RECIPE: CLASSIC MARGHERITA PIZZA
RECIPE LEVEL: EASY/MEDIUM
TIME: 45 MINS
- Approx. 1 lb. Pizza Dough (I'll get into more detail on this soon)
- 1/3 cup Pizza Sauce (you could buy the ready-made stuff, of course, but I will always say homemade is better!)
- 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup Fresh Basil; 2/3 before baking and 1/3 for topping at the end.
- 3/4 cup Fresh Mozzarella (the best quality you can find - Buffalo Mozzarella would be especially divine!), torn into bite-size pieces
- 2 tbsp. Red Chili Flakes (or to taste)
- 1-2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could get away with using regular olive oil here)
- Optional: Grated Cheese Blend to garnish; I used a Parmesan-Asiago-Pecorino blend.
Five words: go homemade, or go home. No, I'm kidding. I know it may not be possible for everybody to make pizza sauce from scratch - although I cannot for the life of me imagine why - and in that case, by all means buy the best quality bottled pizza sauce that you can get your hands on. However, here's a super-quick recipe to make it from scratch, and you'll never eat that bottled stuff again (I can hope!).
- In a non-stick pan, add 2 tbsp. of good quality olive oil (doesn't have to be extra virgin), and add 4-5 chopped cloves of garlic. Saute for just under a minute.
- Add a can of blanched and peeled canned tomatoes (these are very easily found at most grocers) or use Passata - which is the Italian equivalent of tomato puree. I like the first option better, but it's up to you, really.
- Stir this around for 5-7 mins. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Add fresh basil (dried can do in a pinch) and dried oregano. Add a kick with some red chili flakes if you like.
- And voila! How easy was that? That's pizza sauce for you. Probably took you $1 to make, compared to $3 - $5 for the bottled stuff! And now you have two recipes for the price of one!
For the tomatoes, I love using cherry tomatoes because of their sweet taste. Tomatoes are at their peak at the moment, and you should absolutely take advantage of that and use them in as many recipes as you can! In terms of the mozzarella, you truly want the best quality you can afford, really. There are two classic Italian recipes - a Caprese salad and a Margherita Pizza - where the tomatoes and the mozzarella are the stars of the show. And those should be good quality. I am using fresh Buffalo Mozzarella here, that has been partially dried. Neither do we want the completely dried out variety or the ones that come soaked in water; the latter would be too soggy for the pizza.
The last few ingredients are a cup of fresh basil, some olive oil (for basting the edge of the dough to give it a gorgeous golden crust), and some chili flakes. Deep and I love a bit of a kick, and hence, I use the chili flakes - but you can absolutely leave them out.
- It's absolutely essential that you start with a clean and well-floured surface. You can, of course, use a rolling pin to help you out. The recipe I use makes such a forgiving and beautifully elastic dough, and I've done this so many times, that I don't need a rolling pin anymore.
- You want to be firm and persistent with the stretching, but gentle at the same time. Roll it out into roughly a circular shape, but I won't tell anybody if yours looks like it belongs on a political map rather than on your plate. *wink*
- You want the rolled-out dough to be anywhere between 1/4 to 1/8 inch in thickness.
- Once you're happy with the shape, carefully lift it up off your rolling surface and transfer it to a circular pizza-baking tray. These are easily found at any baking/cooking supply stores. Now, a pizza stone would definitely be better, and it's on my list of things to buy soon. But I've had this round baking tray for years, and it's served me very well. So, if you don't plan on baking two pizzas a week, don't bother with the stone, please!
- Finally, I really love brushing the edge of the pizza base with some good ol' olive oil - this gives the edge that beautiful golden color and lovely crunch. Optional for you, but essential for me.
This is after spreading the pizza sauce on the base, and topping with the halved cherry tomatoes and the bite-size pieces of mozzarella. I am not overly enthusiastic about using too much pizza sauce - it makes for a soggy pizza and kind of overpowers the other ingredients, I feel. 1/3 cup is plenty for the 16-inch pizza that I made here.
So, there we go, I guess. Do you guys have any questions about making pizza from scratch? Did I leave any of your questions unanswered? It's very possible, even though I tried to anticipate as many as I could think of. In that case, please leave me your questions in the comments, and I will get back to you ASAP. Also, did this recipe encourage you to maybe make pizza at home, from scratch? I'm interested to know!
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Happy cooking and have a great rest of the weekend, folks!