No. 60: Classic Margherita Pizza

Remember how Mr. McCormick loves pizza?

Well, I do too. Yesterday I heard the siren call around 2pm. Pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza...

Classic Margherita

What I love about great Italian pizza is the less is more mentality. Don't overload on the toppings, have a crispy thin crust, let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Full disclosure, I'm still a bit skittish about making my own dough after the last experiment. I've put a dough recipe below for you, yet I opted for a ready made thin crust for this venture.

Ingredients

Dough
Generous 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (about 100 degrees) water
1 teaspoon all-purpose unbleached flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
additional flour

Margherita Topping
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano*
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
1 1/2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn in large pieces
3-6 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and salt

*I used 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano leaves and added red pepper flakes just for us.

To make

Neapolitan Style Pizza Crust
In a medium mixing bowl blend yeast, water, and teaspoon of flour. Foam should form on the surface in about 8 minutes (if not, yeast is past its prime; find fresher). Then blend in rest of flour and salt, forming a smooth, quite soft, slightly sticky dough. Mix no more than 30 seconds then knead 10 minutes by hand.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand in a cool place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). If not ready to bake, keep dough covered and hold up to 8 hours. About 20 minutes before baking, punch down, knead a minute or two and then form into a ball.

Topping & Pizza
In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high. Sauté onion and parsley to golden, then stir in garlic and oregano for a few seconds. Add tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pan. Simmer, stirring, 10 minutes or until thick.

Simmering

While sauce simmers, lightly oil a 14- to 16-inch pizza pan. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, setting rack as low as possible in oven. Roll out dough as thin as possible to about a 16-inch round. Spread over pan, rolling in edges to form a rim. Let rest 10 minutes.

Spread sauce over rolled out crust, sprinkle with basil, mozzarella, and a bit of the oil. Finish with generous black pepper and a little salt.

Prepped

Bake 10 minutes. Then using a spatula and thick oven mitt, slip the pizza off the pan directly onto the oven rack. Bake another 2 minutes. Slip pie back onto pan, remove from oven. Cut and serve.

Variations
In Naples, fresh or canned tomatoes often replace tomato sauce on pizza. Make sure tomatoes have big, rich flavor and use them judiciously.

Sparingly use any of the following flavorings: Sliced red onion, pitted olives, pepperoni, anchovy, sliced mushrooms, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, salami, prosciutto, roasted peppers, shrimp, cooked Italian sausage, hot pepper, fresh herbs such as marjoram, oregano, mint, garlic, rosemary, or sage.

The results

This was exactly what my taste buds were craving. There really is nothing better than a classic margherita pizza.

Final

See those bubbled up marks on the cheese? So good. I can only imagine how much better this would be with fresh tomatoes in summer.

Because we are carnivores at heart (and two thin crusts come per package) we made another pizza for Mr. McCormick's lunch. I call it ... Pepperoni Madness.

Pepperoni

There's a lot of meat under that cheese. Equally delicious.

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Send me your thoughts, comments and ideas at theresolvedcook@gmail.com