The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Luke Chavez
The Times 

Pizza Margherita

My Recipes|Luke Chavez

 

September 23, 2021

Luke Chavez

Pizza Margherita

Summer is over and after what felt like forever, our tomatoes have finally ripened. To celebrate, this week ripe tomatoes have made an appearance at every meal, in salads, on sandwiches, tossed in pastas, or simply sprinkled with salt as an afternoon snack. We have bowls of tomatoes set aside to be turned into sauce, jars of which will add some sunshine in the kitchen through winter. When tomatoes are fresh, ripe and in-season, I find it best to pair them with just a few choice ingredients, to highlight their juicy red perfection. Here I present my version of a Pizza Margherita, a classic made famous in Naples, that features the perfect trinity of basil, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes, over a simple olive oil base.

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

¼ cup whole wheat flour

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 ⅔ cups warm water

2 teaspoons olive oil

For toppings:

4 to 6 cloves garlic

Olive oil

2 to 4 ripe heirloom tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Make the dough: Sift together both flours, yeast, sugar, and salt into large mixing bowl. Pour in the water and oil. Mix with wooden spoon until dough forms together. Knead on floured work surface for 5 minutes, then cover with kitchen towel and let rest for 3 minutes. Then knead for an additional 5 minutes until smooth.

Cover dough and let rest for 20 minutes. On floured surface, stretch rested dough out in four directions, then fold back onto itself, back into a ball. Place dough in bowl, cover with towel, and let it proof for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Dough should double in size.

Divide into 2 balls for medium sheet pan pizzas, or into 4 balls for small round pizzas. Place balls of dough on floured surface and use your hands to stretch and shape the pizzas. Lightly oil baking sheets (if using) and dust with flour or corn meal before laying out crust. Lightly cover with towel while oven heats and toppings are prepared.

Place pizza stone in center rack (if using). Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Assemble pizza: Chop garlic coarsely, then toss with a pinch of salt and tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Let garlic rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes into 1/4 -inch slices and lay on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess moisture. Slice mozzarella into pieces the same thickness as tomato slices.

Distribute oiled garlic evenly across crust surface, stopping about ½-inch from the edge. Drizzle more olive oil to make an even thin layer. Place tomato slices decoratively around the surface of pizza. Top each tomato slice with a whole basil leaf. Roughly tear mozzarella into pieces and scatter over the top, leaving areas of the tomatoes exposed. Season top with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Transfer pizza to oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is golden, and cheese is bubbly. A little bit of charring on the crust will just add to the authentic pizza flavor. Remove from oven and scatter a few torn basil leaves over the top. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with crushed chili flakes and grated parmesan.

Notes:

Pizza margherita is a simple Neapolitan classic that celebrates ripe tomatoes. Use the best homegrown or organic heirloom varieties you can find. After tomato season is over, you can substitute canned San Marzano tomatoes that are crushed and spread in a layer over the olive oil and garlic.

Make sure not to totally cover the tomatoes with the cheese. Leave exposed areas so that steam can escape while the tomatoes cook.

Pizza stones or tiles are a great way to get a nice crispy crust. The stone must be placed in the oven while it preheats. Alternatively, you can use a heavy sheet pan or round metal pizza pan. Large cast iron skillets also work great.

This pizza dough is easy enough for a quick weeknight dinner and creates a delightful crust that will impress a crowd. Try it with any of your favorite pizza toppings. For a pizza sauce base, I love to use my Magic Tomato Sauce which was featured in the May 27th edition of The Waitsburg Times. (Remember, all my recipes can be found in the online archives at waitsburgtimes.com.) Pesto is also a lovely sauce for pizza. Some other favorite combinations are pepperoni, sausage, and olive; pesto, artichoke hearts, and sweet peppers; or wild mushrooms, chives, and fontina cheese. Get creative and enjoy!

 

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