Margherita Pizza

One of my favorite meals is margherita pizza. There’s something about the simplicity of it all that really appeals to my taste buds. The fresh, creamy mozzarella, the acidic tomato sauce balanced perfectly with just the right amount of sweetness. The bright and fresh bits of basil, and the crunchy, chewy crust. Simple perfection.

I decided to give it a shot at home. I found a recipe at Epicurious and adapted a few items. I added thinly sliced tomatoes and about ½ cup of shredded parmigiano reggiano to the list of toppings. I also added the prosciutto-like coppa, made by one of my favorite local companies, Creminelli. Also, next time I’ll spend a little extra and buy San Marzano tomatoes instead of the normal canned stuff you find at the grocery stores. If you haven’t had San Marzano tomatoes, they’re sweet little red bits of heaven. If you have had them, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Very low acidity and a high level of sweetness.

Also, get the “real deal” mozzarella if you can. Avoid the powdery, shredded stuff. Ask your local grocer if they carry fresh mozzarella. Usually it’s ball-shaped and packed in liquid to keep it fresh. At my local grocer, Harmon’s, a ½ lb ball runs about $5. Or you can be really brave and make your own.

A few tips: get your oven as hot as it will go. 500 degrees is usually the max for most conventional ovens. You’ll want to plan plenty of time for the pizza stone to get hot. Just because the oven is preheated and ready doesn’t mean the pizza stone has reached the right temperature. So give it a good 20 minutes once the oven is preheated before you throw the pizza on the stone.

The recipe suggests parchment, but parchment is typically only rated up to 420 degrees, so you’ll be dealing with some seriously burned paper if you use it. Instead, I used generous amounts of corn meal, and slid the pizza from a baking sheet with corn meal to the hot pizza stone. It worked ok, but I had to wrestle with the floppy pizza dough to convince it to get off the baking sheet and move on to the pizza stone. I imagine a pizza peel is in my near future.

If you don’t have a pizza stone, do yourself a favor and get one. It produces beautiful, crisp crusts that you can’t get using baking sheets.

Give this recipe a shot and let me know how it goes! I know it certainly fed my pizza craving.

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