Pizza Margherita – a Royal Pie!

Pizza Margherita has to be the simplest yet most delicious of all pizzas! Besides the crust, it consists of three basic ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. That’s it! They say that, often, the simplest things in life are the best and Pizza Margherita certainly fills this bill. The three star ingredients are praiseworthy on their own, but combine them with a golden, crisp crust, a wash of garlic-infused olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and they become nothing less than stellar! After all, it’s the only pizza I know of that’s named after a queen! Delicioso!
Oh, and if you’re in a pinch for time…..

If you don’t have much time but are craving this wonderful pizza, check out this post, all the same flavors – in minutes!

Pizza Margherita 

1 ball pizza dough, from recipe below or purchased dough*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt
5-6 large roma tomatoes, sliced thin
8-10 ounces fresh mozzarella, ** see note
dried Italian seasoning
sea salt
fresh basil

1. Place pizza stone*** on lowest rack and preheat oven to 475˚.

2. Place sliced tomatoes on several thickness of paper towels to allow extra juices to drain. (This will prevent your pizza from becoming soggy!)

3. Combine olive oil and garlic in a small microwaveable bowl. Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 10-15 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Set aside to cool a bit.

4. Place ball of dough onto lightly floured work surface. Roll or press out with fingers (this is what I do) to a 14 inch circle – it doesn’t matter if your circle is not perfect, it is supposed to be a rustic pizza! Place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel or an upside-down sheet pan. Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal and transfer dough to parchment paper – I just fold the dough circle into quarters, transfer to paper and then unfold.

5. Brush dough with garlic-infused oil (you probably won’t use all of the oil). Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Arrange tomatoes in concentric circle or other attractive pattern, leaving a 1 inch margin around the edge. Scatter fresh mozzarella over tomatoes. Sprinkle liberally with the dried Italian seasoning and another light layer of sea salt. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil.

6. Slide parchment paper (with pizza on top) onto preheat pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Shower with fresh basil, (torn or thinly sliced if leaves are large), and serve immediately.


A Few Notes:
– *You can purchase premade pizza dough from many grocery stores. Both Whole Foods and Trader Jo’s have a great ones. You can also check with your local pizzeria – often they will sell their dough very cheap!
– **Fresh Mozzarella comes in a variety of different options; you will find it packaged in a brine, marinated with olive oil and herbs or in a vacuum  package. All of these will work, you might have to experiment a bit to find your favorite. I usually buy whatever is on sale.
– ***I recommend a pizza stone. It is a small investment which will make a huge difference in your pizza-making endeavors! If you don’t have a stone but want to try this pizza, the next best thing is a sheet pan, turned upside-down – preheat this pan just like you would the pizza stone and proceed with recipe as directed with the stone.

Pizza Crust

1 ½ cups warm water, 105-115 degrees (use a thermometer)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, (one 1/4-oz. packet)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes. Mix flours and salt in bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add oil to yeast mixture and pour yeast mixture into flour mixture, then knead on low speed for 10 minutes (or the same amount of time if kneading by hand). Dough will be elastic and slightly sticky.

2. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. Punch dough down and divide in 2 pieces. Proceed with pizza recipe above.

Makes 2 pizza crusts – I often freeze one for a “rainy day” 🙂

Adapted from Cuisine at Home
– This dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hour- it actually develops more flavor after a rest in the refrigerator overnight! After dough has risen, punch it down. Pour a small about of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) into a zip-lock bag. Place dough in bag and knead bag several times to cover dough with the oil. Place in refrigerator. Remove from refridge about 2 hours before using to bring dough to room temperature.
– You can also freeze dough for several weeks. Place in zip-lock bag as instructed above. If you want to keep it in the freezer for longer than a week, place bag in another zip lock bag to ensure freshness. Place in freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in refridge and bring dough to room temperature as described above.

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