James Martin dough balls recipe: This Morning chef makes iconic Pizza Express starter

This Morning chef James Martin delighted viewers today as he shared the recipe for Pizza Express’ famous starter, the garlic bread dough balls. While restaurants remain closed due to the lockdown, the brand has revealed its recipe so that fans of the Italian dish can make it at home. 


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The easy recipe uses just seven ingredients to create the delicious dough balls that regular Pizza Express goers will know and love, plus a delicious homemade garlic butter. 

Pizza Express shared their secret recipe with their customers online earlier this month so that they can continue to enjoy their favourites from the menu.

Saturday Kitchen chef James showed Phillip and Holly how to make the recipe from his home in Hampshire, as well as coming back later on in the show to make his own pizza recipe in a wood fire oven. 

The presenters watched from the studio as he revealed how quick the popular dough starter is to make. 

The celebrity chef said the garlic butter was key to getting the dish right, and said you don’t even have to roll the dough into balls – simply roll into a long piece of dough and cut into small pieces with a sharp knife before putting them onto a floured baking tray. 

He advised you keep the soft dough as moist as possible by using as little flour as you can when rolling it out. 

Martin then shared a top trick for viewers who want to avoid garlic breath, saying if you cut out the small white bit in the centre of your garlic, it won’t smell so bad but you’ll still get the taste. 

His key tip for the garlic butter was to roast the garlic in the oven for around 50 minutes in order to give it a delicious flavour, before squeezing it into the butter and blending. 


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The famous recipe makes 16 dough balls – here’s how to bake it at home and pretend you’re in your favourite Italian. 


For the garlic butter:

2 garlic bulbs

15ml olive oil

250g butter, melted

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

For the dough balls:

150ml warm water

1 tsp sugar

15g fresh or dried yeast

225g plain bread flour

1 ½ tsp salt

extra virgin olive oil

Extra semolina flour for shaping


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Preheat the oven to 200c, gas 6.

To make the garlic butter, cut a thin layer off the top of the garlic bulbs, place in a tin foil parcel and drizzle in oil. Wrap up tightly then roast for 50 minutes. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the dough balls – mix the water, sugar and yeast together and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Place the flour, salt and yeast mixture into a food mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on a slow speed for 5 minutes – you can also do this by hand, just mix the ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rest until the dough is springy.

Flour your hands and roll the dough into a long sausage shape then cut into 16 even sized pieces. Roll into balls, place onto a floured baking tray and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and finely chop, then mix in the butter with the parsley.

Bake the dough balls for 6 minutes and serve with the garlic butter.

See the full recipe plus James’ pizza recipe on This Morning’s website here. 

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