A Margherita pizza is the true test of good ingredients and a great pizza crust recipe. It is so simple, but everything has to be just right to make it taste delicious. I like to use the A16 Restaurant dough, which requires planning ahead a day or two. It has a perfect chewiness, with a crispness on the edges that bubble up and blister. The tomato sauce is simple; just some canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand.
This pizza isn’t like one from a take-out place, with a crust thick enough to hold up a ton of soggy toppings and cheese. This one is light, with a crispy crust, and you can taste each ingredient. Delizioso!
What you need:
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1 & 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups “oo” flour or all-purpose (I used all-purpose)
- one 28-ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- fresh mozzarella
- freshly grated parmesan
- fresh basil (optional)
What you do:
- Begin preparing the dough a day or two before you want to make the pizza. You can do this by hand, but it’s a bit more work than using a machine. Pour the warm (not hot – just body temperature) water into a mixer fitted with a dough hook, and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave it for about 10 minutes and it should dissolve and become foamy – if it doesn’t your water was the wrong temperature, or the yeast is dead, so you need to try again with new yeast.
- Stir in the olive oil and salt. Add most of the flour and mix on low for 2 minutes. Knead on medium-low for about 10 minutes – it will pull away from the bowl and begin to look smoother.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead once more on medium-low for 10 minutes – it will be smooth and quite soft. If it seems much too sticky you can add a little more flour. Coat a bowl with a little olive oil and then coat both sides of the dough with olive oil, placing the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night (or two or three nights).
- In the morning remove the dough from the fridge and punch it down. Fold the sides of the dough under and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit in a warm (not hot) place until about 2 hours before you are going to use it.
- Punch the dough down and divide it into 4 pieces. Form each piece into balls and cover them with a damp towel for about 2 hours. By this time the dough should have doubled in volume. If it starts to get a skin on it you can spray it with a little water.
- To prepare the sauce, just put the tomatoes and their juice into a bowl and squish them into little bits with your hands. Add the salt.
- Preheat the oven to 500-550 F. I used a brick oven, which had to be lit a few hours before to heat it sufficiently. This makes the Best Pizza, but understandably, most people will be baking in a conventional oven.
- To form the crusts, shape the dough into a disk with your hands. Push down in the centre with your palm and pull the dough out gently with your other hand, rotating slightly until you have a crust that is about 10-12 inches/25-30 cm in diameter with a slightly raised edge. Dust your baking pan generously with flour and place the crust on it. I don’t have a proper pizza stone or pan, and the baking tray I used worked just fine.
- Spread some tomato sauce onto the crust, then add the mozzarella and a light sprinkling of parmesan. You want to go light on the toppings or the crust will become soggy.
- Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the crust is crisp, golden, with some dark blistering, and the top is bubbling.
- Add a little fresh basil to the top if you are using it.