Margherita Pizza

4.0
(2)

This classic pizza is easy to pull off at home with fresh ingredients. Miriam Weiskind's flavorful dough comes together through careful kneading before slowly rising in the refrigerator for one—and up to five—days, making it the perfect, make-ahead pizza base. Paired with creamy mozzarella, the freshly snipped basil and uncooked sauce deliver big flavor.

Margherita Pizza with Arugula
Photo: Bella Graves
Active Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Refrigerate Time:
1 day
Rest Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
Servings:
4

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 ½ cups (550 grams) bread flour (preferably King Arthur), plus more for kneading and shaping the dough

  • ¾ teaspoon (3 grams) active dry yeast

  • 1 ½ cups cold water, preferably filtered (not distilled)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons (10 grams) fine sea salt

  • 1 tablespoon Italian or Californian extra-virgin olive oil

Pizzas

  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, such as Bianco diNapoli

  • Pinch of dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons water, or as needed

  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, halved then cut into ¼-inch thick slices

  • Semolina flour (or half bread flour and half finely ground cornmeal), for work surface

  • Grated Pecorino Romano

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  • 16 large fresh basil leaves (about 15 large)

Directions

  1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, stir the flour and yeast. Mound the flour mixture in the middle of the bowl. Add the water to the bowl around the mound of flour. Slowly stir the water while gradually knocking the flour from the pile into the water. It should start to get shaggy. Use your hand to fold and knead the dough in the bowl until it forms a rough ball, adding more water by the teaspoonful if the dough doesn't come together. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to bond and activate.

  2. Sprinkle the salt on top of the dough. Gently press into the dough and begin to gently squeeze and knead the dough until it no longer feels grainy, about 4 minutes. Add the oil and sprinkle lightly with flour; squeeze the dough and knead it until the oil is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Once the ball is mostly smooth, transfer to a work surface and let rest for 2 minutes.

  3. Dust the dough with a little bit of flour and begin to stretch, fold, and knead the dough until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. The dough will be ready when you can pull a piece of dough and won't break but rather will form a see-through windowpane.

  4. Using a bench scraper or large knife, cut the dough into 4 even pieces. Knead each one and form a smooth ball and pinch the bottom edges together. Place each round into a lightly oiled pint-sized plastic container. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or up to 5 days).

  5. Make the pizzas: Bring the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for an hour. Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack about 4 inches from the source of heat, (the top or bottom of the oven depending on what type of oven you have). Place a pizza steel, pizza stone, or a rimless or inverted baking sheet on the rack. Preheat the oven to 500°F; let it heat up for 45 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, gently break down the tomatoes (you can also do this with your hands). Mix in a pinch of oregano and up to 2 tablespoons of water if needed to thin sauce. Place the sliced mozzarella in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain the extra moisture from the cheese.

  7. When the oven is fully preheated, proceed with assembling your pizzas. Place a handful of semolina into a medium bowl. Add 1 dough round to the bowl and turn to coat. Sprinkle a work surface with semolina and stretch or roll the dough round into a 10- to 12-inch round. Sprinkle semolina flour on a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet and set the dough on top. Top with about 6 tablespoons of the sauce, spreading it over the dough in ever-expanding circles with the back of a spoon and leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with a few pinches of Pecorino, 3 ounces of the mozzarella, and a drizzle of oil.

  8. Gently shake the pizza on the peel to loosen. Carefully slide the pizza from the peel to the pizza stone. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown, rotating the pizza halfway through baking, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using scissors, quickly snip 4 basil leaves into thin slices over hot pizza. Cut pizza into slices and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining dough, sauce, and toppings to make three additional pizzas.

Variation

If desired, top sliced pizzas with a handful of fresh arugula, thinly sliced prosciutto, and a sprinkle of shaved parmesan.

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