Classic Margherita Pizza
Classic Margherita Pizza has always held a special place in my heart. That’s because we wanted to quickly and easily make incredible, restaurant-quality pizza in our own back garden.
There are numerous methods for making great pizza, as well as numerous pizza styles from around the world.
As the birthplace of true pizza, Naples, it should come as no surprise that the Neapolitan style is one of our favorites. It has a well-stretched pizza base that, when cooked, is flavorful, elastic, and has a nice bite, as well as a generously raised crust and a crisp base. To properly cook this style of pizza, a super-high temperature is required, so that the end result is cooked through without drying out or feeling brittle, with a crisp base, evenly melted cheese, and well-cooked toppings. This is why it’s critical to use pizza ovens that can reach 500°C (950°F) and cook pizza in 60 seconds or less.
The ingredients for Neapolitan-style pizza are simple but high-quality. The first ingredient is “00” flour, a finely ground traditional Italian flour with a high gluten content that produces silky dough with good structure and elasticity. To make the dough, yeast, salt, and water are added.
San Marzano tomatoes are traditionally used in pizza sauce. These firm, sweet plum tomatoes are grown in and around Naples and complement the flavor of the pizza base beautifully. (Many supermarkets now sell canned versions.) Classic toppings are also straightforward, consisting of Fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
This chapter will teach you the fundamentals of making great pizza. It begins with our tried-and-true pizza dough recipe, which is perhaps the most important component of great pizza, and is followed by our favorite tomato-based pizza sauce. Once you’ve mastered these, you’ll be well on your way.
Finally, because time is of the essence, we recommend making one pizza at a time.
Stretch out your pizza dough, place it on a lightly floured peel, quickly add your toppings, and slide it into the oven. It will be on your plate in less than 60 seconds.
Classic Margherita Pizza
To activate the yeast, heat the water to 100 degrees Celsius. Incorporate the salt and yeast into the warm water.
If mixing by hand:
If you're doing it by hand, put the flour in a big mixing bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon, stir until a dough forms. Hand-knead the pizza dough until it comes together in a ball. Knead it with both hands for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface, until it is firm and stretchy. Toss the dough back into the mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside for 2 hours or until doubled in size in a warm place.
If using a mixer:
Place the flour in the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook to the mixer. Slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour while running the machine at a low speed.
Allow the dough to continue mixing at the same speed for another 5-10 minutes, or until it is firm and stretchy. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces once it has roughly doubled in size, Place each piece of dough in its own bowl or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for another 30 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Kneading & stretching the dough:
Our best advice is to start with a perfectly rounded ball of pizza dough, as this will help the pizza base maintain its circular shape during the stretching process. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands, and press the dough into a small, flat disc with your fingertips. Push the dough outwards while spreading your fingers from the center, slightly expanding the disc. Pick up the pizza dough and pinch it all the way around the edge, allowing gravity to pull it into a circle. Because the bases on Neapolitan-style pizzas are so thin, you should be able to see right through them when you hold them up to the light. You don't want it to tear while you're doing this.
After the pizza dough has been stretched completely, lightly flour your pizza peel and place the base on it. If there are any small holes in the dough at this point, gently pinch them together. Once you're satisfied with the base, add your toppings and bake in pizza oven
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Celsius (950 degrees Fahrenheit). Flour your pizza peel lightly.
Place the pizza dough on the peel after stretching it.
Spread the sauce evenly across the pizza base with a large spoon or ladle, leaving a 1cm (12in) sauce-free border around the edge. Add the mozzarella and a few torn basil leaves on top.
Remove the pizza from the peel and place it in the oven.
Bake for 60 seconds, rotating the pizza every 20 seconds to ensure even baking and avoid burning.
When the pizza is done, take it out of the oven and drizzle it with olive oil.