Perfect Pizza Margherita


Letting the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight results in a chewy crust with a slight tang. It can sit for up to three days, which adds even more texture and flavor complexity. 

Perfect Pizza Margherita
Photo: © James Baigrie
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
10 hrs
4 (13-inch) pizzas



  • 1 envelope active dry yeast

  • 2 cups warm water (90°F to 105°F), divided

  • ½ teaspoon sugar

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • Extra-virgin olive oil


  • 1 (14-ounce) can peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained

  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • Coarse sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 pounds buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced

  • 32 large basil leaves, torn into pieces


  1. In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the warm water and the sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water, flour, and kosher salt and stir until dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead, adding flour as necessary until a silky and soft dough forms. Use a pastry scraper to help knead the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and brush all over with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; punch down and divide into 4 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Rub each ball with oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place for 1 hour.

  3. Meanwhile, set a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F, allowing at least 45 minutes for the stone to heat. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill set over a medium bowl or pulse them in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in the oregano and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

  4. On a lightly floured surface, stretch one ball of dough into a 13-inch round; transfer to a floured pizza peel, adding flour where the dough sticks. Spread 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce over the dough to within 1 inch of the edge. Spread one-fourth of the cheese over the pizza and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with sea salt and pepper and slide the pizza onto the stone. Bake until the bottom is charred and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Scatter one-fourth of the basil on top and let stand for 3 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.

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