Pizza fritta Montanara is small pizza dough deep-fried and topped like a pizza. This classic Neapolitan street food is a savory dough with a crispy outside and a warm, gooey center, served topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, and freshly grated Parmesan. They are very popular as appetizers as they are simple to make and easy to serve at parties, as these fried pizzas are small and can be eaten by hand.
Pizza Fritta, a fried pizza, became popular after World War 2 due to the destruction of wooden ovens.
Baked pizza was considered a luxury, so women sold fried food on the streets to supplement their family income.
It was affordable and often filled with pork crackling, earning it the nickname "pizza of the people."
In the 1954 film L'oro di Napoli (Gold of Naples translated in English as Every day's a holiday) directed by Vittorio De Sica, Sofia Loren sold "Pizza a credito" or "pizza a otto" - eat now and pay in eight days.
Naples is famous for its street food, particularly the fried finger foods sold in friggitoria (frying shops).
There were already a dozen of these shops in the town in 1807.
Traditional Neapolitan fried foods include Crocche (fried breaded potato mash), Arancini (fried rice balls), Zappole (fried pasta), Fiorilli (fried zucchini flowers), Cagliozzi (fried polenta), and Cuoppi di pesce (mixed fried fish) served in paper cones.
For more Italian street food you can read the article: Italian street food by region (30 recipes)
Different types of fried dough recipes
Numerous recipes in Italy utilize fried dough, and it's important to distinguish them as each has its unique recipe and dough.
These are the most common in the South of Italy:
Pizza Fritta Montanara
This recipe is for the pizza fritta in Naples called pizza Montanara. It is made with little round fried pizza dough topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, a fresh basil leaf and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. You can also top them with ham, prosciutto or grilled vegetables.
Neapolitan Pizza fritta and Puglia Panzerotti
In Naples, pizza fritta is a large disc of pizza dough folded in half and fried. Traditionally it was filled with pork scratchings (ciccioli) and ricotta, a cheap “pizza for the people”. Now you can also find it filled with broccoli rabe and sausages or tomato and mozzarella.
They are similar to the Puglia Panzerotti, also called fried calzone.
Crispelle and Zeppole di Pasta Cresciuta (savory)
The fried pizza dough Crispelle are similar to the Neapolitan Zeppole di pasta cresciuta but they are very different than the pizza fritta. Their dough is much more fluid and their shape round and irregular. In Calabria, they are filled with Anchiovis, ricotta or sundried tomatoes and traditionally served as appetizers at Christmas or New Year. In Neaple, the Zeppole di pasta cresciuta are mixed with seaweeds and sold in friggitorie.
Zeppole di Carnevale (sweet)
Italian fried donuts Graffe or Zeppole di Carnevale also originally from Naples, are completely different from pizza fritta, Montanara or zeppole di pasta cresciuta as their yeast dough is made with mashed potatoes, flour, eggs, sugar and milk. They are shaped round or like ribbons and topped with sugar. They are crispy outside but smooth in the center, not gooey like the fried pizza or Crispelle
To make this fried pizza Montanara, we use the same dough as regular pizza.
You can make it from scratch or use store-bought pizza dough.
You can also make fresh pizza dough in a bread machine if you have one.
You can find the instruction here: Authentic Italian pizza dough (bread machine)
To make the pizza dough, you will need:
- Lukewarm water
- Sugar (needed only to activate the yeast)
Tip: The best flour to use is All purpose in USA, Plain in UK, Type 0 in Italy, Type 55 in France.
Find the quantities in the recipe card
The rest of the ingredients
- Vegetable oil for frying
- For the classic topping:
- Tomato sauce
- Fresh mozzarella (fior di latte or buffalo mozzarella)
- Fresh basil leaves
- Parmesan cheese
For more pizza toppings, you can find some inspiration in the article: 10 vegetarian pizza toppings full of veggies.
For best results, make the dough the day before
How to activate the yeast
- Mix the yeast with ¼ cup of water.
- Make sure the water is lukewarm.
- Add ½ teaspoon of sugar
- Let it rest until it becomes foamy
Preparing the pizza dough
Once the yeast is activated, you can start making the dough:
- Strain the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl, ensuring that they are thoroughly mixed.
- Make a ‘well’ in the center of the flour mix
- Combine all the wet ingredients: water and the frothy yeast.
- Slowly pour them into the ‘well’ of the flour and mix them with the wet ingredients using your fingers.
- Once thoroughly mixed, you can either continue mixing the flour with your hands or put it into an electric mixer with a dough hook.
- Mix it until the dough becomes a smooth ball
- Shape it into a smooth ball and place it in an oiled bowl with a wet towel to rest.
- Let it rise for 1.5 hours in a warm place
- Let the dough rest overnight (or at least 8 hours) in the fridge covered with cling film before making your pizza
Hint: the pizza dough should rest overnight; In Naples, they say that otherwise the pizza will keep rising in your stomach, making you bloated and thirsty!
Frying the pizza
- Bring the sought to room temperature the next day and divide the dough into balls. They should be around 2 oz - 60 gr
- Place them on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a kitchen cloth and let them rest for 30 minutes
- In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce with garlic and basil and let it simmer away.
- Flattens the balls into circles, with the center thinner than the sides.
- Place the pizza dough balls into the frying pan
- Turn the balls on each side for 2 minutes until golden brown
- Remove them from the frying oil and put on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil
Toppings for the fried pizza
- Once cooked, lay the pizzas on a tray and push down the centre with a spoon
- Season each fried dough ball with the tomato sauce
- Place a slice of fresh mozzarella on top
- and a fresh basil leaf
- Sprinkled them with fresh Parmesan cheese
- They can be eaten immediately or warmed up before serving.
While the classic pizza fritta Montanara is topped with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, you can also top it with your favorite ingredients.
In Naples, you find the classic with sausage and broccoli rabe, but you can also top it with burrata and olive or scarole and provola.
For more ideas, you can read the article: 10 vegetarian pizza toppings full of veggies.
For a sweet version, you can serve them with sprinkled sugar or drizzled honey, although you will not find this version now a day in the friggitorie in Naples.
Although a version of sweet fried dough existed in the sixteenth century, and the poet Giovanni Battista del Tufo called them Zeppolelle.
How to serve it
The advantage of frying the pizza is that it does not have to be eaten immediately, like a pizza cooked in a wooden oven.
The pizza dough is fried ahead, then topped with tomato and mozzarella.
You can warm up the pizza fritta in the oven before serving it.
In Naples, it is the perfect meal when the family is reunited to watch a football match.
They make it ahead of time, and it is warmed up and served during half-time.
If you don't have an oven, you can fry your pizza dough and add the topping after. Shape them into small balls to make sure the dough is cooked uniformly. Traditionally fried pizza is deep fried.
Fried pizza in Italian is called pizza fritta and is made by deep frying pizza dough. Similar to fried pizza is Crispelle Calabresi or Zeppole di pasta cresciuta from Naples. These use a more fluid dough; they are smaller and irregular in shape as they cannot be molded by hand. The Crispelle are be filled with anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, or ricotta. Crispelle filled with ricotta can also be served as a dessert covered with icing sugar. Zeppole are not fried pizza as its dough includes eggs and butter. Zeppole are not made with pizza dough.
Pizza Fritta started as street food in Naples after the second world war. Many houses were destroyed, and wooden ovens to cook traditional pizza were limited. Some women started lighting up fires on the streets with large pans of frying oil and fried pizza dough to earn extra money.
Zeppole in the Neapolitan dialect means round, and it is used to describe various food, and not all Zeppole are fried dough. There are 3 main types of Zeppole: Zeppole di pasta cresciuta are savory fried dough made with a fluid yeast dough of flour and water. Zeppole di Carnevale are sweet fried dough made with flour, egg, milk, butter and mainly mashed potatoes, while Zeppole di San Giuseppe are sweet made with choux pastry, also called puff pastry, they are not fried but baked and filled with custard.
More of my favorite fried recipes
If you are craving fried food, you may want to check out these other recipes:
- Deep-Fried Eggplant Balls
- Deep fried mozzarella sticks and balls
- Fried Zucchini Flowers Recipe
- Homemade chicken nuggets recipe
- Pasta a Frittata: Italian Fried Pasta
- Classic Veal Milanese
- Rissole à la Dauphine
For more pizza recipes, check out the category: Pizza
- Pizzette Mini Pizza Bites
- Italian flatbread Piadina
- 10 Pizza with Fresh Vegetables
- Pissaladiere Nicoise
- Focaccia Pizza
- Pizza with Nutella
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📋 Pizza Fritta Montanara Fried Pizza Dough
Making the dough
- To activate the yeast, mix it with water. The water should be lukewarm or at room temperature. Add ½ teaspoon of sugar, and let it rest until it becomes foamy.1 cup lukewarm water, 1 package yeast, 0.5 teaspoon caster sugar
- In the meantime, strain the flour along with the sugar and the salt into a bowl, ensuring they are completely mixed. Make a ‘well’ in the centre of the flour mix.3 cup Caputo flour 00, 1.5 teaspoon salt
- Slowly pour the yeast and water mixture in the ‘well’ of the flour and mix it with the wet ingredients gradually, using your fingers.
- Once they are thoroughly mixed continue mixing the flour with your hands until the dough becomes a ball that comes away easily from the side of the bowl.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a flat surface. Shape it into a smooth ball and place it into an oiled bowl covered with a wet towel to rest. Let it rise for 1.5 hours.
- For the best result, let the dough rest in the fridge overnight, well-floured and wrapped in a plastic bag, otherwise it will crawl all over the fridge.
- Bring the sought to room temperature the next day and divide the dough into balls. They should be around 2 oz - 60 gr. Let them rest for 30 minutes
Preparing the tomato sauce
- Stir fry the garlic clove with 2 tablespoon of olive oil1 clove peeled garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Add the tomato sauce and 2 leaves of basil, letting it simmer until it thickens1 cup homemade tomato sauce, 10 fresh basil leaves
Frying the pizza
- Flatten the balls into circles, with the centre thinner than the sides and deep fry them in hot oil (about 180 C)vegetable oil for frying
- Cook the pizzas for 2 minutes on each side, until the crust is golden.
- Remove from the frying oil and place it on a paper kitchen towel to absorb the oil.
- Slice the mozzarella2 cup fresh mozzarella
- Put a spoon of tomato sauce over each pizza, a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf and sprinkle with parmesan and serve warm½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, 10 fresh basil leaves
- the pizza dough should rest overnight
- They can be eaten immediately or warmed up before serving