Classic Margherita Pizza

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Classic, authentic Margherita pizza – with a light sauce from blended San Marzano tomatoes, fresh torn mozzarella and basil, and a drizzle of olive oil on a crispy, chewy homemade crust.

A pizza on a black pan with a basil leaf on it.
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A Classic margherita pizza with a slice taken out of it.

Italian Style Authentic Margherita Pizza

We were recently in Milan for the holidays with my kids, and while there, my husband and son went to an Inter Milan game at San Siro Stadium – and my daughter and I decided to take a pizza and gelato making class in a market. After my husband and I sampled lots of traditional pizza in Naples (Napoli) a few years ago, I knew I needed to take my daughter for a class her first time in Italy!

Our chef, perfectly named Alfredo, walked us through perfect pizza techniques – and shared a recipe for perfect, simple, traditional and authentic Italian Margherita Pizza in a way you can replicate at-home – with or without any special pizza oven or pans.

This method is super simple once you get the dough perfectly kneaded and the oven piping hot – with classic, fresh flavors from torn basil and mozzarella and a simple sauce from San Marzano tomatoes. I’ll be honest – my daughter might have done even better making her pizza than me (I always put too much cheese on, so mine get a bit soggy – something I don’t mind in the least) – but Alfredo was proud of his youngest student, and we’ve made Margherita pizzas at home since learning the secrets!

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Two slices of Margherita pizza with sauce on a plate.

How to Make Margherita Pizza

To make this recipe, we will need the following ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • Type 00 Flour: This finely ground Italian flour contributes to a smooth and stretchable dough, ideal for achieving a thin crust with a soft and chewy texture. If unavailable, all-purpose flour is a decent substitute, though the texture might be slightly different.
  • Lukewarm Water: Activates the yeast and hydrates the flour. The temperature of the water is crucial; too hot, and it can kill the yeast, too cold, and it won’t activate the yeast effectively.
  • Fresh Yeast: It’s responsible for the fermentation process, which helps the dough rise and develop its flavor. Active dry yeast is an alternative, though fresh yeast is traditionally used for its quicker activation and slightly different flavor profile.
  • Fine Sea Salt: Enhances the flavor of the dough and strengthens the gluten network, improving the texture of the crust.

For the Topping:

  • San Marzano Tomatoes: These tomatoes are prized for their sweet flavor, vibrant color, and low acidity, making them ideal for a balanced and authentic pizza sauce.
  • Fresh Mozzarella (Buffalo Mozzarella): This cheese melts beautifully and adds a rich, creamy texture and flavor. Buffalo mozzarella is preferred for its moisture and delicate taste.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves: They provide a burst of herby freshness that complements the richness of the tomatoes and cheese.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Adds a hint of fruity flavor and helps in achieving a golden color in the crust.
  • Fine Sea Salt: For seasoning the sauce, enhancing the overall flavor profile.

To make this recipe after gathering ingredients, use this method:

  • Activate the Yeast: If using active dry yeast, dissolve it in a small part of the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar and let it sit until frothy (about 5-10 minutes). Add oil to the mixture.
  • Mix the Ingredients: In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and activated yeast (or fresh yeast).
  • Knead: Knead about 10 minutes till elastic.
  • First Rise: Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise at room temperature for about 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
  • Portion the Dough: Knock back the risen dough, then divide it into 2 equal parts. Shape each into a ball. Let them rest for another 30 minutes.
  • Assemble. Press the dough into a 12 inch pizza. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor, spread on the pizza and bake for 5 minutes on a stone.
  • Top. Add buffalo mozzarella, minced fresh basil, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil to the pizzas.
  • Bake. Bake the pizzas on the stone in the oven at 500 degrees or highest temperature until crispy and cheese is melted.
A person is holding a slice of pizza.

Tips and Tricks to Perfect Margherita Pizza

Dough Quality: Use high-quality Tipo 00 flour for a traditional Neapolitan-style pizza. The dough should be well-kneaded until smooth and elastic, and allowed to rise properly for the best texture.

Tomato Sauce: Use San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce. These tomatoes are less acidic and sweeter, creating a well-balanced flavor. Crush them by hand for a rustic texture.

Cheese: Opt for fresh mozzarella, preferably buffalo mozzarella, for authenticity. It should be sliced or torn into small pieces and scattered sparingly. Too much cheese can make the pizza soggy.

Basil: Add fresh basil leaves after baking. If you add them before, they may burn and become bitter.

Oven Temperature: A very hot oven is crucial. Ideally, Margherita pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven at around 800°F. If using a home oven, preheat it to the highest temperature with a pizza stone inside to mimic the effect of a wood-fired oven.

Baking Time: The high heat should cook the pizza quickly, usually in just a few minutes. Watch for a golden, crispy crust and bubbling cheese.

Olive Oil: A drizzle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil adds flavor. Add it just before serving.

Avoid Overloading: Keep toppings simple and sparse. The beauty of a Margherita pizza is in its simplicity and balance of flavors.

Handling the Dough: Be gentle when stretching the dough to avoid deflating the air bubbles. This helps to achieve the characteristic airy, bubbly crust.

Rotation During Baking: If your oven has hot spots, rotate the pizza halfway through baking for even cooking.

FAQs

What is margherita pizza

It’s a Neapolitan pizza featuring tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

Where is the name Margherita from?

Margherita Pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy. It was also possibly from the Italian word for “Daisy” due to its topping arrangement.

Is margherita pizza healthier than other pizza?

It’s relatively healthier with simpler toppings like tomato, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

Can I use different cheese?

Traditionally, fresh mozzarella is used, but variations can include different types of cheese.

Can I add other toppings?

Authentic Margherita Pizza is simple, but variations can include additional toppings.

What type of tomatoes should I use?

San Marzano tomatoes are preferred for their sweet flavor and low acidity.

Can I use dried basil?

Fresh basil is recommended, but dried can be used as a substitute.

What is the best temperature for cooking pizza?

A very hot oven, typically as high as your oven will go, is recommended.

Can I make margherita pizza in advance?

The dough can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator – however because our sauce is fairly liquid, it will get too soggy if you top the pizza unless when right about to go to the oven.

How thin should margherita pizza crust be?

The crust should be thin and crispy, typical of Neapolitan-style pizza.

A slice of pizza on a plate next to a napkin.

What to Serve With Margherita Pizza

Caprese Salad: A classic choice with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Garlic Knots: Make some garlic knots using pizza dough, butter, garlic, and parsley for a tasty side.

Mixed Greens Salad: A light salad with mixed greens, a simple vinaigrette, and maybe some cherry tomatoes or roasted red peppers.

Roasted Vegetables: Roast some seasonal vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant for a healthy side dish.

Antipasto Platter: Create a Mediterranean-inspired platter with olives, cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables.

Try these favorites:

A classic margherita pizza slice on a plate.

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Classic margherita pizza.

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Classic Margherita Pizza

Margherita pizza, with its simple yet perfect blend of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil on a crisp crust, epitomizes the elegance of Italian cuisine.
Course pizza
Cuisine Italian
Keyword homemade pizza, italian pizza, movie night dinner, pizza
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Rising Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings 2 12″ Pizzas
Calories 351kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Equipment

  • Nuwave Heavy-Duty Cordierite Pizza & Baking Stone, Heat Resistant up to 1472°F, Great for Indoor Electric Ovens, Outdoor Gas, Wood Fire Grills, BBQ Grilling, & NuWave Bravo XL, Fits Most Frozen Pizzas
  • Pizza Peel Aluminum Pizza Spatula, Mooues 12 inch Metal Pizza Paddle(12″x 14″)with Rocker Cutter Foldable Wood Handle, [Storage bag included], for Family Pizza Oven Baking Pizza, Dough, Bread & Pastry

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 2 cup plus 2 tablespoon 00 flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the Pizza

  • 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 14 oz Buffalo Mozzarella
  • ½ cup Fresh Basil minced
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • ¼ tsp Sea salt

Instructions

  • In a large bowl combine the flour and sea salt.
  • In a separate bowl combine the lukewarm water, yeast, and the 1 tsp of olive oil. Add to the flour and salt mixture and combine well.
  • Flour a clean surface and knead dough for 10 minutes. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If the dough doesn't rise, the yeast was killed by too hot or two cold of water so start again.
  • Press the risen dough down, cut into two and knead each into a small bowl.
  • Place doughs on two plates, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes more.
  • Place tomatoes in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside,
  • Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  • Lightly spread cornmeal a pizza peel or thin cutting board to prevent sticking.
  • Press each dough into a 12 inch pizza. Spread tomato sauce on each pizza and bake them on the preheated pizza stone for 5 minutes.
  • Remove pizza from the oven. Spread mozzarella on each in chunks and sprinkle with fresh basil, sprinkle of salt, and drizzle of olive oil.
  • Place pizzas back in the oven for 5-10 minutes till bubbly and delicious.

Notes

After dough is combined you can let it have its first rise in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you remove it from the fridge let it rise 30 minutes at room temperature before splitting it into 2 pizzas.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 351kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 907mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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