Recipe Files: Pizza Margherita

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What better way to enjoy a cool spring evening than to dine out on your porch with a tasty meal and a bottle of wine? It’s a great way to relax from the pressures of the day and just enjoy some quite together time with your spouse, kids, friends, yourself… whoever you’ve managed to wrangle for dinner. Maybe take a nice walk around the neighborhood after dinner, as the sun is going down. Enjoy watching the the birds, squirrels, and rabbits hop around the yards. Spring is just such a great time to sit back and enjoy what the world has to offer.

That in mind, as I was writing this week’s Wine Wednesday post, I was reminded again of all those fabulous meals we had Italy last year and thought I should share with you guys one of my new favorite recipes that I started making after our trip and that would be great to assemble for your “al fresco” dinner- Pizza Margheritas!

Pizza Margheritas were created in Naples and are as simple as pizza can get. Just some tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. That’s it. And it’s perfection when done right!

To start, you’ll need the perfect crust. (*Note: You will want to start this in the morning so that it has time to rise and fall.) And here’s how you can get that-

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 c plus 1/8 c warm water
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 t yeast
  • 3/4 t sugar
  • 2 and 1/8 c all-purpose flour

Add the warm water to a large bowl, then mix in the oil, salt, yeast, and sugar. Stir everything to combine, but it’s not a problem if everything hasn’t dissolved. Add the flour until combined into a ball of dough. You may need to add some extra water depending on the humidity of your house and/or the weather. The last couple of time I’ve done this, I’ve added probably another 1/8 c of water to keep my dough from breaking apart.

Once the ingredients have been mixed, loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough will rise, but there is no need to knead it or punch it. Once it has been sitting for those 2 hours, place it into the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Unused dough will keep, tightly covered, in the fridge for at least a week.

This recipe will give you enough dough for 2 regular crust (Neapolitan-style) pizzas, 4 cracker-thin crust (Roman-style) pizzas, or 1 thick crust (Sicilian-style) pizza. We usually opt for the 4 cracker thin crusts, but occasionally we’ll do 2 thin crusts one night and 1 regular crust with the leftover dough another night. The cracker-thin crust will give you a single serve pizza. The regular crust will give you a pizza big enough for two people to share. And I haven’t tried the thick crust, but it’s supposed to serve four.

About 45 minutes before baking, take the dough out of the fridge and pull the amount of dough you’ll be needing from the bowl. For a cracker-thin crust, use about 4 oz (a peach-sized ball); for a regular-style crust, use about 8 oz (an orange-sized ball); for a thick crust, use the entire ball of dough. Stretch and tuck your dough into a smooth ball and place it onto a floured work surface. Let it sit, loosely covered for about 45 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, generously flour your work surface and begin stretching out your dough. I usually start with my hands and once I have a small circle patted out, then I bring in a floured rolling pin to continue rolling the dough out. Flip the dough occasionally as you stretch it out and make sure to keep adding flour if it is sticking. Keep stretching until the dough is about 12 inches across (as circular as you can get it, ha). This will make for a very thin dough if you are doing the thin crust, but don’t worry, it turns out great. Once it’s stretched out, gently place it onto a pizza pan that has been brushed with olive oil. (You can absolutely use a pizza stone with this as well, just make sure to heat it in the the preheated oven and dust it with flour before placing the pizza on it.)

For a delicious sauce, all you’ll need is one 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes and a good 1/8 c (more or less) of Italian seasoning. Begin by pureeing the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Then place the pureed tomatoes into a medium pan over medium heat on your stove. Add in the seasoning and being to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. The sauce will thicken and reduce quite a bit. But it will still be enough to cover 2 thin crust pizzas.

Once the sauce has thickened, simply spread it onto your prepared (unbaked) dough. Then add the rest of your toppings. For pizza Margheritas, I simply add about 6 or 7 oz of sliced mozzarella cheese (for one thin crust) and 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil. If you want real Italian style pizza, drizzle just a few drops of olive oil over the pizza just before placing it in the oven.

Bake according to these directions: Preheat oven to 550 degrees and place your pizza pan or stone on the very bottom rack in your oven. For thin crust pizzas, bake 5-7 minutes on a pizza stone or 8-12 minutes on a pizza pan. For the regular crust pizzas, bake for 8-10 minutes on a pizza stone or 13-15 minutes on a pizza pan. For the thick crust pizza, bake at 500 degrees for 20-25 minutes on a stone or 25-30 minutes on a pan.

All that’s left now is to enjoy! And remember, especially with the thin crusts, Italians enjoy their pizza with a knife and fork, so you’ll definitely want to use those.

*This recipe has been adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

*Linking up this week with parties at Couponing & Cooking (Mealtime Monday), The Mandatory Mooch (Tasty Thursdays), and I Heart Nap Time (Sundae Scoop).

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Vino Mercoledi!

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Or Mercoledi de Vino? So, I’m not entirely sure of how that one translates. Forgive me, please! Either way, it’s Wine Wednesday! And yes, that is a Christmas decoration in the picture, and no, I do not still have Christmas decor up, ha. I’m just that far behind on my reviews! But those are my super-cute Christmas wine charms that I love! Anyhoo…

Nothing too terribly exciting is going on this week in the Life Happens household. The Husband did run in his big marathon this past weekend and beat last year’s time by over 15 minutes. He managed to come in just under four hours, so he was quite happy with that! And of course, I am happy for him! Other than that, we continue with our landscaping projects, organizing, travel planning, and work.

In all of that travel planning that I mentioned last post (along with some forward thinking/planning for next year), I am reminded of our past vacations and how much fun we’ve had over the last several years setting out and exploring just some of what this great world of ours has to offer. We are unbelievably lucky in that we have the resources available to take some amazing adventures. I just cannot imagine living my life without getting to see so many other cities, states, and countries, or doing all of that without my wonderful husband! AND… this all ties in quite nicely to this week’s wine selection because it is one that we discovered on last year’s trip to Italy (which of course you can read about here).

While in Naples, we enjoyed several really amazing meals with some of the Husband’s colleagues. One of these fellows is quite the wine aficionado himself and said that he was determined to order a few bottles of a local wine that was made from grapes that had been grown on Mt. Vesuvius. This wine is called Lacrima Christi, or Tears of Christ. And it is DELICIOUS! We ended up trying several different bottles at a couple of different restaurants and it was truly some of the best wine that we had on our trip. When we returned from Italy, both the Husband and I expressed our disappointment at having not been able to bring some of this back. We did bring a few bottles of Italian vino back with us, but we didn’t purchase any Lacrima because of our travel schedule and needing to get it safely back to Rome before heading home. We were, however, lucky to come across one brand of it at a Total Wines once back in the States. While this bottle certainly wasn’t AS good as the ones we sipped while in Naples, it certainly was tasty and I highly recommend that anyone interested in a good, bold Italian take the opportunity to try some Lacrima Christi, if you can!

This bottle of De Angelis Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio was a 2011, bottled in Sorrento, Italy. It retails for around $22.

My notes:

  • color- dark plum
  • scent- earthy, mineral
  • spicy at first
  • earthy
  • has a mineral quality
  • full-body

Notes from the experts are a little sparse on this one, so you’ll just have to trust me that it really is worth a glass (or two).