Pizza Margherita

I have never met a single person who doesn’t appreciate pizza in one way or another. This magical Italian dish is one of the most popular and widely available “fast foods” in the world, and with good reason as it is so damn delicious. While I never turn down a slice, there are some that are far superior to others and for the past few years I have played around with different recipes and techniques to re-create restaurant quality, Neapolitan-style, thin crust pizza at home.

Let’s dig in to the history of this perfect food first so that you have some more appreciation for the humble slice. Pizza is from Italy, duh, but did you know that pizza was first heard of in the 10th century? The term pizza was found in an old manuscript, 997 AD, from the town of Gaeta in Lazio, Southern Italy very close to Campania. The word pizza is a derivative of the Ancient Greek word…wait for it… pitta! Makes sense, don’t it.

Eating flatbreads, like pita bread topped with various things, like vegetables and cheese goes way way back, to the Neolithic age to be exact. This evolved, as most things do and as early as the 6th century BC, Persian soldiers would bake flatbreads topped with cheese and dried fruits on their metal shields. While no one really knows when tomatoes were added, what we think of as pizza was only created in the late 18th century, where it was typically sold from street carts and pizza bakeries, what we now call pizzerias.

Pizza-type dishes can be found all over the world, and I urge you to go out and try them all. From the Alsatian Flammekueche, Levantine Manakish, Armenian Lahmajoun to Japanese Okonomiyaki are all great examples of fabulous pizza-style dishes that make my mouth water just thinking of them.

If there is one thing for sure, it is that I am always craving a perfect slice of pizza. What makes a perfect slice for me is a Neapolitan-style, thin, crisp, flavourful crust that has a good chew to it, the deep red tomato sauce that must have a bright flavour, with a balance of sweet, salty and acidic, and the cheese, a very good quality cheese like a creamy Fior di Latte or the irresistible mozzarella di bufala. While these cheeses are a little pricey, if you are a pizza aficionado, then you will surely think it a wise investment.

There are many different types of pizza out there and each one represents a different region in Italy, different preferences or cooking styles. I grew up with my Nonna’s pizza, Sicilian style, a puffy crust, heavy with olive oil and topped generously with a thick sauce made with the incredible tomatoes from the garden that tasted like the best summer day. This style will always remain one of my favourites and I still make this for large groups of people to serve at buffets or picnics, but my all-time favourite slice must be the Neapolitan-Style. This is my recipe for my favourite at-home slice.

Print Recipe
Pizza Margherita (dough)
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 25 hours
Servings
12" pizzas
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 25 hours
Servings
12" pizzas
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast, water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until yeast is frothy.
  2. Add oil and salt, stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the flour until incorporated. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough on the medium setting for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic. This is a wet dough and it will be very sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and scrape the dough from the bowl. Form into a loose ball.
  5. Oil the bowl with some olive oil and put the dough back into the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. This slow-rise method creates a deeper flavour profile in the dough.
  6. Once the dough is ready, punch it down and divide the dough into two equal portions.
  7. *This is the time to wrap it and freeze it if you want to keep it for another time.
  8. Cover the dough balls loosely with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
  9. Preheat your oven to the highest setting it goes to. 500° F or higher.
  10. If you have a pizza stone, heat it with your oven. If not don’t worry.
  11. Stretch the dough with floured hands on a floured surface, being careful not to puncture the dough. Stretch as thin as you can, leaving a thicker edge for a good crust. Don’t use a rolling pin when stretching the dough, you want to keep some air pockets in the dough.
  12. If using a pizza stone, put the dough on a peel and dress, if not put the dough on a pizza tray and dress.
  13. Apply a thin layer of tomato sauce, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, add the best mozzarella cheese you can find (Fior di Latte, mozzarella di bufala, or any good quality mozzarella) and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.
  14. If using a pizza stone, slide the pizza into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is deep golden brown. If using a pizza tray, bake the pizza on the lowest rack until cheese is bubbly and crust is deep golden brown.
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Print Recipe
Pizza Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat, sweat onions with garlic and chili flakes until slightly browned.
  2. Add tomatoes, basil leaves and oregano, lower heat and cook for 45 minutes until reduced by almost half, stirring frequently.
  3. Blend using a hand blender until broken down but still slightly chunky.
  4. Add sugar, salt and pepper, taste for seasoning and adjust if need be.
  5. Off the heat, add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  6. Let cool and use immediately or keep in the fridge tightly sealed for up to two weeks.
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