As legend would have it, during the latter part of the 1800’s, an Italian baker known as Raffaele Esposito created a pizza topped with the ripest red tomatoes, creamiest white mozzarella cheese and the brightest green basil leaves to reflect the colors of the Italian flag during a visit to Naples by the Italian Monarch, King Umberto and Queen Margherita. Esposito wanted to impress the royal family and to show his patriotic love for his country and he succeeded at doing both. The Italian Monarch was so impressed the Queen had the pizza named after her and thus the quintessential pizza was born; Pizza Margherita. The Pizza Margherita is a pie created so that each bite is unique and based on simple, perfect ingredients. With any one of the four elements (dough, tomatoes, cheese and basil) missing the results would be lackluster. Remember to only use ripe, deep red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh, whole basil leaves. Always add the basil after the pizza has cooked as heat destroys the taste of fresh basil.
- 1 New York style pizza dough
- 3 roma tomatoes, ripe and deep red
- 170g (6 ounces) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Fresh basil leaves, whole
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 4 teaspoons of olive oil
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Medium Mixing Bowl
- Digital Kitchen Scale
- Baking Steel / Baking Stone
- Wooden Pizza Peel
- Chef Knife
- Large Wooden Cutting Board
- Box Grater
- Parchment Paper
- Make and proof dough as per instructions (2-3 hours). You can make the dough a day or two before if you like; see article on dough retarding.
- Pre-heat oven with baking stone on next to bottom oven rack to 525°F (275°C).
- While oven is pre-heating, slice tomatoes and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place tomato slices in a single layer close together on the parchment paper. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper to the top of the slices of tomatoes. Drizzle tomatoes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
- Place baking sheet with tomato slices on the middle oven rack for about 15 minutes. The goal is to remove some of the moisture from the tomatoes while also cooking them. This process keeps the tomatoes from releasing excess water onto the pizza and ensures they are fully cooked when the pizza is finished baking. The result is a slightly sweeter, creamier tomato with a fresh taste.
- Pre-heat oven and baking stone to 550°F (288°C) for 30 minutes.
- Slice 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella into about ten slices and set aside for now.
- Once oven has pre-heated, form dough per the instructions here on a lightly floured wooden pizza peel to a 12-13″ circle.
- Evenly add mozzarella and tomato slices to the pizza dough.
- With a quick jiggle of the wooden pizza peel to ensure the dough isn’t sticking, put pizza on the pre-heated baking stone using the pizza peel.
- Bake on the baking stone for approximately 5 minutes until crust and bottom are golden brown. Use pizza peel to remove pizza from oven.
- Once removed, add basil and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Always add basil immediately after cooking as heat will destroy the flavor of basil and will blacken the leaves. There is enough heat left on the pizza to gently wilt the basil leaves.
- Allow to cool for two minutes before cutting.