Homemade Margherita Pizza
Craving a pizza night? This easy Homemade Margherita Pizza recipe works perfectly with everyday ingredients and your standard oven. The simple, flavorful sauce and straightforward method will give you confidence and delicious results that make you want homemade pizza over and over again.
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.
Of course we get carry out a lot, but when you get the itch to make pizza at home, there’s absolutely nothing like it. I’m proud that my husband and son will both loudly proclaim that Mom’s pizza is the best pizza! (At least when I’m within earshot. Ha!)
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.
What is a pizza margherita?
Pizza margherita, or commonly known in English as margherita pizza, is a quintessential Neapolitan pizza traditionally made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
There is truly nothing like a genuine pizza Napoletana. I have a vivid memory of sprawling casually with friends on the steps of da Michele, one of the most famous pizzerias in Naples, Italy, hurriedly and fervently digging into the box we had just purchased with one of their famous pies fresh out of the oven. As we expected and hoped, it was worth all of the hype.
We were students in London at the time and had stopped in Naples briefly while traveling Italy by train during a school holiday. I confess I have completely forgotten the rest of the city, but those bites outside of da Michele? Those remain seared happily in my memory, plain as day.
While we can’t all recreate a perfect pizza margherita at home — lacking the 00 flour and the flaming wood-fired oven, for starters — it is possible for the everyday home cook to make a pretty darn delicious approximation. And your family will love it.
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
The ingredients in a true pizza margherita are simple. Using the best quality you can find and afford will go a long way.
- Pizza dough. I have been using Annie’s recipe for homemade pizza dough for years and love it. Don’t be intimidated by baking with yeast–you can do it!–and a stand mixer makes the process very quick and easy. Of course, a store-bought dough that you love will work, too, of course.
- For the sauce: Crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Mozzarella cheese. This is important: use a low-moisture mozzarella, not the fresh mozzarella packed in water. This is to be sure it doesn’t make your pizza soggy.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Both to mix into the sauce and to brush the outside edge of the pizza crust before baking, to help it crisp up and turn golden.
- Parmesan cheese. Literally always a wise addition.
- Fresh basil. You can skip this if needed, but for a true pizza margherita, it’s the crucial finishing touch.
- Cornmeal. For sprinkling on the parchment so the pizza doesn’t stick.
How To Make The Best Homemade Margherita Pizza
The very first thing to do is preheat your oven to 500 degrees F, and place a pizza stone, baking stone, or in a pinch a large sheet pan in the oven so the pan gets as hot as the oven itself. This is crucial to a crispy crust.
Begin by making the pizza sauce, which is a simple matter. Drizzle the olive oil into a bowl along with the tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper. This sauce is fresh and light and flavorful. If you enjoy heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Let the sauce rest for a few minutes so the flavors can meld while you shape your crust. It’s best to lay out a piece of parchment paper first, sprinkle it with cornmeal, and then gently stretch out the dough with well-floured hands.
A little patience goes a long way with pizza dough. If you are having trouble shaping it, don’t fight it! Instead, give it 5-10 extra minutes to rest on the counter and try again. This lets the gluten relax more and can make your life much, much easier.
Once your dough is shaped, the rest is simple – and FUN! Spread sauce on top, followed by cubes of mozzarella.
This is the perfect stage to involve little kitchen helpers, if you have them.
I like to put a bit of Parmesan and basil on before baking the pizza, but you can save all of the basil to add afterwards, if you like.
If your oven was preheated properly at the beginning of the recipe, then your pizza will bake up to crispy, chewy perfection in only 8-10 minutes!
This makes it very do-able to make multiple pizzas for your family. While the first one bakes, you can prep the next, and by the time the first comes out of the oven, the next will be ready to go in.
Wait 2-3 minutes for the pizza to cool slightly, cut into slices, and watch hungry people come running!
Does a margherita pizza have toppings?
A traditional pizza margherita is topped with only tomato sauce, cheese, and fresh basil. That said, if you’re making it at home, one of the key benefits is that you can top it however you like if you’re so inclined! So if you’re in the mood for the classic, keep it simple, but if you’re feeling it or just want to use up a handful of extra ingredients from the fridge, go for it.
Some of our favorite pizza toppings:
- Sun-dried or cherry tomatoes
- Kalamata olives
- Chopped baby spinach
- Pine nuts
- Pepperoni, salami, or prosciutto
So the 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!
More Homemade Pizza Recipes
If you try this Homemade Pizza Margherita, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Homemade Margherita Pizza
For the sauce:
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8-10 cracks fresh ground black pepper
- dough for 2 large pizzas
- cornmeal for sprinkling the parchment
- 1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for brushing the crust
- 16 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2” cubes
- 2-3 Tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan
- 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 tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper 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 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 of the crust with olive oil.
- Spread a thin layer of sauce onto the dough. Sprinkle the cubed mozzarella on top, followed by the grated parmesan and about half of the torn basil leaves.
- Using a pizza peel or large cutting board, pick up the parchment and pizza and slide it gently into the oven on top of the preheated stone. 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.
- If you have extra sauce, it can be saved for a future pizza night or used as a tasty dipping sauce. This sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days, but bear in mind it will become more garlicky the longer it sits.
- This recipe works best with low-moisture 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! Either whole milk or part-skim mozzarella is fine.
- 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.