Eating a perfectly cooked pizza margherita at an outdoor cafe on the streets of Naples is a luxury that I am lucky enough to have experienced. However, just because you won't be heading to Southern Italy anytime soon doesn't mean you can't enjoy a deliciously simple pizza. I've found two stimulating recipes: one for the novice cook, and another for the foodie elitist. However, both recipes require the best quality ingredients you can find. Once you have mastered the pizza margherita, use these recipes as a base for more creative pizzas. Sound divine? Wait till you read the recipes.
1 (10-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, halved
5 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 3/4 pound)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Unroll crust dough onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; pat into a 13 x 11-inch rectangle. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Remove crust from oven, and brush with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Rub crust with cut sides of garlic.
- Arrange tomato slices on crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is golden.
- Combine 1/2 teaspoon oil and vinegar, stirring with a whisk.
- Sprinkle pizza evenly with sliced basil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over the pizza. Cut pizza into 8 pieces.
Nutritional Information: CALORIES 298(30% from fat); FAT 10g (sat 4.6g,mono 3.5g,poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 12.2g; CHOLESTEROL 22mg; CALCIUM 175mg; SODIUM 595mg; FIBER 2.1g; IRON 2.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 38.6g
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (90° to 105°)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
One 14-ounce can peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
32 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
- Make the dough: in a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the warm water and the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water, the 4 cups of flour and the kosher salt and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead, adding flour as necessary until a silky, but soft dough forms. Use a pastry scraper to help knead the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and brush all over with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; punch down and divide into 4 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Rub each ball with oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place for 1 hour.
- Prepare the toppings: meanwhile, set a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°, allowing at least 45 minutes for the stone to heat.
- Pass the tomatoes through a food mill set over a medium bowl or pulse them in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in the oregano and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
- On a lightly floured surface, stretch one ball of dough into a 13-inch round; transfer to a floured pizza peel, adding flour where the dough sticks. Spread 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce over the dough to within 1 inch of the edge. Spread one-fourth of the cheese over the pizza and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with sea salt and pepper and slide the pizza onto the stone.
- Bake until the bottom is charred and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Scatter one-fourth of the basil on top and let stand for 3 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.
Makes 4 13 inch pizzas.