Margherita pizza recipe

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This most famous of pizza has withstood the test of time and the futilities of fads to remain the pizza of choice the world over for more than 100 years. Its history is well known. Made in honour of Queen Margherita of Savoy during one of her visits to the Italian city of Naples, it was topped with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to emulate the colours of the national flag. Whether by coincidence of pure genius or not, this combination of flavours, textures and colours has come to illustrate how restraint and humility, when used properly, are far better than any long list of ingredients or methodology two simple attributes that sometimes require a lifetime of learning, a fact poignantly captured by the Spanish painter Picasso when he said, ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child’.

  • Yield: 3 (30 cm) 12 in pizzas


  • 3½ fl oz (100 ml) virgin olive oil
  • 17 fl oz (500 ml) cold water (20°C/70°F)
  • 2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) plain (all-purpose) flour (‘0’/T55)
  • 1/8 oz (5 g) dried yeast
  • ¾ oz (20 g) fine salt
  • 14 oz (400 g) fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into 5 mm (¼ in) slices
  • 30 basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil, plus extra, for drizzling
  • 2 brown onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb 12 oz (800 g) truss tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • fine salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 10 basil leaves, finely chopped
How to Make It
  1. Prepare the dough following the method, to the end of the ‘windowpane’ test. Note that while this recipe is slightly different, the process remains the same. Simply add the oil to the water, then mix with the flour, yeast and salt.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a cloth. Set aside in a warm place to prove for 1 hour, or until risen by one-third. When the dough has risen, knock it down with your fist. Following the dividing and balling method, divide the dough into three equal portions, then shape the dough. Cover and set aside in a warm place to prove for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring continuously, for 5–8 minutes, or until golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano and thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember that the sauce will lose volume as the water evaporates, so always hold back a little on the seasoning until the sauce has finished cooking. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring continuously until a thick paste forms. Stir in the basil and check the seasoning, then transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Refrigerate until cold.
  4. Preheat the oven to 240°C (465°F). Ideally, place a pizza stone or heavy-based baking tray on the bottom shelf of the oven to preheat at the same time. This helps the pizza base to cook quickly, which means it remains crisp after baking.
  5. Roll out the three dough portions on a lightly floured work surface into 3 mm (1/8 in) thick rounds. Use a little extra flour when necessary to stop the dough from sticking. Place the rolled dough on three 30 cm (12 in) pizza trays, then use your hands to stretch the dough back into shape. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place to prove for 30 minutes, or until increased in size by half.
  6. Unless your oven is big enough to cook all three pizzas at the same time, it’s best to cook one pizza at a time, then prepare another one while it is cooking. Using the back of a spoon, spread the sauce over the pizza base, leaving a 2 cm (¾ in) border around the edge (the dark, crunchy crust is actually the tastiest part of a pizza!). Top with mozzarella but don’t get carried away, because too much cheese will not only overpower the sharpness of the tomato sauce, but it will also make it difficult for the pizzas to cook properly.
  7. Place on the hot pizza stone or baking tray on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 12–15 minutes, or until the base is golden. Remove from the oven, scatter with basil leaves and drizzle with a little olive oil, then eat piping hot, straight out of the oven.

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