November 26, 2007
Nothing is simpler than the pizza Margherita: tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are the ultimate ingredients in Italian cooking and they are all that you need to get the perfect Neapolitan royal taste. I'm sure you've heard this story about a thousand times: back in 1889 Raffaele Esposito was a well-known cook and owner of a pizzeria in Naples. He received an invitation from the King to impress his wife, who loved Neapolitan specialties and had already heard about this novelty called pizza. Esposito surprised the Reggia di Capodimonte and the Queen Margherita di Savoia herself with a simple yet delicious pizza depicting the colors of the Italian flag.
Pizza dough (for one 15" pizza use half of one of these recipes)
1 cup of drained canned diced tomatoes
6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Once you're done with the pizza dough and you've rolled it out, place it on the pizza pan and spread the tomatoes on top. Add some olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the mozzarella over the tomatoes and cook the pizza until the crust turns golden brown (about 25 minutes in a 400°F preheated oven). Just before serving add the basil leaves (about 12 nice tiny leaves will do).
Some basics: First, if you're using fresh mozzarella (and really you must) you have to drain it for about 5 minutes after you slice it in order to get rid of the water used to preserve it. Never grate fresh mozzarella! Second, there are some ingredients you never want to put in the oven when topping a pizza. In this recipe you have to add the basil leaves when your pizza is ready: you want to add some freshness and that's why you don't want to cook the basil (actually, it will turn brown if you do). Another Italian secret is to always add a little bit of olive oil just before serving: the unheated olive oil just keeps its fruity flavor and gives your pizza a simple touch of perfection.