Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita is a true Neapolitan dish. A Neapolitan pizza is a style made with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Now Italian officionados get very particular here, especially since the making of Neapolitan pizza is classified as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. There is even a Neapolitan pizza association that decides on these rules.

A true pizza napoletana must be made with San Marzano tomatoes, a variety which is more elongated, firmer and sweeter than Roma. Not only this, these San Marzano tomatoes must grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Vesuvius.

The Mozzarella must be Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, a designation of origin cheese made from milk of the Mediterranean water buffalo free-ranging in the marshes of Campania and Lazio.

The dough must be made of very fine wheat flour, natural yeast, salt and water. A strong bread flour with a high protein content is preferable to cake flour. It must be kneaded by hand, or a low speed mixer, and then, when it has without rolling pins or other machines it must be flattened by hand to a thickness of 3 mm or less, and baked for 60-90 seconds in a hot 485 degree centigrade (905 Fahrenheit) oven. That is very little time compared to the process I've seen when working in restaurants, and hotter than our oven can go. It must be a stone oven fueled by oak wood.

That's impressive credentials a true Napoletana must have. I doubt that I've ever tasted one though I've had plenty bearing the name.

Margherita

Margherita is a type of Neopolitan pizza. It is referred to as the original Neapolitan pizza, but looking at the dates I see other pizza types are older, and more basic. Margherita is similar to Marinara, with Parmesan and basil, rather than oregano. There is debate about its origin and I will leave you to decide. One tradition is that it was created and named after the Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1899 and given the colors of the new Italian flag with green basil, red tomato and white mozzarella to honor Italian unification of 1861. But the recipe is older, and was already found in Naples in 1796. In 1849 a pizza was described having identical ingredients, with the mozzarella thinly sliced and arranged radially which in the perfectly laid pizza when the cheese has melted into the tomato base, gives the pattern of a flower with white petals on a red background. Hence the other story that it is the appearance of a flower which gave rise to its name, margherita meaning daisy in Italian. Who knows both stories may be true. The rich and powerful and their chefs are masters at co-opting humble regional cooking traditions and making them nationally or internationally popular.


Preparation time: 30 minutes 
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Cooking time: at least 12-13 minutes
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Resting time of dough: at least 8 hours
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Total time needed: at least 8 H 45 minutes
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Grade of Difficulty: standard

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Serves 4




Ingredients
for
Pizza Margherita

  • 1 ball of thin crust pizza dough
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. of pizza sauce
  • mozzarella cheese either sliced or grated
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper freshly ground (optional)
  • garlic, grated or finely chopped (optional) 



Ingredients
for  
Pizza Dough

  • 500 gram / 1.1 pounds wheat flour (optional - Use brown bread wheat flour instead)
  • 300 ml lukewarm water (It should ideally be chlorine free. So either use spring water or let your tap water stand open for 24 hours so the chlorine can evaporate)
  • 1.5 tsp. ground sea salt
  • 1.7 gram / 0.6 oz. dry yeast

How to prepare the pizza dough

  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl and knead them for at least 20 minutes into a smooth and elastic dough. If you have use a electrical dough kneading machine alternatively share the kneading time with 2 or 3 other family members  otherwise it might get really hard on your hands :-). Don't take shortcuts here it is really worth it
  • Cover the dough ball with a moist cloth and let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  • Cut dough ball into 4 equally sized balls, cover them again with the damp cloth and let them rest for at least another 6 hours



Ingredients
for
Pizza Sauce

  • 400 gram / 14.1 oz. can of quality peeled Italian tomatoes. Ideally you should look out for San Marzano tomatoes that are grown at the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and that are regarded as the best tasting, canned tomatoes that could be used for pizza sauce. They are usually marked with the DOP stamp which is the certificate that they are from this region in the south of Italy. However as those tomatoes are really expensive and not easily available in many parts of the world you might want to go with another Italian peeled plum tomato instead. Just have a look at the bottom of your can to see the stamp that explains to you when the tomatoes have been harvested and processed,  The harvest day number should be between 200 and 250
  • Secondly you will need 2 tsp. of ground sea salt
  • 5 fresh leaves of sweet basil, finely chopped, (optional replace with 2 tsp. dried basil instead)

How to prepare the 
Sauce for
Pizza Margherita

  • Open can and pore tomatoes into a flat bottomed glass bowl or stainless steel pot
  • Add salt and chopped basil leaves
  • Use a your hands and carefully mash the peeled tomatoes till there are only a few small lumps left in the sauce
  • Use a whisk to mix the ingredients well
  • Now pour the sauce into a sieve and let the excess moisture drain off into a storage container. 
  • Place the sauce in a glass jar with lid and use for your pizza as needed
  • This recipe should yield enough sauce for 4 to 5 pizzas.
  • Leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use. 



How to prepare 
Pizza Margherita

  • With your hands pull each dough ball into a thin base (3 to 4 mm / 0.11 to 0.15 inch), leaving the edge slightly thicker and place on a baking tray that is covered with backing paper
  • Add pizza sauce and using the bottom of a ladle or tablespoon evenly cover the surface of the dough with it
  • Sprinkle garlic over the sauce (optional) 
  • Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper
  • Place thin slices of mozzarella cheese on the surface of the pizza
  • Place several fresh basil leaves on the surface of the pizza
  • Sprinkle surface of the pizza with some virgin olive oil 
  • Bake pizza margherita in the preheated oven on the middle shelf at 250 degrees Celsius / 482 Fahrenheit for 12 to 13 minutes. "Note - The hotter the oven the less time the pizza will need to bake
  • Remove from oven and enjoy Pizza Margherita hot





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