Pizza Margherita

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Simple, quality ingredients are the starting-point for a great Neapolitan-style pizza.

Place a pizza stone on the bottom oven shelf. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the pizza on a floured cookie sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to your highest temperature. Mine goes to 550 degrees. The oven should be at temperature for 30 minutes before baking the pizza.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 cups flour (I use unbleached All Purpose (”AP”) flour or “00” flour, more finely milled and used for pizza dough in Italy. Bread flour works too.)
  • 1 cup water, at about 100 degrees
  • 2½ teaspoons active yeast (one packet)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water

Topping

  • 4-6 San Marzano canned tomatoes imported from Campania, without as much of their juice as possible, cut into ½ inch strips, (il filetto di pomadoro). Be sure to remove any skin and stems, and the seeds, if you want.
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into ½ inch slices, and dried on paper towel
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cooking Directions

Wet Ingredients

In a large measuring cup or bowl, put 1 cup of water at about 100 degrees and no more than 110 degrees (too hot and you’ll kill the yeast). I use water a bit warmer than my body temperature. Stir in the yeast and mix well. Add ½ cup of the flour. Mix well. Cover tightly and put in a warm place for 30 minutes. The mixture should double in volume or about 2 cups. This is the first “proof” of the yeast. If the mixture (called a sponge) doesn’t increase in volume the yeast is probably dead and therefore not “active.” If the yeast mixture doesn’t rise properly throw it out and start again. Better to find out now than later.  That’s why it’s called the first “proof” that the yeast is active. Yeah, right.

Dry Ingredients

  1. Put the remaining 3½ cups of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Mix to distribute the salt. Add the risen yeast mixture and the remaining ¼ cup water. (I use this last ¼ cup to wash out the container used for the first proof so that all the remaining yeast is “sloshed” out and into the bowl.) Mix dry and wet ingredients well with a fork or wooden spoon. When little dry flour remains, use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients into an integrated ball of dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the scrapings into the dough. The dough should be a bit sticky to the touch. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water at a time until it’s just a bit sticky. If it’s too wet, give it a light dusting of flour until it’s just a bit sticky.
  2. Place the dough on a floured flat work surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hands. It will feel rough, granular or gritty when you start. When it feels totally silky-smooth you’ve kneaded it enough. To get from gritty to silky-smooth could take as much as 10 minutes, but I usually hit that texture in about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a compact ball.
  3. Put the ball back in the bowl you used to mix the wet and dry ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cover with a kitchen towel. Put in a warm place. (This is the second proof.) When the dough doubles in size take it out of the bowl, reforming a ball and place on a floured board.

Making the Pizza

  1. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces. (Each of these 4 dough balls will make 1 pizza, 10 to 12 inches in diameter (or one calzone). For a larger or thicker pizza, use two dough balls.)
  2. Use one dough ball for the Pizza Margherita. Put the other 3 dough balls to the side and cover with plastic wrap to keep a crust from forming. If you do not use all of the dough now you can put unused dough balls into tightly closed plastic bags for future use. The dough will last at least 5 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough balls. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before forming pizzas from previously frozen dough.
  3. To form the pizza, push down on the dough ball with the tips of your fingers to begin shaping a round disc. When you reach a diameter of about 6 inches, pick up the dough, and holding it at the rim, begin stretching the dough using its own weight to help increase the diameter of the dough. Keep moving your fingers around the rim of the dough. Then, place the dough on your fist and gently pull it from the edge to stretch it more. When you reach a 10 to 12 inch diameter and the dough is about a uniform ¼ inch thick, you’re done. (For a thinner crust going towards a “cracker” crust keep stretching the dough until it is very thin and almost translucent.)
  4. Put the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (also called a pizza paddle). If there are any holes in the dough patch them. Make sure the dough moves freely on the pizza peel.
  5. Spread enough of the EVOO to lightly cover the entire surface of the dough. Scatter the tomato strips evenly over the dough, then the basil leaves, then the mozzarella slices.
  6. Place the pizza on the pizza stone by holding the pizza peel at a 20-degree angle and slipping the pizza onto the middle of the stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the mozzarella takes on a tan hue and the rim of the crust is slightly browned. Take it out of the oven using the peel. When tapped with your finger, the dough should sound hollow. The bottom of the pizza should have some dark brown/black spots for texture and taste.

Sprinkle the salt evenly over the pizza. Let the pizza cool a bit and then slice into six slices.

Serve immediately.

59 Replies to “Pizza Margherita”

  1. Hi Gianni. I am a big fan. Love your site. Have question. Should pizza dough be brought to room temperature after refrigerating?

    Thank you.

    1. Ciao Valerie. Yes bring the dough to room temperature if you can. Sometimes if I’m in a rush I’ll form the pizza while the dough is still cold. My hands warm it up as a stretch the dough and it will bake well. Keep on cooking.

      Buon appetito!
      –Gianni

    1. Ciao Alvin. Yes you can use a stand mixer. Keep it going until a dough ball forms around the hook. Finish kneading a work surface. Keep on cooking.
      Buon appetito!
      –Gianni

  2. Gianni,
    hey Gianni made this pizza for my family….and I am Italian my mom and mother in law
    were blown away! my mom could not believe how beautiful the dough looked!
    My three year old son loves pizza so now I just make the dough and put it in the fridge for him so he can have fresh pizza all the time!
    thank you so much !!!
    big fan of your vids!
    Robby Faccio,
    Vancouver B.C.
    Canada

    1. Ciao Robby.

      Happy to hear the pizza dough is a star in your kitchen. When I make dough I too like to have some left over. Tightly wrapped in a plastic bag it keeps in the fridge for days. Just like you and your son I can quickly throw a pizza in the oven when the desire hits again. Thanks for sharing this simple way to have homemade pizza ready in minutes. Keep on cooking.

      Buon appetito!
      –Gianni

  3. I think what you said made a bunch of sense. But, what about this? what if you were to write a killer headline? I am not suggesting your content is not solid., however what if you added a headline to possibly grab a person’s attention? I mean Margherita Pizza Recipe | Gianni& is kinda boring. You ought to peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write news titles to get people interested. You might add a video or a related picture or two to get people interested about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it could make your website a little livelier.

  4. Gianni,

    My pizza skills were seriously lacking, but your dough recipe is wonderful!! Love the site, the videos, and love watching and listening to you. Would you please consider recording some bread making videos also? Thank you for what you’re doing!

  5. Fantastic video! Unfortunately, I am horrible at making pizzas. Everytime I spend hours in the kitchen trying to make the perfect dough, I just end up making a mess. Even if I follow the recipe and instructions exactly, my crust NEVER browns and remains pasty white and tough. It never looks or sounds like the beautiful crust you just baked. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Have you tried my recipe? You’ll get a good dough from this one (text recipe below the video box). Many of my fans tell me it’s foolproof. Let me know if you have problems. Don’t give up. Buon appetito! Happy New Year.

  6. Grazie Gianni,
    sono un Italiano che vive in Texas da 8 anni, grazie alle tue ricettte e gli ingredienti giusti ora riesco a mangiare delle pizze buonissime e’ come sentirsi a casa in Italia.

    Grazie.

    1. Here’s my rough translation of Andrea’s post.
      “I’m an Italian who has lived in Texas for 8 years. Thanks to your recipes and authentic ingredients now I can eat pizza and feel like I’m at home in Italia.”

      Grazie Andrea. Non scrito bene l’Italiano. Spero la vostra cucina Italiana offre molti regali gustosi.
      “Thanks Andrea. I don’t write Italian well. I hope your kitchen provides many tasty gifts.

      –Gianni

  7. Hi Gianni,

    I watched your video twice and like the way you do and present things.I am a great fan of the Soprano’s and they might want to hire you …
    Just a question: what happened to the prosciutto you bought for the pizza margherita?

    Best,

    Willem

    1. Ciao Willem.

      The prosciutto went on the pear and gorgonzola pizza. The Margherita just has EVOO, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil. I grew up in the northern Jersey area where the Soprano’s was filmed. The last episode ended at Holstein’s the ice cream place in Bloomfield. That was one of our hangouts in high school. I hope I don’t get a job offer from that crew!

      –Gianni

  8. Hello Gianni, I’ve been watching your recipes over the summer and started with the san marzano tomato sauce. I tried this recipe the other day, and despite never having made pizza before, (and with a few problems I fixed for my second, third, fourth, etc. pizza) it turned out absolutely amazing. I added some fresh chopped garlic under the cheese because I’m a bit of a garlic nut.

    A friend of mine said it was better than pizza she’d had from someone who has been making them for years! Simple ingredients, easy instructions, lovely pizza.

    Thanks again for your great recipes and keep them coming!

    -Kevin

    1. Ciao Kevin.

      I just scored the last of the San Marzano tomatoes at the farmers market. It’s been a less than ideal tomato season this year. I hope this batch will satisfy my cravings.

      I’m really pleased that the pizza recipe works so well for so many. You go from start to eating delicious pizza in less than 2 hours–and an hour and a half is just waiting for the dough to rise! Nothing wrong with garlic in my kitchen. Sometimes I just top the dough with a drizzle of EVOO–spread some creamy roasted garlic all around–sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper–then top with fresh mozzarella and grated pecorino.

      Fall is here and I’m anxious to share some seasonal dishes. Stay tuned!

      –Gianni

  9. Gianni,

    I am wondering why you don’t put the salt on the top of the pizza before it goes into the oven, as opposed to after? It looks great. I am going to try it tomorrow!

    1. Ciao Pat.

      Put the salt on top of the tomato layer if you want to add it before it goes in the oven. I put a grind of sea salt on after the pizza comes out of the oven because I like the tooth feel of the salt.

    1. Ciao Brad. I scrape the stone to get off anything stuck to the stone. Then I brush the stone with a stiff brush. I wipe it down with damp paper towels. Pretty quick and pretty efficient for me.

  10. Gianni,

    I enjoyed the video greatly, and plan on making my own pizza using your recipe. What shop in the city did you get your ingredients?

    thanks, Mike

    1. Hi Mike. I shop in North Beach and farmers markets at the Galleria downtown on Thursdays and the Ferry Building. In North Beach, Union Produce (Union/Mason); Molinari (Columbus/Vallejo) for Italian products; and Little City (Stockton/Vallejo) for meats. Also, Whole Foods (Franklin/California) and Real Foods (Polk near Broadway) for a variety of ingredients that I might not find elsewhere. Hope you enjoy your pizza.

  11. Hey Johnny ,

    The pizza was fantastic. I’m from your era and Jersey too ( Trenton area), living here Montana for the last 15 years or so, miss the Jersey Pizza to say the least.

    I got a question, I tried to make bread with the same dough recipe to no avail. Do you have any Bread recipes on your web site?

    Later
    mbcjr God Bless

  12. Ciao bella. I’m so happy Jonathan (13) is still cooking. Since he was tall enough to reach the counter my godson has been one of my best helpers in my niece’s Jersey kitchen. This is a crazy cooking family, usually 3 generations helping to prepare and eat the meal.

    Chicken parm pizza? What happened to simple toppings? For me the dough is the star and pizza is just bread adorned with your favorite stuff. Sometimes I’ll make a pizza like Jonathan did and eat it like an open-face panino (sandwich). Jonathan’s mother Wendy makes killer cutlets so I totally get his topping choice!

  13. Ciao Zio Giovanni-

    We love watching your videos, but we love even more when you come to New Jersey and cook in our kitchen. Your godson just made a homemade pizza tonight-he added chicken cutlets to make a chicken parm pizza. Breanna is homa and her friend Jess watched the video with us and she thought you were quite professional.

    Love,
    Wendy

      1. Tomato sauce, combination of some regular Croatian soft cheese and a little bit of salty sheep cheese (I’m not sure how to correctly describe it — it is hard cheese aged in dried sheep skin — local specialty), mix of mediterranean species, and of course – Dalmatian prosciutto 🙂 Pizza was great (maybe too piccante for my taste)! Dough was really good, mostly thanks to your tips on kneading and oven temperature.

        1. Sounds yummy. I like your Croatian topping choices. If it was a bit too spicy try reducing the quantity of the toppings you use. The taste of the crust will balance the topping flavors. In my pizza the dough/crust is really the star and the toppings just flavor condiments. Keep on cooking!

  14. Hey Gianni,
    I really like your way of cooking, good quality ingredients, simple, on a nice way explained and really delicious. I made this pizza and your pasta already for my girlfriend. When i made these my girlfriend showed me the rest of the night how much she appreciated it. Keep up the good work!
    Greetings from Belgium.
    WIm.

  15. Thank you, Gianni!!! My boyfriend and I made this pizza today, adding rosemary roasted garlic and roasted yellow bell peppers and of course, drinking liberal doses of red wine…..awesome! We also liked adding a bit of the San Marzano juice to the olive oil (don’t like to waste). This is the perfect pizza dough. We love your show! Please cook more!

    1. Thanks for your post Dian. Your pizza sounds terrific. No end to toppings you can put on the pizza dough. Keep an eye out for our new episodes.

  16. Complimenti Gianni! Mi ricordo con piacere la tua splendida pizza al compleanno di Mary almeno dieci anni fa. Che felicita di trovare questo video (grazie anche a Mary). Hai fatto davvero bene.

    Frank
    Barga (LU)
    Italia

    1. (For those of you who don’t speak Italian, a translation of Frank’s post is below. Frank is an author and journalist. I love his book Blood Washes Blood a story of his exploration of his family roots in Sicily. He lived in San Francisco for a long while and now lives in Italia).
      Frank said:
      Congratulations John! I remember with pleasure your wonderful pizza at Mary’s birthday at least ten years ago. Happy to find this video (thanks to Mary). You did really well.

      Grazie Frank. I remember when you joined me in the kitchen at 6 in the morning to help make the pizze and fritatte for the brunch we served our friends gathered to celebrate Mary’s birthday in Napa. You honored me that morning by calling me il maestro.

  17. Hey Gianni, I’m from Singapore and I just discovered your show today. I think it’s great. You make it seem so easy to cook that now I want to cook too!

  18. Just wanted to share a technique I learned for getting a good crust in a consumer over. Try using the self cleaning setting. It can get up to 800 degrees in some ovens. Obviously it’s tricky because you have to let it go for quite some time to get up to temperature, and of course the oven’s display isn’t going to tell you how hot it is but when you crack that door mid cycle, believe me you’ll know. Also, a good dose of common sense is required because of the high temperatures involved. In other words be careful! It only takes a few minutes to get a super crispy crust.

  19. hey John,
    Been watching all your videos ,I cook a lot at home ,its my passion(nothing close to your quality yet :P) .
    I just wanna say Thank You for your effort ,it is really appreciated 🙂
    take care,
    rohan

    1. Hey Rohan. Thanks for checking out the cooking episodes. Passion is a important ingredient for any home-cooked dish. Keep it up! What’s your favorite dish?

      1. Hey john,
        Need i say more ,Pizza 😛 margherita (i’m vegetarian,not vegan :P)
        we have a slight variation on it ,where we also put garlic sauce in it ,little sweeter than the original version ,but ummm ,garlic ,i guess its true ,everyone has a little Italy in them 🙂
        Also,i like garbanzo beams ,maybe you try and do some dish on it ,though i dont think italians have any dish including it .but im hoping im ignorant and you’ll enlighten me 🙂

    1. Hi John,
      I do have a pizza stone and it helps some – that’s what happens when you live in rural VT. My home made pizza is still better than what I can buy around here. The grandkids , especially the boys enjoy when we make the pizza. Tucker and I watched your videos and he thought they were great. That’s some praise from a 12 year old.
      Ro

  20. Hey John,
    Your crust comes out much crispyier than mine – unfortunately I have an electric oven and no matter how high I crank it up I don’t get the great crust you do.
    Ro

  21. Great videos–picked up several pointers watching the pizza episode.
    As a crusty old American of Italian decent, who loves to cook i applaud you–Bravo!!!

  22. Ciao Krusty. Thanks for ending our virginity. We’ve had some Italians from Argentina in North Beach. Interesting cooking with a focus on grilled meats. Hope to get to Buenos Aires soon and taste the food and learn more about Italian emigration to South America.
    –Gianni

  23. Hey this are great, I’m glad to be one of the first to comment, I like the style of the presentations and the recipies of course,

    I’m watching this from Argentina, home of some great Italian cooking.

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