Pizza Margherita is a typical Neapolitan pizza, made with San Marzano tomatoes (a variety of plum tomatoes), mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Try our homemade recipe with a perfect chewy pizza crust and fresh tomato sauce!
Origin and history
The word “pizza” appeared in 997: it designated then fouace and galette in medieval Latin. But it is in Naples, in the 16th century, that it is attested in its current sense.
In the beginning, the pizza consisted of “bianca” (a white dough) which was coated with cream or lard. It was not until the 18th century that the “rossa” (red) appeared, a paste decorated with a tomato sauce. It then diversified to receive all kinds of ingredients, as testified by Alexandre Dumas, in 1843: “The pizza is in oil, the pizza is in bacon, the pizza is in cheese, the pizza is with tomatoes, the pizza is with small fish. “
The original pizza was a dish of the peasants, sold by the traveling counters or directly in the street. It was a simple bread dough on which was spread anything, and very often leftovers … So pizza was absent from Italian cookbooks for a long time due to its reputation: she was not considered noble.
In June 1889, to honor the Queen of Italy, Marguerite de Savoie, visiting the city of Naples, chef Raffaele Esposito, decided to create a special pizza. He baked his dough in the oven and completes it with tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese (an ingredient absent from the original recipe because it was too expensive for the peasants), and fresh basil. The colors of the Italian flag are therefore represented: green, white, and red. Esposito created three very different pizzas for that event, but the Queen particularly appreciated the one with mozzarella and tomato, which from then on, in her honor, was called Margherita. When it was rumored that it is the sovereign’s favorite dish, the pizza becomes more popular among Italians and ceases to be frowned upon.
Since then, the culinary tradition of Margherita pizza has spread around the world. It has become one of the symbols of cultural globalization.
Tips and notes
First of all, always use ingredients excellent quality:
- For the flour, use 00 soft wheat of medium strength. The choice of this ingredient is essential for a good final product, the best Italian mills prepare specific flours for Neapolitan pizza.
- It’s best to use raw tomato sauces. They are extremely easy to prepare, flavorful, and authentic. For that use, San Marzano tomatoes (or plum tomatoes), since they have dense flesh and a rich, sweet flavor.
- Traditionally, The pizza is made with fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella) rather than buffalo mozzarella, because, being drier, it melts less water when it melts.
The step of shaping the dough is very important because in addition to giving the final shape to the pizza, the air that is contained in the dough is pushed towards the cornice, with a double function: to make this increase more in volume and avoid the formation of air bubbles in the central part of the Margherita pizza. The original recipe does not allow the use of any tool at this stage, such as rolling pins or a disk press machine. This procedure will be carried out on a pastry board (covered with a veil of flour) using the fingers of both hands, with a movement that pushes the air contained in the dough to the edges, then pressing and rotating several times to obtain a uniform result. Keep in mind that the central part must be no more than half a centimeter thick (1/4 in), while the edge must be between 1 and 2 cm high (0.5-1 in), and the diameter of the pizza is around 30 cm (12 in).
To have a crisp crust avoid putting a thick layer of tomato sauce and if the used tomatoes are too acidic, add 1 tsp of sugar.
The authentic Margherita pizza is cooked in a wood oven at a temperature of about 485°C (905°F) for about 90 seconds. Since we didn’t have a wood-fired oven, we cooked it in an electric oven. A little tip is to cook it into a very hot oven so before cooking, preheat the oven at 250°C (480°F). The result will be good but it cannot be the same as with a wood oven. Remember also to check the cooking and turning the pizza from time to time to cook it more evenly.
- 250 g 00 Flour
- 100-115 ml water
- 3 g dry yeast
- 15 g olive oil
- 5 g salt
- 250 g San Marzano Tomatoes (or Plum Tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 200 g fresh Mozzarella
- 50 g Parmesan
- 4-5 basil leaves
- Begin by preparing the dough, stir warm water, and yeast together in a small bowl. Set aside for ten minutes.
- On a large bowl, add flour, salt, olive oil and make a well in the centre, then pour in the water mixture. Knead the mixture together until it forms a smooth, elastic ball. Place the ball of dough in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce, in a saucepan, add olive oil, tomatoes, black pepper, and salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, then mash tomatoes with a fork or a blender.
- Once the dough has risen, sprinkle some flour onto the counter and roll it out into a large circle of 30 cm (12 in) with a thin inner crust and a thick outer edge.
- Spread the tomato sauce onto the pizza dough. Place the mozzarella slices on top.
- Bake in the oven for ten minutes, or until cheese has melted and crust is golden.
- Remove from the. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, scatter leaves on top, and drizzle with olive oil.