First made in 1899, Pizza Margherita is a pizza recipe from Raffaelle Esposito, an Italian chef. Originating in Naples, this thin-crusted pizza was prepared for Queen Margherita when she was visiting in order to escape a cholera epidemic that was taking place in Northern Italy. The chef named the pizza after the queen upon receiving a letter from her indicating how much she enjoyed the pizza. The ingredients that distinguish this unique pizza include tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves, which represent the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag.
This traditional Neopolitan pizza has not been widely offered in the States until recently. But for years one has been able to find this hallmark thin crust pizza in larger U.S. cities such as NYC, where it is very well-known and where my husband and I always have a slice (or two or three) whenever we get a chance to visit. If made correctly, it is a very delicious pizza!
If you have a pizza stone, that’s great! But if not, use a perforated pizza pan to allow the oven’s heat to come through and cook the bottom of the pizza dough better. Several keys to success for a Margherita Pizza is a super thin crust with minimal toppings . . . actually less is more, so remember not to overload toppings on this pizza. Using the highest quality ingredients, especially the mozzarella, tomatoes and basil is so important to attain the level of taste and quality that this pizza is known for.
This pizza truly rivals any of those offered in New York City!
1 batch of homemade pizza dough (recipe below) or purchased from grocery store (Whole Foods or Publix)
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
15 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/8 tsp. sea salt
15 oz. of favorite pizza sauce or one large can whole or crushed San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4″ slices
2 medium, super-fresh plum tomatoes, sliced very thin, dried out on a paper towel
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 tsp. oregano, crushed
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
Heat oven to 500 degrees.
Insert a pizza stone (if you have one) on the LOWEST rack level in the oven for 1 hour to heat up prior to using.
In a small pan over medium heat, cook the smashed garlic cloves in the olive oil until golden . . . do not burn.
Add about 5 basil leaves, torn into small pieces.
Add the salt.
Add favorite pizza sauce and cook until hot and flavors have blended well (5 minutes or so) OR
If using canned San Mareno tomatoes, cook for 20 minutes with the olive oil/garlic/ basil mixture in order to reduce and thicken the tomatoes into a sauce.
Do not punch down the risen pizza dough.
Lightly dust the dough with flour, dust your hands, and dust the surface that you will use to roll out the dough.
If you have a wooden pizza board/paddle, use that as your surface, you can also use a large piece of parchment paper.
Gently pat down the dough and then push it out to form a large circular shape (about 16″ in diameter).
Using a wooden rolling pin (dusted with flour), roll out a very thin crust about 1/8″ thick.
Dust the pizza stone with flour or a little bit of finely ground cornmeal.
If you rolled out the dough on your counter or cutting board, then slide the pizza dough onto a wooden pizza board (if you have one) or parchment paper at this time.
Spread the tomato/garlic/basil sauce all the way around the pizza dough except for about 1″ from the edges.
Layer the mozzarella slices all over the sauce.
Layer the dried, sliced tomatoes over the cheese.
Layer a little more shredded mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top.
Sprinkle with the remaining whole basil leaves and crushed oregano.
Season lightly with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
click on ‘read more’ beneath my signature for more on this delicious pizza.
Slide the dough with toppings off of the wooden pizza paddle board or parchment paper onto the pizza stone or pizza pan.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes on the lowest rack level in the pre-heated oven.
Note: With a paper towel, blot off any excess fluid that may come from the tomatoes; thus the reason why I dry out the tomatoes a little bit before placing them on top of the pizza before baking.
Cover edges with aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes to prevent the edge of the crust from burning.
Broil for 5 minutes if desired (I do this) or until desired level of doneness and golden brown-ness of the cheese is achieved.