Oh Margherita Pizza – how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Your cheese is so melty and scrumptious; your dough is so crispy and chewy, your sauce has such a tomato zip! Designed to fulfill your taste buds’ every fantasy, pizza in general consists of any topping you can imagine piled on top of a cheesy crust. The possibilities are endless!
While I love just about any type of pizza out there, there is one for which my heart will always yearn. The most simple and traditional of all pizza variations may be my personal favorite – The Margherita Pizza. Highlighting a spectacular tomato sauce, gooey mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, the Margherita Pizza is an instant classic that will call to you time and time again. Because this pizza is so simple, you absolutely MUST use fresh, high quality ingredients in order to achieve the best flavor. Make this your Pizza Night go-to and never look back again!
Makes approximately one 14” pizza
- 1 ball of pizza dough (I use Bobby Flay’s recipe. It makes 2 balls of dough, so you can either make 2 pizzas tonight or save the other for tomorrow…)
- 1 cup Perfect Marinara (or other tomato sauce)
- 10-12 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut into slices (This is the squishy kind you find packed with water in the deli section of your supermarket. You can also find it pre-sliced if you want to cut down on the prep.)
- 10–12 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Flour (for dusting)
- Special Equipment: Rolling pin, pastry brush, and a pizza stone (you can use a baking sheet if you don’t own a pizza stone)
- Before you do anything, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a pizza stone, you will want to put the stone it at the time you start preheating your oven and let it heat up for approximately 45 minutes. This will help get your crust nice and crisp and avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom.” If you are using a baking sheet in place of a pizza stone, do not put it in this early to heat; instead place the baking sheet in the oven approximately 10 minutes before you want to bake your pizza.
- Gently stretch the pizza dough with your hands so that it forms a circle, being careful that your fingers don’t break holes through the dough. Place the stretched dough on a lightly floured surface. Mend any holes in the dough, if needed, by pinching and smoothing the edges together. Use a rolling pin to further stretch the dough in order to help achieve the size crust you need.
- Using oven mitts, remove the hot pizza stone (or baking sheet) from the oven. Place the pizza crust on the stone. Gently brush olive oil with a pastry brush around the outermost 1 inch of the crust. Put the stone (with dough) back in the oven for approximately 5 to 8 minutes so that the crust partially bakes.
- Remove the pizza stone with the partially baked crust from the oven and poke holes in any air bubbles that have formed in the center of the crust. (Mine had quite a few, so feel free to really punch them down.)
- Pour the tomato sauce in the center of the crust and evenly spread all over the crust, leaving approximately a 1 inch border. Evenly place the mozzarella slices on the tomato sauce and then distribute the tomato halves over the pizza. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the pizza and then ½ of the chopped basil. Shake the red pepper flakes on top, if using, and then put the pizza back in the oven.
- Bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the crust is nice and golden. Remove from the pizza stone and let set for few minutes. Sprinkle the remaining chopped basil on top and then cut into slices for serving.