Pizza is one of the most beloved foods around the world, and rightfully so. I feel like it’s one of those things that people are kind of scared to make at home because they think it’s hard to replicate, or their rendition might not be as good as the restaurant ones. I understand if you feel that way because that was me two years ago.
But in the last year, one of the things I pride myself on is the ability to make pizza. And it’s not some average pizza; I like to think that my pizzas can compete with your favorite fast-food pizza chains.
I already have a pizza recipe on the blog; it’s a beginner-friendly, no-fuss recipe. Feel free to check that out. But, this recipe is for a simple pizza Margherita from scratch. It’s simple, laid-back, and so delicious. It’s not too fussy either, just requires a bit of patience, that’s all.
What goes into this pizza Margherita?
The classic pizza Margherita comes from Naples, Italy. It traditionally comprises San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. For the sake of keeping it accessible, my version is a hacked version of pizza Margherita.
I’ve used a beautiful tomato sauce, along with grated mozzarella, instead of the gorgeous balls of fresh mozzarella because I cannot find those at stores here. And, I don’t have fresh basil either, so I’ve used dried basil.
Any good pizza needs to excel in three things, the dough, the sauce, and the cheese.
The dough you’ll be making for this pizza is a simple dough with 65% hydration. This just means that 65% of the flour’s weight is the water’s weight. I’ve taken 100 grams of flour and 65 grams of water.
I’ve read a bit about the perfect hydration for pizza dough and usually ranges from 60%-70%. So, 65% is a good balance, in my opinion.
The dough has all-purpose flour, salt, water, yeast, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s not a sticky dough, so you can quickly knead it by hand. I like to set a timer for 4 minutes and continuously knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.
The resulting pizza also isn’t very fluffy and thick, but it is also not too thin and cardboard-like. I feel like it is the best balance between the two.
Now, the next component is the tomato sauce. Traditional pizza Margherita has tomato slices; I simply do not like to bite into tomatoes, so I’ve used them in the form of a sauce. You’re free to add tomato slices and more vegetables or protein to your pizza.
The tomato sauce calls for tomatoes, obviously, some minced onions and garlic, tomato paste, salt, sugar, some spices, herbs, and baking soda. I add a tiny pinch of baking soda to my sauce because it neutralizes the acid in tomatoes giving you a beautifully balanced sauce.
The last component is cheese. Where I live, I can’t access fresh mozzarella balls. I can only get blocks of mozzarella which I have to grate. But, if you can find fresh mozzarella, by all means, please use it; it tastes out of the world.
How to make the classic pizza Margherita?
We start with the dough, and as I said, it’s a straightforward and simple dough. It comes together quickly.
Assuming your dry yeast is well alive and healthy, you just need to mix it into the lukewarm water and add it to the flour and salt. Then, you add the olive oil and begin forming the dough. Once you see a rough dough, start kneading non-stop for 4 minutes.
Once you’ve kneaded the dough, form it into a ball and place it on a floured tray and then generously flour the top of the dough as well. You will cover it with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 ½ - 3 hours. Yes, almost 3 hours.
You might think that you’re over-proofing the dough, but really, your dough will have a much-enhanced flavor and structure. So, yeah, you have to wait for a while, but your pizza will be delicious. Try not to go beyond 3 hours though.
As for shaping, I like to very lightly flatten the dough and form a rim and then stretch the dough. To get a better understanding of how to shape pizza dough, watch this video.
Next, the sauce is also super easy to make. You just need to add all the ingredients to a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes.
I bake my pizza at 250°C for 8 minutes, but some ovens don’t go as high, so you can bake yours at 220°C for 12 minutes or 230°C for 10 minutes. What you’re looking for, visually, is melted cheese with a few brown spots and a golden crust.
You can see in the pictures that my cheese is a little more brown than intended. I accidentally left my pizza in the oven for a minute longer than needed. Don’t do that; keep a watch on your pizza and remove it from the oven the moment the cheese has melted and has scattered golden brown spots.
Lastly, while this is a recipe for pizza Margherita, you can also consider it a base recipe for pizza; as in, you can add any toppings you wish to. Just don’t overload your pizza with toppings, as that can lead to a soggy pizza.
What equipment do I need?
There is little to no equipment needed for this simple pizza Margherita.
You’ll need a mixing bowl to form your dough, a tray, or even a plate for it to rise.
A saucepan to make the sauce and a shallow baking tray for the pizza to bake. You’ll also need a couple of spoons, a wire whisk, and a rubber spatula.
The recipe for the simple pizza Margherita from scratch
Time: 3-4 hours, including rising
Yields: One 8-inch pizza
100 grams (¾ cup + 4 teaspoons) all-purpose flour
2 grams (½ teaspoon) salt
65 grams (¼ cup + 1 teaspoon) lukewarm water
3 grams (¾ teaspoon) dry yeast
5 grams (1 teaspoon) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, puréed
½ a small onion, minced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
10 grams (2 teaspoons) tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 grams (½ teaspoon) smoked paprika
2 grams (½ teaspoon) dried basil
2 grams (½ teaspoon) red chili flakes
2 grams (½ teaspoon) sugar
0.5 gram (⅛ teaspoon) baking soda
80 grams (1 cup) grated mozzarella
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
Mix together the lukewarm water and yeast, and add it to the flour, followed by the extra virgin olive oil.
Use a spatula to bring everything together and knead the dough with your hands for 4 minutes.
Form the kneaded dough into a ball, and place it on a well-floured tray, and dust the top of the dough with more flour.
Cover it with a damp towel, plastic wrap, or a large bowl.
Set the dough in a warm spot for 2 ½ - 3 hours to rise.
To make the sauce, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a saucepan on medium heat.
Add the garlic and onion to the oil once it’s heated, and sauté until they become fragrant and translucent.
Add the tomato paste and stir for 2 minutes, and then add the tomato purée.
Stir everything well, and add salt, spices, and sugar.
Stir once more, and let it simmer on low heat for 4-5 minutes.
Add the baking soda, and mix it into the sauce. Allow it to simmer for one more minute, and then take it off the heat.
Taste, and adjust the seasoning if you want to.
Assembly and baking:
Place a shallow baking tray in the oven and preheat it to 250°C.
Place the risen pizza dough onto a floured surface and dust some more flour on top.
Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers, and then cup the edges with your hands to form a rim.
Dimple the center of the dough, and hold one side down with your non-dominant hand while you stretch the dough with your dominant hand.
Make sure to keep the rim intact.
Get the heated baking tray from the oven, sprinkle some flour on it, or grease it with olive oil.
Place the shaped pizza dough on the baking tray.
Spread the sauce on the pizza dough, followed by the grated mozzarella. You can also add any toppings you want.
Bake the pizza in the preheated oven at 250°C for 8-9 minutes until the cheese is bubbly, melted, and has a few golden brown spots.
Drizzle some olive oil and basil (fresh or dried) on the pizza, slice and serve.
If you wish to, you can also allow the dough to rise overnight in the refrigerator. Just make sure to leave it out at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour before you shape and bake it.
You can also double or triple the recipe as needed.