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Margherita pizza all up in your face.

April 22, 2010

Another one of my obsessions in life is pizza. A good margherita pizza is like heaven on earth. Just a nice dough, good simple sauce, fresh mozzarella (or buffalo mozzarella) and fresh basil. Mmm. So delicious. I also enjoy grandma pizza, a big fat slice of sicilian pizza and regular ol’ pizza too. I’m a New Yorker, come on, these things are ingrained in us since birth, along with the love of bagels.

What is margherita pizza?

Pizza Margherita is a pizza prepared according to a recipe of the Italian chef Raffaelle Esposito. The pizza was first made in 1899 when Queen Marghereta visited Naples to escape a cholera epidemic in the north of Italy. The ingredients used to make a Margherita pizza, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, imitate the colors of the Italian flag. Queen Marghereta liked the pizza so much that she wrote a thank you letter to Esposito, who decided to name the pizza after the Queen.

I’ve made pizza before at home, a lot. It’s one of my favorite things to make. I’ve shared a few recipes on here and it’s starting to become a phenomenon like my macaroni & cheese obsession. But my whole point of this site is making life easy for busy cooks and bakers, yet making good, delicious food as well. And what’s better than pizza? Everyone likes pizza. It’s simple, doesn’t require a lot of planning, and even if you wanna make a more complex dough you still only have to do it the night before. But you don’t have to make a complex dough. There are tons of easy quick pizza dough recipes out there. Some of which you don’t even need to use a mixer for (this makes Lola sad, however). So in this post, I’ll show you a quick margherita pizza, and one with mushrooms as well, and I’ll also give you a recipe for another favorite pizza around here: carbonara. There are no pictures of that, as I didn’t make it this time, but I think you’ll get the idea.

Regular margherita pie in all it’s glory

QUICK & EASY PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet (¼ oz.) active dry rapid-rise yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water (105 to 115° F)
  • 1 ½ tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Mix ½ of flour with yeast, salt, water with honey dissolved in it, and olive oil.
  2. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Mix in remaining flour (dough should only be slightly sticky). Knead 5 minutes on a floured surface until smooth.
  3. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 10 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Punch dough down and divide in half. Punch down dough thoroughly and spread/stretch dough portion by hand and roller on a greased pizza pan. Move dough crust to pizza peel spread with coarse cornmeal or to pizza screen. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake in preheated 500° F oven directly on the pizza stone for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 2-3 minutes on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

This particular dough recipe requires both a mixer and a pizza stone. If you have neither, then try this recipe. If you’re looking for other pizza dough options, check the ‘pizza’ category. Usually, most recipes can be divided to make more than one, stretched thin to make thin crust, or used to make a thick crust, depending on your preference. Remember that some recipes rise more when cooking too, so go a bit thinner than you normally would if you like a super thin crust. This dough has a bit of a sweeter taste background because of the honey. If that doesn’t appeal to you, one of my other three dough recipes should. I personally prefer these two recipes to this one, but it’s good to try new things. I will say this: if the concept of honey in your pizza dough does not appeal to you, choose another recipe. If you’re open to trying it, then go right ahead. If it’s your first time making pizza at home, definitely use this recipe instead.

I topped it with my homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella (you know, those little balls? Not the shredded stuff in the bag or the block of Polly-O, although if you can’t get fresh then you can most certainly use that) and a basil leaf cut in a chiffonade (I’ll explain how to do that below) and on the other pie I put sliced white button mushrooms. As far as the fresh mozzarella, if you don’t have an Italian deli near you or can’t afford the higher priced fresh ones, BelGioioso now makes fresh mozzarella, it’s in the regular mozzarella section of supermarkets. It’s in a ball shape, and there’s also a larger one that comes in a sort of rounded tube.

Margherita with mushroom… up close & personal


If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, here’s a recipe for making an easy carbonara pizza, thanks to Rachael Ray. Carbonara is traditionally made with guanciale (pig’s cheeks), eggs, and parmesan. This recipe makes it a bit more appetizing by using pancetta, which is Italian bacon without the smoky flavor regular bacon has, ricotta cheese as well as pecorino romano, and it involves provolone cheese as well. Just follow the dough instructions above, or whatever dough creation/preparation you like, and use this as the topping.

CARBONARA PIZZA

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pepper
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
Directions:
  1. In a small skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Add the ricotta, pecorino romano, egg yolks and garlic to the pancetta; season with pepper and stir to combine.
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza dough, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Top with the provolone. Bake until the crust and topping are golden and cooked through. Scatter the parsley on top, cut and serve.

I just love how fresh mozzarella melts, it’s like cream. And let me tell you that the sauce I make is so amazing… I highly recommend you try it. At least once. You won’t be sorry. Delicioso! Go make some pizza, eat some pizza and then get some Red Mango. Yum.

Keep in mind also that homemade pizza dough can be used to make stromboli and calzones as well! You don’t have to always make pizza with it. Also, you can make cheesy breadsticks with it, or garlic knots. And as far as pizza toppings, anything you like can be used. Ham & pineapple (ew), pepperoni, chicken, broccoli, buffalo chicken & blue cheese, any kind of mushroom, cheddar cheese, monterey or pepper jack cheese, meatballs, peppers, anchovies, spinach, baked ziti… the choice is yours! Sauce or no sauce, even barbecue sauce… whatever floats your boat.

Okay… chiffonade. Chiffonade is the realy professional way of cutting basil, the way it comes on your dishes at restaurants: perfect little curled strips of fresh basil. It’s so easy to do, you’ll feel really stupid (just like I did) when you see how it’s done. First, take a basil leaf. Cut off the excess stem. Then, roll it up from the point down to the stem so you have a long tube. Holding the tube so it’s horizontal, use a sharp knife to cut the tube in even little pieces. Each of those pieces will be a “curl” of basil. Ta-da!

Now you can impress everyone you know by cutting your basil in a chiffonade. And if that doesn’t impress them, screw ’em. They aren’t worth knowing.

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  1. There is just nothing like pizza… sometimes I go months without it, then have it and realize how wonderful it is. Then I’ll eat it like 4 times a week… *sigh* Pizza.

  2. Margherita pizza is my absolute favorite but I can be so picky about it, considering I first tasted it IN Naples. I usually don’t even order it when I see it at pizza places because it can never live up, but luckily I’m very fond of New York pizza too!

  3. I’ve heard that about the pizza in Naples from a few people, plus when I read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ I kinda got that idea; that that was kind of the holy grail of pizza.

    However, if you buy the best ingredients available… there’s no reason why it can’t be just as good, or at least close to!

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