What if I told you you can make incredible, restaurant quality Pizza Margherita at home with just a handful of ingredients, even if you don't know how to bake or cook!? It is actually one of the easiest things you can make, and this is the best easy homemade Pizza Margherita recipe. This pizza only 90 minutes to make including the proofing time for the dough (15 minutes of active work), and is incredibly delicious with a thin, crispy crust and lots and lots of cheese.
I was lucky enough to take a pizza making class in Naples from an old, renowned restaurant, and got to learn the ways of making an authentic Napoletana Pizza Margherita. However, as delicious as an authentic Pizza Margherita is, it takes quite a bit of time, with the dough proofed overnight, and requires a wood fire oven. I have carefully crafted this recipe to be an easier, quicker version which can be made at home by anyone!
WHAT IS PIZZA MARGHERITA
Pizza Margherita is a classic Italian dish that embodies the simplicity and flavors of traditional Italian cuisine: a thin crust topped with vibrant red tomato sauce, creamy white mozzarella cheese, and aromatic green basil leaves. This tri-color combination not only represents the colors of the Italian flag but also reflects the essence of Italian culinary philosophy—celebrating the purity of ingredients and the beauty of uncomplicated flavors.
Classic Napoletana Margherita Pizza is made with a thin crust which is on the softer side (the slice should bend downwards when lifted), San Marzano tomato sauce, and cow's mozzarella (not buffalo's, since buffalo's mozzarella is too wet for pizza). It is drizzled with olive oil and baked in a high heat wood fire oven for just 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts and the crust chars.
USING A PIZZA STONE FOR A CRISPY CRUST
The secret to the best, crispy homemade pizza crust is to use a pizza stone! A pizza stone is simply a circular sheet of stone (usually ceramic or clay) which helps mimic the surface inside a wood fire pizza oven by absorbing and retaining heat, and quickly cooking the pizza crust. This one on Amazon is under $20!
How to use a pizza stone
A pizza stone needs to get as hot as possible before you bake the pizza on top of it. First, place the stone on the middle rack of your oven. Then pre-heat the oven at the highest setting (usually between 450F and 500F) for ~20-30 minutes. Once the pizza is assembled, transfer it onto the pizza stone inside the oven and bake until cooked.
There are 2 ways you can transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone:
- Use a pizza peel. This can require a lot of practice to get right, though, as the dough can stick onto the peel. For me, the method which works best is to sprinkle a generous amount of semolina onto the peel, then assemble the pizza on top of the peel, shake the peel lightly until the pizza starts moving, and carefully transferring onto the stone
- Use parchment paper. This is the easier, more foolproof method which I love using! Simply cut a large piece of parchment paper and assemble the pizza on top of it. Once ready, lift the entire sheet of parchment with the pizza on top, and carefully place it on top of the pizza stone inside the oven. When the pizza is baked, it is easy to remove the parchment from underneath. Important note: Parchment paper should generally not be used at temperatures above 450F as it can catch fire. When I use this method, I set my oven at 450F (no fan).
What is an alternate for a pizza stone?
If you don't have a pizza stone, you can achieve a similar result by pre-heating a pizza pan inside the oven. Place the pan / sheet in the oven and pre-heat for ~20-30 minutes, then transfer the assembled pizza onto the sheet following the same options shared above.
You can also assemble the pizza directly onto a pizza pan and transfer to the oven if you don't want the hassle of transferring the pizza! It will still be good.
Here are the ingredients you need for Pizza Margherita:
- Warm water - ideally around 110F
- Active dry yeast or instant yeast
- Olive oil
- All purpose flour or bread flour
- Tomato sauce. 1For authentic Pizza Margherita, it is best to find a can of San Marzano tomatoes (sourced from Italy) and simply blend them into a sauce. However, they can sometimes be hard to find, so you can use any other pizza sauce you like. I love the Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce from Classico!
- Fresh mozzarella cheese - it is important to use fresh mozzarella which comes soaked / packaged in a ball instead of shredded
- Fresh basil leaves
- Olive oil
HOW TO MAKE EASY HOMEMADE PIZZA MARGHERITA
Now, let's get into the method! First, take a look at this short video which explains the process:
1. Prepare the pizza dough
A lot of people think making pizza dough is complicated - I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be! While there are more complex versions out there, this one is as simple as it gets.
You simply dump all ingredients into a bowl, and use a spoon to pull them together into a sticky dough. Even if you use active dry yeast, you don't need to worry about first activating it in water - it will still work and the dough will rise as long as the water is warm enough! As you mix, you can add more water a tablespoon at a time until you can see that you have a sticky dough (no dry lumps of flour).
Then, turn the dough onto a counter and knead it with a push-pull motion. The dough will be sticky at first, but you need to keep kneading it for 5-7 minutes and it will become less sticky over time. It is done when the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy.
If you have a stand mixer, you can also use that to knead the dough (although you may need to double the recipe as this recipe only makes enough for 1 pizza).
2. Proof the pizza dough
Here's how you can speed up the rise of the dough: turn on your oven at 100F for just ~2 minutes, which will make it warm. If it feels too warm, you can open and close the oven door a few times to bring down the temperature, but think about a hot summer day and try to get that temperature in there.
Then, place the pizza dough into a clean bowl sprayed with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and place into the warm oven. Close the door, and your dough should double in size in ~30-45 minutes!
3. Assemble the pizza
Once the dough is proofed, remove it from the oven and pre-heat your oven at 450F with the pizza stone inside for ~20-30 minutes. During this time, you can start assembling the pizza.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a thin large circle. You can make it larger or smaller based on how thin you want the crust to be, but I make mine ~9-10" in diameter.
Transfer the crust onto a sheet of parchment paper and adjust the shape if it gets messed up. Use a fork to prick the dough a few times. Spread on the pizza sauce, and cover with shreds of mozzarella cheese (you can simply use your hands to tear the mozzarella into chunks). Lastly, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil (optional).
4. Bake the pizza
Carefully transfer the parchment paper with the pizza on top of it onto the pizza stone already inside the oven. Bake until the pizza reaches the level of doneness and crispiness that you like. For reference, I set my oven at 450F (no fan) and bake for about ~10 minutes for a crispy crust. If you want a crispy crust, you can also bake for around 9-11 minutes. If you want a softer crust, you can reduce the baking time. You can also broil at the end for a few seconds if you want the cheese to get charred.
5. Serve the Pizza Margherita
Carefully take the pizza out of the oven (I usually take my serving board to the oven and use a large spatula to push the pizza onto the serving board right there). Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and slice right in!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, you can. You can use a pizza pan as a pizza stone and pre-heat it in the oven before transferring the pizza onto the pan when it is assembled. You can also simple assemble the pizza on the pizza pan and transfer to a preheated oven to bake.
Yes! You can assemble this pizza margherita and freeze it. It can be baked from frozen, with a few minutes adding to the baking time. Then garnish with basil leaves and serve as normal.
I do not recommend making this pizza ahead of time as it is best eaten fresh.
A margherita pizza is made with fresh mozzarella so I strongly recommend using it. However, you can use shredded mozzarella if you do not have access to fresh mozzarella.
Yes, you can easily double this recipe and make 2 medium sized pizzas. Alternately, you can make a large sheet pan pizza in a 9x13" pan with double the recipe.
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