Classic Pizza Margherita

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Thin, crisp crusts like this one are the hallmarks of much of Italy's pizza. Another vital element is not overloading the pie with toppings; less is definitely more on pizza. This dough goes together quickly and can be used after a single rising. If time is very short, blend, knead, rest for 30 minutes, and roll out. No baking stone is needed, since you slip the crust out of the pan and crisp it directly on the bottom rack of the oven during the last two minutes of baking. Use stone-ground, organic, flour if possible.

Surprisingly, we've found because of the extra-thin crust and spare toppings, these pizzas actually reheat remarkably well, so cooking ahead by several hours is an option.

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 organic, stone ground all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • additional flour

Margherita Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1-1/2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella (in liquid), thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt

Instructions


Neapolitan Style Pizza Crust

In a medium mixing bowl or food processor, 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. Blend in food processor no more than 30 seconds (then knead 5 minutes by hand); in mixer blend for about 5 minutes; by hand stir to blend and knead 5 minutes. Place 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, cover.

Margherita Topping

1. In a 10-inch 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 (do not substitute crushed tomatoes). Boil, stirring, 5 minutes or until thick.

2. Spread sauce over rolled out crust, sprinkle with basil, mozzarella, and finally the oil. Finish with generous black pepper and a little salt. Bake as directed above.

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

More Variations: Sparingly is the operative word here. Use any of the following flavorings, but only enough to flavor, not overwhelm: 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. Step from Italian to American pizza and let your imagination fly -- Tandoori marinated chicken breasts, oven roasted vegetables, salsa, the BLT, and more.

Assembling the Pizza

To make pizza, 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 (no more than 1/16-inch thick). Spread over pan, rolling in edges to form a rim. Let rest 10 minutes. Top as desired or suggested below and bake 10 minutes. Then using a spatula and thick oven mitt, slip the pizza off the pan directly onto the oven rack by pulling out rack, grasping pizza pan firmly with protected hand, and using spatula or pancake turner to slip pie off pan and onto rack. Slide rack back in place and bake 2 minutes. Slip pie back onto pan, remove from oven. Cut and serve.


Prep time: 
25 minutes, plus rise time
Cook time: 
15 minutes
Total time: 
37 minutes
Yield: 
Makes one 14- to 16-inch pizza; serving 4 to 6
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