Homemade Margherita Pizza
The classic Margherita pizza has been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries. In June 1889, to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita,” garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, to represent the colors of the Italian flag. This recipe is a variation of the classic.
Pizza is super easy to make so don’t get discouraged when you scroll down and see the length of the instructions!
Preparation Time: 2 Hours
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients (Available at Trader Joe’s)
1 bag of premade pizza dough
1 jar of marinara sauce
16 oz. whole milk mozzarella (NOT shredded)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 medium tomato
1 bunch of basil
4 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Olive oil and spray olive oil
Red pepper flakes
To prepare the dough:
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit until it reaches room temperature. Once at room temperature, (about 40 minutes) take some flour and sprinkle it on the counter. Next, take the dough out of the bag and begin to gently knead to activate the yeast. After kneading, shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl. Spray olive oil on top so the dough does not form a crust. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside somewhere warm (this could be outside or turn your oven on to 100 degrees, turn it off and once it has cooled down slightly, you can place the bowl in the oven). This is so that the dough has one more chance to rise. After about an hour, take the dough and knead one more time on a floured surface. Next, using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a circle large enough to fit the pizza screen or if using a cookie sheet, visualize a medium size pizza.
When rolling out the dough, be gentle and try not to roll over the bubbles created by the yeast. You want to leave the bubbles in the dough to make it fluffy and three dimensional. Once at the desired shape and size, place on a greased pizza screen (using spray olive oil) or cookie sheet (if using a cookie sheet you can use corn meal instead of olive oil).
To prepare the toppings:
Chop half the red bell pepper and half the green bell pepper in small pieces, add to bowl. Take half the red onion and slice into slivers, add to bowl. Take the tomato and slice into 1/3 inch pieces, add to bowl. Season toppings with olive oil, dried basil*, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let sit for 30 minutes. While this sits, grate the mozzarella cheese into a bowl. The reason you do not buy grated cheese is because flour is sometimes added to the cheese, so does not stick to itself, and as a result, it does not melt as well.
Add about ½ to ¾ cup marinara sauce and spread evenly, leaving an outer portion sauce-free to create the crust. Add cheese liberally and place 10 whole basil leaves on top of the cheese. Next, drain the water that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl containing the toppings. The reason this happened is because salt was added which drew out the water in the vegetables. This prevents soggy pizza! Place all the topping on top of the cheese/basil. Drizzle olive oil on top of the pizza and sprinkle one tablespoon of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top.
Place pizza in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The time varies as each oven is different. If your oven runs really hot, the pizza will be done in about 12-15 minutes.
When the pizza is done, take it out of the oven, let rest for 2 minutes, sprinkle more Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top and mangia!
*When using dry herbs, rub them through your fingers before adding to release the natural oils and give it a more prominent flavor.