Pizza Margherita

Tomatoes are still with us, joy of joys, and I was recently inspired by the bounty around me to make one of the world’s simplest and most delicious pizzas.
Pizza Margherita is about as basic as pizza can be—a crust topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. (One can use tomato sauce when fresh tomatoes are not in season, but the taste of the fresh tomatoes really comes through if you have them.)
This classic Neapolitan pizza was named after Margherita, the consort of Umberto I of Italy. Umberto was the second king of Italy, which was still gathering itself together in the 19th century. In 1889 she asked one of the premiere pizza makers in Naples to make her some pizza, then considered peasant food.
Margherita was delighted with the red, white, and green of this pizza, which reflected the colors of the Italian flag. It is still made in her honor at the Antiqua Pizzeria Brandi in Naples—and elsewhere.
I told my nephew Michael and his friend Carson about Queen Margherita, and they immediately grabbed red, white, and green ingredients to celebrate her pizza.
Pizza Margherita embodies the “less is more” philosophy that I frequently try to espouse when cooking (although I don’t always succeed). The fresh, high-quality toppings really shine here. At this season of the year it’s my favorite pizza. 

Play with it a bit if you will—flavored oil would be nice—but don’t mess with its simplicity.

The Pizza
1 pizza crust, store bought or homemade
olive oil as needed
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese to taste
2 to 3 medium-sized ripe yet firm tomatoes, sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste
several basil leaves, torn
Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.
Roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan). Use a little flour to help with this if necessary.
Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Spread a very thin film of olive oil on top.
Arrange the mozzarella pieces over the crust, and top them with the grated cheese. Arrange the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top, and drizzle a tad more olive oil over all.
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven this took about 20 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven, and arrange the basil leaves on top of the tomatoes. 

Serves 4 to 6. 

Queen Margherita (photo by Henri Le Lieure)

P.S. I would be remiss if I wrote about Pizza Margherita and forgot to mention my favorite place to eat it, the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. It’s a bit far flung from Naples, but the ambiance and pizza can’t be beat. (The entertainment is pretty fabulous, too!)

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11 Responses to “Pizza Margherita”

  1. E. Sheppard says:

    I can’t wait to try it. I wish I could see your next performance too! Let me know when a video is available. Great posting, as usual! Off I go to put it on Facebook and Twitter. Later!

  2. Jean says:

    How interesting and thanks for telling the story of Margherita pizza. I’ve never had it as far as I know, and have wondered why it had that name. And who knew that contrary to popular myth, royalty enjoyed pizza as well.

  3. Donna says:

    Yum! That looks delicious! Might have to make this very soon, well, as soon as our heatwave is over and we can use the oven.

  4. Ramona says:

    I made your peach upside down cake last week. As soon as I have some more ripe tomatoes, I’m going to make this pizza.
    I’m so glad you gave the history of Margherita Pizza. I always wondered why it was called that. (I thought it had something to do with tequila and limes. Ha!)

  5. I love pizza marghertia! It’s so simple, yet so delicious when you have the right ingredients.
    Great. I just ate dinner and now you’ve got me craving pizza.

  6. tinkyweisblat says:

    E., I’m afraid the video guy can’t come this time, either! But it may be just as well; I’m not too well rehearsed. Jean, I have a feeling most royalty secredly craves peasant food. Donna, I wish you cool weather. Ramona, a little tequila wouldn’t hurt. And EveryDay, I’m sorry; the post made me hungry again, too!

  7. Sometimes simple is best!! I love pizza – but these days it has to be an occasional treat due to expanding hips!!

  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    It’s occasional for me, too, although I have to say that this version is surprisingly light (particularly if one is sparing with the cheese)……..

  9. Joe Thompson says:

    Tinky: Wonderful entry. The Margherita is the best kind of pizza. We had a good one just the other night.

  10. Sue Haas says:

    My tomatoes are all getting ripe at once–after a cool summer. So I made your pizza last week. I used the pizza dough recipe in my Joy of Cooking. Yummy! I remember enjoying a Margherita pizza at an outdoor café near Pompeii. The best I’ve ever had in my life. Everything was fresh–tomatoes, basil, cheese, pungent olive oil..mmm. Thanks!

  11. tinkyweisblat says:

    Joe and Sue, you’re making me hungry again!

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