Dad Food: Pizza Margherita

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not plan out an entire dinner for dad this Father’s Day? Spoil him with this amazing recipe for homemade Pizza Margherita. It takes a bit of planning, but the results are downright delicious. Pair it with dad’s favorite beer and you’ll have him happy for the entire year.

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Pizza Margherita
Excerpted from Kitchen Workshop–Pizza by Ruth Gresser of Pizza Paradiso

The classic. The myth. The prototype. Did the world’s love affair with pizza begin with Queen Margherita and the colors of the Italian flag? According to legend, Raffaele Esposito, a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, made the first tomato, basil, and mozzarella pizza in 1889 for Queen Margherita of Savoy. We may never know the veracity of the legend, but thankfully with this recipe we can take a bite of the story.

Makes one 12-inch (30 cm) pizza

1 ball Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough (see below)
Cornmeal, for sprinkling
1⁄3 cup (75 g) San Marzano Tomato Sauce (see below)
8 to 10 large basil leaves, torn in half
3 ounces (85 g) fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn into 10 to 12 pieces
Sea salt flakes, to taste
Olive oil, for drizzling

1) Place a pizza stone on the top rack of a cool oven. Set the oven to broil and preheat for 30 minutes.

2) On a generously floured counter, flatten the dough ball with your fingertips and stretch it into a 12-inch (30 cm) round.

3) Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal and lay the pizza dough round on it. Spread the tomato sauce onto the pizza dough, leaving 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inch (1.3 to 2 cm) of dough uncovered around the outside edge. Place the basil leaves evenly around the pizza. Arrange the cheese on top of the sauce and basil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil.

4) Give the peel a quick shake to be sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel. Slide the pizza off the peel onto the stone in the oven. Broil for 1 1⁄2 minutes. Turn the oven temperature to the highest bake setting and cook for 4 minutes. Quickly open the oven door, pull out the rack, and with a pair of tongs, rotate the pizza (not the stone) a half turn. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more.

5) Using the peel, remove the pizza from the oven. Cut into slices and serve.

Note: Add the basil as the recipe indicates or, for a brighter basil taste, add a chiffonade of basil when the pizza emerges from the oven.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

This simple sauce, good for any time of year, qualifies under the “True Neapolitan” pizza guidelines. You can
also make this sauce with fresh tomatoes, but only the San Marzano tomato meets the DOC criteria. I like the freshness of this sauce since it cooks only once, in the oven, along with the dough it adorns.

Makes 1 1⁄2 cups (340 g)

2 cups (480 g) drained canned whole San Marzano tomatoes (about one 28-ounce, or 800 g, can)
1⁄2 teaspoon olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt flakes, or to taste

1) Pass the tomatoes through the medium blade of a food mill or a medium strainer into a mixing bowl. Stir in the olive oil and salt.

2) Store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough

Makes dough for two 12-inch (30 cm) pizzas

12 ounces (355 ml) warm water
1⁄4 teaspoon compressed fresh yeast
1 pound (455 g) type “00” flour
1 tablespoon (19 g) sea salt flakes, or 2 teaspoons (11 g) Kosher salt

Plan ahead when making this soft and supple dough as it requires two slow rises. It will take at least 16, and up to 48, hours from beginning to end. I suggest making the dough in the morning of day one and serving the pizza for dinner the following day, with one rise at room temperature and the other in the refrigerator. Weigh the water for this recipe to ensure accuracy. You can order type “00” flour online if you find it hard to locate in local stores.

1) Place the water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk the yeast into the water. Stir in 4 ounces (115 g) of the flour. Let stand for 1 hour.

2) In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining flour and the salt.

3) Place the bowl with the yeast mixture onto the mixer and fit with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour and salt mixture slowly (1⁄4 cup [31 g] at a time) until all of the flour is incorporated. Mix for about 2 minutes after each addition of flour.

4) Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough for 3 minutes on the lowest speed. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, elastic, and easily comes off the side of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 8 to 10 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

5) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Sprinkle each piece of dough with flour and lightly flour your hands. If your dough is tacky, use a generous amount of flour when shaping the balls of dough. Shape each piece into a ball.

6) Place the dough balls on a floured plate and cover it with plastic wrap. Let rise for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, or until doubled in size. This is a soft dough that tends to spread when it rises. It may resemble a flattened ball at the completion of this rise. (At this point, you may freeze the dough. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.) Allow refrigerated dough to
stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

Kitchen Workshop-Pizza Hands-on Cooking Lessons for Making Amazing Pizza at Home

With help from Kitchen Workshop–Pizza you’ll be a pizza expert in no time! This easy-to-navigate book is a complete curriculum for making your own pizza using a regular home oven. Level 1 begins with the basics, including seven variations on the tomato-cheese pizza and recipes for doughs, including a gluten-free pizza dough. Level 2 moves to the classics and showcases all of the hits, including Pizza Margherita, Pizza Quatro Formaggi–and even a Calzone. Level 3 is filled with original pizza recipes from Ruth’s award winning Washington, D.C. restaurants. In levels 4, 5, 6 & 7, you’ll learn how to take your pizza to the next level with lessons on sauces, protein toppings, vegetable toppings, fruit toppings, and more. From dough to delicious, Kitchen Workshop-Pizza is sure to inspire both novice and expert home chefs in the timeless tradition of pizza making.