SUMMERTIME! And the livin’ is easy!
And so is the grillin’ of a home-made Pizza Margherita with all of those ripe tomatoes from the garden.
Pizza Margherita originated in Naples somewhere around 1899. A guy named Raffaelle Esposito created it for Queen Margherita when she was in the area to escape a cholera epidemic that was taking place in Northern Italy. The chef named the pizza after the queen when he received a letter from her stating how much she enjoyed the pizza.
Besides the infamous thin crust, the ingredients that distinguish this unique pizza include fresh tomatoes, fresh bufalo mozzarella and fresh basil, each representing the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag.
This traditional Neapolitan pizza’s popularity has been steadily growing in the States. But for years you could only find this hallmark pizza in larger cities such as NYC. One difference that I noticed with the traditional New York pizzas, although they have thin crusts . . . is that they aren’t as ‘firm’ as those prepared in Italy. You know how New Yorker’s are infamous for folding those large slices of pizzas in half. . . the crust is more pliable! To me, the crust is yummy both ways.
The good news is that if made correctly, you can enjoy this delicious pizza at home!
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. Always use the highest quality ingredients of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil too; this 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 and (some pizzas) in Italy! There’s some bad pizza made everywhere, including Italy. I know that sounds sort of sacrilegious, but it’s the truth. Just because you’re eating pizza in Italy, doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be perfect everywhere.
Here are some shots of the Pizza Margherita that I enjoyed in the region surrounding Naples:
and THIS Pizza Margherita is what we made at home!
- 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 for about a half an hour (salt the tomatoes which helps pull the moisture out of the tomatoes)
- 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 place a pizza stone on a heated outdoor grill and again, allow the stone to heat up.
- 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 inches in diameter).
- Using a wooden rolling pin (dusted with flour), roll out a very thin crust about ? inch 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 inch 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.
- 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.
- 1–1/4 oz. package active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp.); Use NEW dry yeast, not old
- 1–3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, divided in half, plus more flour for dusting surfaces
- 3/4 cup warm water (105 – 115 degrees), divided in half
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Blend yeast, 1 Tbsp. flour and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl.
- Let stand for about 5 minutes, until the surface looks slightly creamy.
- Add 1-1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup warm water, salt and oil.
- Stir until smooth.
- Add in enough more flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup) for dough to start to pull away from the sides of the bowl (it will be somewhat wet).
- On a floured surface (wooden is best), knead the dough until smooth, soft and elastic for 10 minutes.
- Add more flour dusting to surface if dough becomes too sticky.
- Form dough into a ball, put in a dusted bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with plastic wrap or (non-terry cloth) kitchen towel.
- Let dough rise in a draft-free, warm room until doubled in size, 1-1/4 hours.
Enjoy this recipe for Pizza Margherita!