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A perfectly crispy and chewy crust that is topped with a homemade tomato sauce, melty mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. This is the ultimate Margherita Pizza recipe! Crack out that Pizza Dough and try this delicious classic!
Ever since we moved out of NYC, Gordon and I have been dying to eat some amazing pizza. Since Margherita Pizza was our favorite, its the one we’ve been trying to perfect first and I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe with you today. New York knows they make pizza well and there are SO many pizzerias that have great pies. Our favorite pizzeria in the city was steps away from our last apartment and mama, was it good. So, we’ve been using our memories and tastebuds as a guide and gotten as close to the original as one can at home. I hope you come to love this recipe and become master pizza makers in the process.
But First, What is Margherita Pizza?
Margherita Pizza is not to be confused with a margarita…as in the drink. Two totally different things! The name Margherita actually comes from Italian royalty, technically Margherita of Savoy, the Queen of Italy. Word on the street is she was tired of the French food she was being served on a trip to Naples, so the most famous pizza maker of the time in Naples, was then asked to make her a pizza. And thus the Margherita Pizza was born.
There is more to the story, but that’s basically all you need to know.
Main Ingredients Needed
Here’s everything you’ll need to make Margherita Pizza. Because this is a such a simple recipe with very few ingredients, the quality of those ingredients is what is most important.
- Pizza Dough – use store-bought dough or use my original pizza dough recipe! You can also use my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe.
For the Sauce
While I tried making this recipe with just the San Marzano Tomatoes, I found adding a few simple ingredients to help bring out that tomato flavor was best.
- San Marzano Tomatoes – I chose to use San Marzano Tomatoes for their authentic quality and taste (you can read all about it here). This is the brand I used and have loved them!
- Olive Oil – to make the sauce a little saucier and to add some silkiness.
- Garlic – for flavor.
- Sugar – to cut the acidity from the tomatoes.
- Salt + Pepper – season to taste!
A Margherita Pizza always will have fresh basil and fresh mozzarella.
- Fresh Basil Leaves – these are placed right on top of everything else (whole or sliced)! They add a fresh quality to the dish.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – Cut into thin slices or broken into pieces to place on the pizza. BelGioioso is the brand I used and is widely available.
- Sea Salt + Olive Oil – these are optional finishing toppings for the baked pizza. While they are optional, I’d highly recommend them!
Margherita Pizza is so so so good all on it’s own, but if you are looking to spice this recipe up, feel free to use some of these ideas:
- Smoked Mozzarella: this is seriously some yummy stuff that elevates the whole dish.
- Herby Pizza Dough: consider adding Italian Seasoning (a mix of herbs) to your pizza dough, that way, even the crust is packed with flavor.
- Grill Your Pizza: have you ever tried grilling pizza before? Let me tell you it’s life-changing. Luckily for you, I have a whole how-to on grilled pizza.
How to Make Margherita Pizza
For full details on how to make Margherita Pizza, see the recipe card down below 🙂
Step 1: Preheat Oven and Pizza Stone
Move the oven rack to the very bottom of the oven. Remove any extra racks from the oven. Add pizza stone to the bottom rack and preheat the oven to as hot as it will go: usually 500-525 degrees F. Once the oven is preheated, keep the stone in there for an extra 30 minutes to ensure it is hot.
Step 2: Make the Sauce
Empty a can of tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Add olive oil, garlic, sugar, and salt. Pulse until mostly smooth, but still has a texture with a few small chunks.
A Note About This Fresh Pizza Sauce
The recipe for the fresh sauce makes plenty of sauce…more than you’ll need for this recipe. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to two months.
Step 3: Prep Mozzarella and Basil
Cut mozzarella into small cubes. Press between paper towels to remove any extra moisture. Set aside. Pick fresh basil leaves off stems and set aside or chop into smaller pieces.
Step 5: Form Your Pizzas
Stretch and roll pizza dough out to be 4 individual pizzas, or 2-12 inch pizzas. You want the crust to be about 1/4 inch straight across, with an optional thicker edge. It may take a few tries to get your crust perfect. Too thin and you’ll have a hard time getting the bottom crispy, especially if there is too much sauce.
Transferring that Pizza onto the Hot Stone
Use extra flour and cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to pizza peel/cutting board/plate/whatever you’re using to transfer the pizza directly onto the hot stone. Before you start adding the pizza toppings, shake the pizza peel gently to ensure the dough moves easily back and forth. If it’s stuck, add more flour and/or cornmeal underneath so it slides easily. Here is a great pizza peel that works perfectly.
Step 6: Bake
Add a thin layer of pizza sauce to the dough (less is more). Again, you’ll have to test this out to see what you like best and how it bakes up for you with your oven and pizza stone.
Top with fresh mozzarella and transfer to the hot pizza stone. Bake until bottom crust is browned and crispy and cheese is hot and bubbly. For us, that was 7 minutes exactly.
Step 7: Cool, Garnish and Serve!
Remove hot pizza off the stone and onto a cutting board. Top with fresh basil, a small little drizzle of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of sea salt. I used Maldon Sea Salt Flakes and they really did such a nice job! Do not use table salt..it won’t give you the same taste or effect. Cut and serve immediately.
While I still miss the classic Margherita Pizza slices I used to get weekly from the corner pizzeria shop in NYC, this is a close second. Use my directions to make some of the best homemade pizza ever.
Helpful Tools for Homemade Pizza
Pizza Stone. Take your pizza to the next level with a pizza stone! If you want that delicious crispy bottom you find at pizzerias, a pizza stone is the way to do it. This is the one I recommend. If you don’t have a pizza stone or don’t want to invest in one, consider getting large tiles from the hardware store. They work just the same. Upside down cookie sheets will also work in a pinch, but not in the same way because they don’t hold their heat quite as well as a thicker stone would.
Pizza Peel. This will make transferring pizza to the hot stone so much easier! Yes, you can absolutely get by without it, but one you have it you’ll wonder why you didn’t get one sooner. This is the one I recommend. Alternately, use a large, flat plate dusted with cornmeal for easy transferring. Once the pizza is baked, use a large spatula to remove to a cutting board.
Pizza Cutter. This obviously makes cutting pizza so much easier. Again, you don’t HAVE to get one to have success. It’s just nice to have. This is the one I recommend. Alternately, use a knife or kitchen shears.
More Italian Dishes to Try!
Be sure to check out these other Italian dishes too!
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Creamy Sausage Kale Soup
- Bruschetta Chicken
- Caprese Salad with Garlic Balsamic Dressing
The printable recipe card is down below! Save it because it’s a good one 🙂
- 1 pound pizza dough
For the Sauce*
For the Pizza
- 12 fresh basil leaves whole or chopped
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
- coarse sea salt + olive oil
- Move oven rack to the bottom of the oven. Remove any extra racks from the oven. Add pizza stone to the bottom rack and preheat oven to 525 degrees or as high as it will go. Once oven is preheated, keep stone in there an extra 30 minutes to ensure it is hot.
Make the Sauce
- To make the sauce, empty can of tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Add olive oil, garlic, sugar and salt. Pulse until mostly smooth, but still has texture with a few small chunks.
- Cut mozzarella into small cubes. Press between paper towels to remove any extra moisture. Set aside. Pick fresh basil leaves off stems and set aside or chop into smaller pieces.
Form the Pizzas
- Stretch pizza dough out to be 4 individual pizzas, or 2-12 inch pizzas. You want the crust to be about 1/4 inch straight across, with an optional thicker edge. It may take a few tries to get your crust perfect. Too thin and you'll have a hard time getting the bottom crispy, especially if there is too much sauce. Use extra flour and cornmeal to keep dough from sticking to pizza peel/cutting board/plate/whatever you're using to transfer the pizza directly onto the hot stone.Before you start adding the pizza toppings, shake the pizza peel gently to ensure the dough moves easily back and forth. If it's stuck, add more flour and/or cornmeal underneath so it slides easily.
- Add a thin layer of pizza sauce to the dough (less is more).
- Top with fresh mozzarella and transfer to the hot pizza stone. Bake 7 minutes or until bottom crust is browned and crispy and cheese is hot and bubbly.
- Remove hot pizza off the stone and onto a cutting board. Top with fresh basil, a small little drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt. Cut and serve.