisp

  3. The undercarriage is fully brown with no areas of white

  4. The undercarriage is not burned; there are no areas of black

  5. The pizza can be picked up and held in the air without any bending of the structure

  6. There are no holes or tears in the undercarriage

  7. There is no ash or oven debris on the undercarriage or on top of the pizza

  8. The crust is not burned, charred, or black (one spot less than 2 cm is acceptable)

  9. The rim is deeply caramelized throughout

10. Oven spring (the expansion and rising of the rim as the pizza bakes, here) was even and lively around the entire circumference (round) / perimeter (pan)

11. The sauce is moist and velvety—not over-reduced, thick, dry, pasty, or acidic

12. The cheese is completely melted, with visible areas of gentle browning

13. The cheese has not broken due to overbaking (no oily puddles on top of cheese)

14. There are no pools of moisture on top due to excess or underbaked toppings

15. There is an audible crackling sound and feel when the slicer cuts through it

D. Fermentation

  1. The rim has a thin, eggshell-like outer crust and will shatter when teeth bite through it

  2. The crust is fully aged/mature—there are many shades of browns, reds, and grays

  3. The crust is not underproofed. These are the signs of underproofed dough:

a. Thick outer crust, little to no oven spring

b. Monotone in color

c. Underproofed dough takes longer to caramelize in the oven leading to broken cheese and over-reduced sauce

d. Underproofed dough does not typically spring to the desired rim dimensions

e. Underproofed crust lacks the desired aroma and flavor

  4. The interior of the rim is open and airy with many (not just one or two) gas pockets

  5. The numerous gas pockets in the rim are separated by thin cell walls that are springy

  6. The texture of the interior rim is light and delicate—not tight and dense

  7. There is an unmistakable ethereal aroma of fermented wheat

  8. A perceptible yet gentle acidity is present when tasting the crust (sourdough pizza only)

  9. The acidity is not harsh and vinegar-like or off-putting (sourdough pizza only)

10. The color of the interior rim is creamy off-white

11. The color of the interior is not bright white

E. Ingredients

  1. The cheese is fully melted yet not broken

  2. The cheese will pull in a long strand when stretched

  3. The cheese is buttery and rich in flavor

  4. The cheese flows into the sauce with no clear line defining the end of the cheese and beginning of the sauce

  5. The tomato has a gentle acidity

  6. The tomato has a bright red color (not brown, rusty, or maroon)

  7. The texture of the tomato is accurate based on the intention

  8. The tomato has apparent sweetness without being cloying

  9. The tomato sauce tastes like a tomato

10. The salt content of the tomato is appropriate—not too salty yet definitely seasoned

11. There are no negative flavor attributes present in any of the toppings

12. The flavor of extra-virgin olive oil is present without there being a pool of oil

13. There are sporadic bites with a pop of salinity from coarse sea salt

F. Taster Opinion

  1. The pizza was built and baked with care

  2. The pizza was easy to consume without excess/mess left on the plate

  3. The pizza was greatly enjoyed during the moment of consumption

  4. The pizza left a deeply emotional and long-lasting positive impression

  5. The pizza was easy to digest—no feeling of lethargy or bloating

  6. The pizza was served at the appropriate temperature (HOT!)

  7. The pizza was accurately produced based on your intentions


I hesitate to talk about pizza as a whole right off the bat. For me, pizza making is the product of choices: the flour you use, whether you let it rise with commercial yeast or sourdough starter, how you source toppings, and in what oven you bake your pie. I cover all those topics in the chapters that follow.

Before you get started, read through the ingredients in Part 1 so you know how to source your raw materials and how they will interact with one another. A set of ingredient rubrics will assist your sourcing. Print them and take notes using the QR codes that accompany them. Next, take a deep dive into the Techniques chapter (Part 2), which will walk you through each step of pizza making, from mixing to baking—and ultimately evaluating and eating your pie! Scan the QR codes throughout the chapter to access instructional videos of techniques. Once you have a handle on those concepts, review the recipes for dough and toppings, selecting a skill level suited to you. Regardless of your pizza making experience, I highly recommend that the first pizzas you bake be simple, tomato-sauce-topped Rossa (here) and the classic Margherita (here), two ideal pies for judging your progress.

For those who are just getting started with making pizza at home, we start with recipes that call for white flour and commercial yeast until you get your footing, dialing in your dough mixing, fermenting, shaping, and baking techniques using reliable ingredients. Once you have confidence, move on to making and maintaining a starter, making naturally leavened pizza dough with high extraction flour, and managing the intricacies of high temperature ovens. This book guides you through each phase, imparting the precious lessons I have learned over the years about how to ferment dough properly, guarantee structural integrity, and coax maximum performance from toppings. You’ll get started on the best possible foot in pursuit of the perfect pie.


To get started, you’ll need some basic equipment, all of which is available at your local kitchen shop or via online retailers; some things you can even improvise with what you already have. Most of the essentials cost $15 or less, and I have included my preferred sources for some items under Resources (here).

The Basics

Metric scale: You absolutely must have this scale, which weighs in grams and kilograms and is used for measuring flour, water, and salt. Volume measures like cups are highly inaccurate so I don’t even include them in the dough recipes.

Milligram scale: I highly recommend buying a scale that weighs fractions of a gram for measuring yeast. You can, theoretically, use a level ¼ tablespoon for measuring commercial yeast (it’s roughly 1 gram). But it’s not 100 percent accurate.

Digital kitchen thermometer: You’ll need this for measuring the temperature of your ingredients, which you will plug into the equations for desired dough temperature (here) and desired starter temperature (here). You can use the digital kitchen thermometer to measure the air temperature as well.

Oven thermometer: Not all oven dials reflect the actual heat of the oven. Use a high heat oven thermometer for accurate readings.

Timer: You’ll definitely need a reliable way to keep track of autolyse and resting periods (see here), “stretch and fold” intervals, and baking times. You probably have one on your phone already.

Mixing bowls: You’ll need large, nonreactive bowls for mixing dough and smaller ones for holding your prepared toppings.

Dough scraper: This is a handy tool for dividing dough, cleaning surfaces, and generally helping move and shape dough.

Kitchen towels: Keep a stack on deck for keeping your hands clean and your surfaces dry.

Pizza peel: I like using a wooden peel (never metal) for launching my pizzas into the oven, but I’ll improvise and even use a clean 12-inch piece of rigid cardboard in a pinch.

Baking stone or steel: A stone or steel absorbs and retains heat, which is transferred to the undercarriage of your pizza, allowing for an efficient and successful bake. I highly recommend the Baking Steel created by Andris Lagsdin.

Cooling rack: Land your baked pizzas on a cooling rack to prevent steam from collecting between the counter and undercarriage, which is a recipe for soggy pizza.

Caliper and ruler: Measure the thickness of vegetable and cured meat slices so you can dial in the correct thickness for an even bake every time. If you don’t have one, a ruler is a good backup. Use a ruler to measure pizza dimensions when using the Pizza Evaluation Rubric (here).

Square pans: Any black square or rectangular pans can make a great pie. I use 16-inch LloydPans.

If You Want to Invest in Additional Tools

Spiral mixer: I love mixing pizza dough by hand, but at home I occasionally use an Italian-made Famag (Fabbrica Macchine Alimentari Grillo) mixer, available in a number of models and sizes, imported by Pleasant Hill Grain. The series S models with tilting heads and removable bowls are easier to clean than the standard fixed versions.

High temperature ovens: If you can afford to build a wood fired stone hearth oven in your backyard, I recommend California-based Mugnaini and New York–based Forza Forni (the importer of Pavesi ovens). Other high heat outdoor oven brands that are more affordable include Ooni and Gozney. The Breville Pizzaiolo works indoors and fits on a countertop.

Wood moisture meter: Ensure the moisture of the wood for your wood fired oven is as close to 15 percent as possible. They are sold at hardware stores, big box stores, and online.

Fire bricks: Position directly below the stone or steel to provide additional thermal mass (see here) to your oven, which shortens recovery time and helps the oven retain heat for successive bakes. They are sold at hardware stores, big box stores, and online.

At Razza, we evaluate every pie against our almost 60-point idea of perfection, but the idea of using rubrics to help make more delicious pizza came earlier. The very first rubrics I created were for ingredients: tomatoes (here), extra-virgin olive oil (here), and mozzarella (here). Collectively I called them the 40 Points, and they are where the journey to extraordinary pizza begins. You might be tempted to skip this section and jump right to the dough recipes: Don’t! I take a holistic approach to pizza making and no one element is more important than another.

Every time we taste a new brand of canned tomatoes, oil, or mozzarella, my staff and I analyze it and take copious notes about its characteristics and potential. If this sounds insane, I urge you to stay with me. Pizza making, like bread baking, is a craft. Success is the product of the raw materials you start with, and the techniques you use to transform them. Anyone can make an edible pizza. But going further, mastering each step along the way—beginning with ingredient selection—can create something spectacular. Plus, it’s fun to learn more about flour from millers, tomatoes from canners, and mozzarella from cheese makers. In fact, these are the first steps in making the best pizza you’ve ever had. (They may even be the first steps in making the best anything you’ve ever had.) When you understand your ingredients and how they work together and independently, you become a better cook and baker.

After several years of building on these ingredient rubrics, I realized a critical part of the equation was missing. We needed a set of criteria against which to judge each finished pie. The 40 Points were soon joined by the Pizza Evaluation Rubric.

It might seem out of place to introduce you to the score sheet for a finished pizza before you even mix dough. But analyzing the ingredients and considering how they will impact the finished product is an essential step on the journey to making your perfect pie.

Familiarize yourself with the elements of the Pizza Evaluation Rubric (here) so that as you’re considering your flour, yeast, and toppings choices, plus your mixing, fermenting, and shaping techniques, you have a clear handle on what you’re aiming to produce. Before you intend to bake, print out a stack of rubrics so you can ensure you’re hitting the marks or note where your craft would benefit from improvement.

This chapter will go beyond the 40 Points rubrics for tomatoes, oil, and cheese and will delve deeply into other ingredients like flour and seasonal toppings as well. I have some good news for enthusiastic note takers: A great way to keep track of all these wonderful things as you are discovering your favorite ingredients is to write down feedback as you taste raw ingredients and consider how they will impact the finished product. That way, as you approach your next pizza session, you can improve on what you noted the last time and work toward your ideal pie without having to start from scratch each time. I keep a notebook in my kitchen so I can record dated observations and I highly recommend that you do, too!

While the blueprint I lay out in the following pages maps my approach to great ingredients, I encourage you to make them your own once you master the basics. You can apply this philosophy to any pizza toppings you enjoy—and to cooking in general. Just think about how much your cooking would improve if you applied the 40 Points treatment to the ingredients in chicken soup, grilled cheese, or anything else you love.


Dough forms the base for your pizza and is composed of flour, water, salt, and yeast in the form of either commercial yeast or sourdough starter. The type of flour and yeast you choose, the hydration (see here) of the dough, and the way you ferment and handle the dough will determine the structure, flavor, and characteristics of the baked pizza; there are other factors such as bake time and temperature but we will delve into those later. When they are all in harmony, the outcome is my ideal pie. In the pages that follow, I will break down the essential ingredients for making dough, which are critical to understanding how to mix, ferment, handle, and bake the dough recipes in Part 3.


Flour accounts for more weight in your pizza dough than any other ingredient. Accordingly, the type you choose impacts the dough in a big way, and makes the difference between a tough pizza and a tender one. Unlike tomatoes and cheese, which you can assess in their raw state, flour offers no such opportunity—bags of flour even carry warnings against tasting it raw. The best way to judge flour is to bake with it, then reflect on the finished product. I have taken some of the guesswork out of choosing flour for you. But even so, there is quite a bit of variation among brands and even more so among flours made from different grains. The key to understanding flour is to practice with it. Repetition is essential to cracking the flour code.

As a former student at Cook College, Rutgers University’s agriculture school, I believe in supporting domestic farmers, so I reach for American flours when baking. The U.S. is one of the biggest wheat producers in the world and there are some incredibly consistent, widely available, and affordable conventional flours on the market. There is also extremely high quality artisan flour being made from domestic wheat, thanks to hardworking farmers and dedicated millers across the country.

The most basic recipes in the book call for conventional all-purpose or bread flour, while the more advanced recipes use freshly milled flour made from heritage grains sourced from artisan mills. Even in the case of the former, I prefer an industrial American flour to its imported counterparts. I also choose American flour for environmental reasons: It has a smaller carbon footprint than imported flour and buying it promotes the domestic flour market. The more we support American flour, the more it will remain readily available to bakers across the country and the more the industry will continue to improve.

In the conventional flour category, there are several brands sold in all fifty states—King Arthur, Heckers, and Gold Medal among them. I learned to make pizza using those brands and I suggest you do, too, because they are so standardized, consistent, and accessible. The white flour recipes in this book were developed and tested using King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour.

Conventional flour is milled to have specific characteristics that don’t vary from bag to bag or year to year. As your baking advances, you can move on to whole wheat flour, high extraction flour, and freshly milled flour, all of which have their own variables to manage and require a good handle on dough making to produce the best results. In the past decade, artisan mills have made great strides in providing consistent specs but I’ll delve into what makes working with their flours more challenging in other ways in the coming pages.



  • "What makes this book so compelling and perfect for beginners is that Richer starts with the basics. Perfect your own pizza dough, sauce, and cheese selection before combining them all into creative concoctions... You’ll learn how to assess your cheese, measure your cooking temperatures, make your own sourdough, and much more. The Joy of Pizza is beautifully photographed and offers useful tips for beginners and advanced skills for pizza pros."—Cool Material
  • Home cooks interested in learning how to make pizza from scratch will appreciate this cookbook by rising culinary star Richer... The recipes for different kinds of pizza dough (including sourdough) are worth the price of admission alone, but the book also helpfully includes rubrics for evaluating tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella.—Library Journal
  • "For Dan Richer, the best pizza is not in New Jersey, or New York, or even Italy—but wherever you happen to be. As long as you get your hands on the finest local ingredients and master the art of dough-making, you can produce a truly exceptional pie from just about anywhere. The Razza chef/owner explains this, along with everything else he’s learned in his 20 years of making pizza, in The Joy of Pizza."—Thrillist
  • "It's difficult to manifest subjective feelings like 'joy' into tangible objects. But, if joy were a food, we can all agree that it would be pizza. Now there's a new treatise on the subject, and it takes the form of a 288-page book that looks good enough to eat."

  • "Dan Richer, chef of Jersey City institution Razza, and Rome-based writer Katie Parla team up on this exuberant celebration of one of the world’s favorite hand-held meals, replete with tips and recipes for how to achieve airy yet crispy crusts and masterful flavor combinations."—Saveur
  • "[T]he perfect reference for home cooks and professionals alike."—Food52
  • "This book is for pizza lovers, period."—Good Morning America
  • "I could eat these pizzas for every meal."—Kelsey Lynch, author of Cooking Through Trader Joe's, Glamour
  • "You love it because it’s perfect but do you know how to make it? You will after reading this. Written by the chef of Razza, the New Jersey pizzeria that makes food critics cry and the NYTimes betray its own city, The Joy of Pizza covers every step in the pizza-making process. Using simple ingredients, you’ll make 2022 the Year of the Pie, using just your regular old oven."—GearMoose
  • "The definitive pizza book for the home cook. Not even close. And [Richer and Parla] are as smart as it comes on all matters culinary. Huge winner."—Andrew Zimmern

On Sale
Nov 9, 2021
Page Count
288 pages

Dan Richer

About the Author

Dan Richer is the chef and owner of Razza in Jersey City. A graduate of Rutgers University, he skipped his own graduation to fly to Italy and begin his real education: in pizza. He is a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award, as well as a James Beard Rising Star Chef semifinalist.

Katie Parla is an Italy-based food and beverage writer, culinary guide, educator, and award-winning cookbook author. She is the cohost of the Gola podcast about Italian food and culture and regularly appears as an Italy expert on CNN, the Travel Channel, and the History Channel. She has lived in Rome since 2003, and Razza Pizza Artigianale is always her first stop when visiting her home state of New Jersey.

Learn more about this author