Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

Queen Margherita di Savoia, in Naples on holiday, asked to taste pizza chef Raffaele Esposito’s specialties. One of the pizzas he prepared had mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes in the colors of the Italian flag. The Queen liked this pizza so much that she sent a letter to Esposito thanking him. In turn, he dedicated his specialty to the Queen and called it "Pizza Margherita."

Makes two 12-inch pizzas

This recipe requires a pizza stone and a peel. Convection ovens will produce a lighter, crispier pizza, and you will need to reduce the overall cooking time by a minute or two. You can shape the second dough round while the first pizza bakes, but don’t add toppings until just before baking. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator if you like; place the dough balls on a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray. If using mozzarella packed in brine, pat the cheese cubes dry before placing them on the pizza.


Ingredients

Dough
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) water, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (83/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting work surface and peel
1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons sugar

Topping
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Table salt
8 ounces fresh mozzarella (see note above), cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. for the crust: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set pizza stone on oven rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. In liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into water to dissolve. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 11/2 to 2 minutes. (If after 1 minute dough is sticky and clings to blade, add 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and process until dough forms ball.) Divide dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls. Place on floured counter or baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

2. for the topping: In clean bowl of food processor, process tomatoes until crushed, two or three 1-second pulses. Transfer tomatoes to fine-mesh strainer set over bowl and let drain at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release liquids. Just before shaping pizza rounds, combine drained tomatoes, sugar, garlic (if using), 1 tablespoon basil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl.

3. to shape and cook the pizzas: When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer balls to well-floured work surface. Press one ball into 8-inch disk. Using flattened palms, gently stretch disk into 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving disk quarter turns. Lightly flour pizza peel; lift edges of dough round to brush off any excess flour, then transfer dough to peel. Spread thin layer of tomato topping (about 1/2 cup) over dough with rubber spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Slide onto stone and bake until crust begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven with peel, close oven door, and top pizza with half of cheese chunks, spaced evenly apart. Return pizza to stone and continue cooking until cheese is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board; sprinkle with half of remaining basil, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and pinch salt. Slice and serve immediately. Repeat step 3 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.