Pizza-Marherita-Ferguson-Demo-KitchenWhen presented with an unique opportunity, you tend to take it. This happened to me last week when I was offered a time slot to do a cooking presentation at the Wausau Area Builders annual Home Show. The organizers had a hard time finding chefs for Friday, so they said: “Come on down and experiment. Just make sure to have plenty of samples.” Cooking in the Ferguson demonstration kitchen was certainly a treat, espcially testing out their high-end Jenn Air appliances. So I decided to give the oven a workout, by cranking up the heat and making some pizza.

Pizza-Margherita-1Pizza has a long tradition spanning back to the age of antiquities. The ancient Greeks and Romans used to eat pieces of flatbread seasoned with herbs, cheese, and oils. But modern pizza, as we know it today, traces its roots to Italy’s Pizza Marherita. Legend has it that in the close of the 19th century. a chef in Naples made a special dish of flatbread, tomato sauce, cheese, and basil for the visting Queen Margherita. This Neopolitan styled pizza, labeled Pizza Margherita after the queen, is the foundation for the pizza that everyone knows and loves.

Today pizza comes in so many different styles, flavors, and textures, it can be refreshing to eat a traditional, and authentic Neopolitan style pizza. My recipe for Pizza Margherita goes back to those roots with an easy to make crust, bright tomato sauce, and fresh mozzerella cheese. Traditionally this pizza is made in a wood fired brick oven, but the Jenn-Air oven got plenty hot and combined with my pizza stone, made an excellent pizza. The samples went a little too quick.

Pizza-Margherita-2

Pizza Margherita

Feel free to experiment with the toppings, but keep the amount to a minimun, otherwise you’ll get a slow to cook pizza and soggy crust. A few fresh mushrooms, maybe some peppers works well, but with Pizza Margherita, less is often better: let the sauce and cheese do the talking.

Margherita Topping

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 28 Oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (in liquid), thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt
  • Pizza Dough (recipe below)

Saute onion and parsley in olive oil until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes). Add garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Drain tomatoes of juice and add to pan, breaking the tomatoes up as you stir. Add Oregano and simmer about 10 minutes until sauce is thickened. Set aside.

Form the dough into a 12 inch crust by rolling the pizza out onto a wooden pizza peel covered with corn meal. The corn meal keeps the dough from sticking when slide it off into the oven. You can hand shape the dough if you want a more rustic appearance, but the rolling pin will give you a more uniform crust. Spread the sauce lightly over the crust, four to five tablespoons should be sufficient. Too much sauce will make the pizza soggy. Place thinly sliced pieces of mozzarella cheese on sauce and place the pizza directly on a pizza stone in an oven heated to 475 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza peel or pizza stone, use a baking sheet. Just be aware that a baking sheet can reduce your cooking times, so keep an eye on your first pie when it’s in the oven. Cooking time will vary with the number of toppings, but check periodically after about 8-10 minutes for doneness. Remove when cheese is bubbly and crust is lightly brown. Garnish with torn pieces of fresh basil.

Pizza Dough

Makes 2 12 inch crusts. This recipe originaly appeared here.

  • 4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 packet active dry or quick rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil 1 1/2 Cup Water (about 104 degrees)

In the stand mixer: Place dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add oil and water. Mix using the stand mixer fitted with a bread hook for 10 minutes on the low setting. Dough should have a smooth and slightly glassy look when it is properly kneaded. Food processor method: place dry ingredients and oil into work bowl fitted with the standard blade. Turn on and add water. Process for 30 seconds. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand.

Place kneaded dough into a greased rising vessel or large glass bowl. cover and let rise in a warm spot for one hour or until doubled in size. I like to use my oven as a proofing box. Heat the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees. Turn off heat and place dough vessel into the oven to rise. After rising, turn the dough onto a floured surface, and work lightly with the dough to divide it into two equal pieces. Cover with a towel and let rise for 20 minutes while your oven heats up. Many bread baking cookbooks say to ‘punch’ the dough at this time, but punching is kind of a misnomer and causes novice bakers to overwork the dough. You don’t want to beat the dough down or overwork it otherwise it will become too dense. Lightly turning and working the risen dough is usually enough to punch it down.

After the initial rise, the dough can be portioned out into oiled containers and refrigerated up to a day ahead of time. This is great for parties; just take the dough out about an hour before baking to give it time to warm up.