A classic and always a favorite, this Margherita Pizza layers fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil on top of a homemade pizza sauce and from-scratch crust.
Once you master the pizza crust, it’s time to finish off the pizza. In my opinion, the next step is one of the most important steps in the pizza building process – the sauce! I make a super simple, from-scratch pizza sauce, that’s the perfect base for any toppings you throw at it.
There are only 4 ingredients involved – crushed tomatoes, sugar, garlic, and fresh basil. To prevent a soggy crust, I place the tomatoes in a sieve and allow the juices to drain out. Then, right before spreading the sauce onto the crust, I stir in the rest of the ingredients. Adding the flavoring ingredients at the last minute ensures maximum drainage time.
Now that the from-scratch crust and sauce are covered, it’s time for the toppings. Feel free to top it with anything you like. As for me, I prefer the classic Margherita Pizza. I like to keep things simple and with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of good olive oil, it couldn’t get any simpler.
Because the Margherita Pizza doesn’t involve many ingredients, it’s important to use the highest quality mozzarella, the freshest basil, and the best olive oil you can find. If you skimp on any you will notice. Since you already have a top notch crust and sauce, what would be the point in using mediocre toppings? Allow yourself to go all out :)
Are you a simpleton like me and prefer a classic Margherita Pizza? Perhaps you’re the all-cheese type. How do you like to top your pizzas?
- Pizza crust dough (enough to make 2 12-inch crusts; recipe below)
- 1 can (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
- 8 ounces large mozzarella cheese balls (bocconcini), sliced into 1/4-inch thick discs and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
Prepare pizza crust dough according to instructions (steps 1 thru 3 if using my classic pizza crust).
Place a pizza stone or an inverted baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 500°F.
Pour tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely pureed, about 5 times. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the tomatoes into the strainer. Allow to strain until ready to use.
Cut a sheet of parchment paper, at least 16-inches long, and place on the counter. Divide the dough in half. Place one half on the center of the parchment paper. Leave the other half in the bowl and continue to cover with the plastic wrap.
Roll the dough on the parchment paper into a ball. Using your fingertips, gently flatten the ball into a round disc. With one hand, lightly hold down the center of the disc. With the other hand, push the edge of the dough in an outward motion and rotate the disc slightly (by rotating the paper) as you continue to work around the entire disc*. Continue until a 12-inch disc is formed.
Transfer the parchment with dough onto a pizza peel (or a wooden cutting board) and transfer the parchment onto the pre-heated pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. While the crust is baking, transfer the strained tomatoes to a medium bowl and stir in the sugar, garlic and julienned basil.
Use the peel or cutting board to return the parchment to the counter. and spread on the tomato sauce. Use the peel or cutting board to return the paper back to the oven and bake for 4 more minutes. Use the peel or cutting board to return the parchment to the counter and add on the sliced mozzarella and scatter on the basil leaves. Use the peel or cutting board to return the paper back to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes, until the cheese has melted.
Drizzle on the olive oil, slice into 4 to 6 slices and serve warm.
*The key to a perfectly round disc is continuously rotating. With every couple of pushes, rotate the parchment/dough.
Modified from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
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