Italian lore claims the first pizza Margherita appeared in Naples in 1889. It was made in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy and designed to replicate the red, green and white of the Italian flag. This simple dish, which features a thin, chewy crust, a raw tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella cheese and leaves of fresh basil, is an iconic example of Italian food. To make this pizza variation at home, use only the freshest and highest quality ingredients.
Perfecting the Dough
Authentic pizza Margherita calls for homemade yeast dough. Dissolve yeast in warm water with a bit of sugar and let it sit 5 to 10 minutes until it’s foamy and creamy. Using your hands, or a mixer with a dough-hook attachment, add flour and a few pinches of kosher salt until a soft dough forms. Knead it for 15 to 20 minutes; the dough should feel very pliable and smooth to the touch. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel and allow it to rise for about 2 hours; divide it into two or three smaller balls and allow it to rise again for another 4 to 6 hours. For a tangier crust, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it sit for up to three days; give it an hour to rise at room temperature before finishing the pizza.
Rolling and Shaping
Use your hands and fingers to press a round of dough into about a 13-inch circular shape. Don't become overly concerned with making a perfect circle; irregularity adds to the rustic nature of the dish. The crust should be less than 1/16-inch thick. Prevent the dough from sticking to the surface of the peel or marble slab with extra flour.
Arrange sliced or chopped fresh plum tomatoes over the top of the flattened raw dough and sprinkle it with sea salt. Alternatively, make a sauce using canned, peeled Italian tomatoes. Drain the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill; stir in a drizzle of olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Spread the sauce in a thin layer over the dough round.
Finishing the Pie
Top the tomatoes or sauce with thin slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella. Arrange a few fresh basil leaves over the top of the cheese; tear any large leaves into smaller pieces. Bake on a preheated pizza stone in a wood-fired oven or in a hot 450- to 500-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. The bottom of the crust should develop a toasted, charred appearance. Garnish with additional fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. This pizza is best when eaten immediately.
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