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Pizza Margherita


Pizza Margherita with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

This is the pizza that has made Naples famous the world over. It was first baked in 1889 in honor of the visiting Queen of Italy, Margherita, and topped with ingredients that recalled the colors of Italy's flag: red tomatoes; green basil; and white Mozzarella.

Five Essential Pizza Facts

High Oven Temperature Preheat your oven at the highest possible temperature with a baking stone in it for at least 30 minutes before baking pizza; baking stones emulate brick burning ovens by drawing out moisture from the pizza crust. Traditional wood-burning (or coal-burning) pizza ovens heat up to 950°F, which ensures that pizzas bake quickly (in 2 or 3 minutes maximum) and emerge light and crispy rather than heavy and dry. A home oven can usually reach 550°F, which will bake a pizza to a crispy, crunchy, lightly brown in 5 minutes or less--provided you are using a baking stone, which you can buy at Sur La Table or King Arthur Flour
Great Flour Use a top-quality flour--I like King Arthur Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour, which you can order at King Arthur Flour
Little Yeast Use little yeast in your dough (I use 1 teaspoon of instant yeast per 3 and 1/2 cups of flour) and let it rise slowly; don't add a lot of yeast, as most recipes call for, or the dough will be fluffy and soft and will taste distinctly yeasty. Check my recipe for dough above
San Marzano Tomatoes Buy genuine canned Italian plum tomatoes--San Marzano are the best. In Italy, we don't cook the tomatoes before adding them to our pizzas, yielding pizzas that taste fresh and vibrant
Go Light on the Toppings Exercise restraint when creating toppings: in Italy, we use one or two toppings per pizza, if any (aside from tomatoes and cheese)--the result is that each ingredient brings its own personality to the pizza without fighting the other ingredients. Also, the more you load your pizza with toppings, the heavier it will be, making the crust soggy rather than crisp.

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  • For the dough:
  • 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl
  • For the topping:
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional--in Naples they don't use garlic)
  • 3/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, grated (fresh buffalo's milk Mozzarella is traditional in Naples; slice it if using)
  • 16 basil leaves


Adapted from


Step 1

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

Step 1
Mix 3 and 1/4 cups of bread flour with 1 teaspoon of instant yeast and 1 tablespoon of salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade. Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier).

Step 2
Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel and rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. From this point forward, you will need to work quickly so the dough won't have time to stick to the baking peel (if it sticks, you will have trouble transfering it to the baking stone).

Step 3
Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel).

Step 4
Season with 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Top with a few slices of garlic (the garlic is optional--pizzaioli in Naples don't add it to the classic Pizza Margherita).

Step 5
Top with 1/4 pound of the mozzarella

Step 6
Arrange 4 basil leaves over the Mozzarella in a pretty pattern (you can tear the basil leaves if you like).

Step 7
Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

Step 8

Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the mozzarella is bubbling.

Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas

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