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).

Days 6 through 11: Naples in a Nutshell

Since I was pretty much on my own during the day on this part of the trip, I think I can more easily combine these days and give you a list of hits and misses for Naples. We’ll resume with the regular format for day twelve.

Hits:

Santa Chiara. This was the church of the Angevin Kings in Naples. It’s gothic, originally constructed in the 14th century, with lots of great sculpture. In addition to seeing the church, you can also visit the cloisters that house a museum with relics from Roman times and from the Middle Ages. There’s a lovely garden area with some truly amazing lemon trees in the atrium area and also remains of a 1st century Roman bath that you can visit within the cloister area.

the altar of Santa Chiara

This is how I need to be buried!

lid from a child’s sarcophagus

Madonna and Child at Santa Chiara

The Neapolitans take their nativity scenes very seriously. This is a huge one on display in the cloisters at Santa Chiara.

The cloisters at Santa Chiara has some amazing frescoes and mosaics.

sumptuous lemon trees

— San Lorenzo Maggiore: I didn’t actually get to see the basilica since it was closed by the time I got out of the scavi and museum, but that’s ok, because I felt the scavi were worth the visit regardless. The museum houses some pieces associated with the area dating from the Roman times through the 19th century. But the real fun comes in visiting the ruins (scavi) underneath the cloisters by the church. Here you can descend a stairway into an actual Roman street and walk around a few blocks of preserved ancient Roman and Greek city. The ruins date back to the 4th century BCE and include market stalls that still have the benches for their wares and one home/room(?) that still contains an oven. I went once on my own and once with my husband and enjoyed it both times. In fact, the on the first visit, I was down in the excavations by myself so I just wandered in and out of the stalls, rooms, and buildings at my leisure and enjoyed every minute.

the cloisters at San Lorenzo

This room was the seat of the Napoli government for a time.

close-up of part of the ceiling

 

Oh, how those Italians do love a painted ceiling! Taken from another room at San Lorenzo’s cloisters.

sarcophagus top from the museum

fast asleep… forever.