The first time I ever heard of margherita pizza, it was in my high school Italian class.
I distinctly remember thinking that margherita pizza sounded just exactly like cheese pizza…and wondering why it deserved its own special name.
Well, if you have never had margherita pizza, let me just set the record straight. It’s not a cheese pizza. It’s a delightfully rustic pizza that honors the best Italian ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. It’s homage to simplicity, and flavor, and freshness.
(And so easy to make!)
Okay, so Sarah and I made our own mozzarella. And I made a beautiful fresh pizza crust. Homemade is totally optional (but fun and delicious!), whereas margherita pizza is totally not optional. It’s necessary. To sustain life.
This pizza truly is easy to make. It’s made very simply, out of rather plain ingredients just tossed onto the crust.
Start by rolling out the crust. I don’t like to cornmeal the crust of a margherita pizza, but rather just let it rest on a thin layer of flour. No extra flavors here, please!
Now grab a large can of whole plum tomatoes. (Of course, ideally we would make this in Summer and use beautifully ripe, fresh tomatoes. But we must make do in Spring, mustn’t we?) Drain the juices and then squeeze out the tomatoes. The goal is to get rid of all the extra liquid, because any liquid left in the tomatoes will puddle on the pizza while baking (I learned this the hard way the first time I attempted to make margherita pizza). A pizza with a huge puddle in the center is just no good.
Spread the pureed tomatoes on the crust. If there is any runny juice, blot with a paper towel.
Now grab a large hunk of fresh mozzarella, about half a pound. Cut it into small chunks and arrange them over the pizza. Don’t set them too close to each other or you will lose the lovely, classic margherita pizza look: a bright tomato sauce dotted with mozzarella.
Very lightly drizzle oil over the pizza. I also like to brush the edge of the crust with oil so it will brown a little better while baking.
Bake the pizza at 450° for 10–12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is puffed at the edges. If the cheese is not browned (as ours wasn’t), then turn on the broiler. Keep a very close eye on it! The cheese will begin to brown after about 1 minute.
Wait at least 10 minutes for the cheese to cool, then sprinkle with torn basil. Don’t even think about trying to garnish or eat the pizza before 10 minutes have passed; the cheese will be so stretchy it will be almost impossible to cut, and we wouldn’t want the basil to brown while you wait!
Cut the pizza…and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
a Smells Like Brownies/Well Dined Collaboration
1 280z. can whole plum tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
¼ tsp. salt
½ recipe Classic Pizza Crust
½ lb. firm mozzarella
1–2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup torn fresh basil
Place a pizza stone in the oven. Preheat oven to 450°.
Thoroughly drain the tomatoes and squeeze each one to release all the excess liquid. Combine the drained tomatoes, garlic, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. If there is any excess liquid pooling at the bottom of the bowl, drain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside.
Roll the pizza dough out to a 14″ circle. Lay the crust on a floured pizza peel.
Spread the prepared sauce over the crust, leaving a thin edge for grasping. Top with chunks or slices of mozzarella, spaced evenly about 2″ apart. Lightly drizzle the top of the pizza with olive oil and brush the edge of the crust.
Bake for 10–12 minutes. Check that the cheese is melted and bubbly. Optionally turn on the broiler and brown the cheese for 1–2 minutes.
Let the pizza cool on the stone on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with torn basil, slice, and serve.