Classic Pizza Margherita
Craving a pizza night? This simple sauce and straightforward method will give you the confidence to do it the homemade way!
Of all the food traditions I’ve ever begun, the only one I’ve had zero trouble making a habit is Friday pizza night. Hardly a shocker, since I count pizza as one of my absolute favorite foods, just like about 2 billion of my closest friends.
I will say, though, that when I first started making homemade pizza, I had some frustrating moments! This centered entirely around the dough – shaping it and getting the right consistency for a thin, crispy crust.
Fortunately, I’ve learned over time that a little patience goes a long way with pizza dough. If you are having trouble shaping it, give it a few extra minutes to rest on the counter and try again! This lets the gluten relax more and makes your life much, much easier.
Once your dough is shaped, the rest is simple – and FUN! This tomato sauce is heaven-sent – as easy as mixing together five ingredients, no cooking required, and a result so light and flavorful you’ll be scrounging for bread scraps or any vehicle to sop up the extra tomato-y goodness.
A traditional margherita pizza would be just sauce, cheese, and basil, and if you look closely at these pictures, you might spy an interloper. Yes, I added some thin-sliced ham to half the pie this time, mostly just because we had it to use up and it sounded tasty. (It was.)
This is another reason I love making pizza and even feel virtuous about it: you can add any toppings you wish, whether you’re in the mood for something heavy or light, and there’s no better way to use up a handful of extra veggies that may be hanging out in the fridge. See? Delicious AND efficient. Win-win. ?
In any event, next time you’re craving pizza, go ahead and try it the homemade way! And if you have any questions or uncertainties about the process, don’t hesitate to write in the comments below. I’ve become something of a homemade pizza evangelist, and I want you to have the same success and joy!
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Classic Pizza Margherita
For the sauce:
- 1 cup pureed or crushed tomatoes
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- Dough for 1 large pizza
- Cornmeal for sprinkling
- 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil for brushing
- 8 oz. (250g) mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2” cubes
- 2-3 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- large handful fresh basil roughly torn or sliced
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (250 C) and preheat a pizza stone or baking sheet for at least 30 minutes. While the stone is preheating, set out the pizza dough and allow to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining pureed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir and set aside. Prepare and set aside your cubed mozzarella, grated parmesan, and torn basil, as well.
- When ready to assemble, lay out a pizza peel or large square of parchment paper and dust lightly with cornmeal. Shape the pizza dough into a 12”-14” circle using lightly floured hands and/or a rolling pin. Lay the shaped dough on the cornmeal-dusted surface. Lightly brush the outer edge with olive oil.
- Spread about 1/2 cup sauce onto the dough, using the back of a spoon to spread it evenly and thinly. Sprinkle the cubed mozzarella over the pizza, followed by the grated parmesan and about half of the torn basil leaves.
- Gently transfer the pizza to the preheated stone (if using parchment paper, I usually slide the pizza straight in with the parchment still underneath it). Bake until the cheese is melted and the crust is lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining basil over the top, and let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
- A pizza stone really helps give you get the best crust. A good one is not terribly expensive, plus you'll find many other uses for it.
- If you have whole or diced tomatoes on hand, no worries - just give them a quick whiz in the food processor to puree, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients straight into the food processor bowl. Quality of tomatoes is more important than format here, since you’re ultimately going for a puree anyway.
- This will make more sauce than you need for 1 pizza. Save the extra for your next pizza night, it will keep in the fridge for at least a week, or use as a dipping sauce!
- This recipe works best with fresh cooking mozzarella - the stuff that comes in a block or brick but not packed in water. Excess water from the cheese will make a soggy crust and sad pizza!
- If your crust springs back or is very difficult to shape, try letting it rest for another 5-10 minutes and try again. It should not give you fits! A few more minutes to rest at room temperature helps the gluten in the dough relax.