Do you ever have those days when you suddenly get a wild food craving? Not the kind of craving that you’re like “Meh, some stir fry would be nice” or “I’m sort of in the mood for ice cream”. No I’m talking about a craving that you would go to the end of the earth for – or at least make a special trip to the supermarket that’s really not convenient at all to buy the ingredients you need to satisfy your fercious hunger.
For me, this untameable desire comes about once a week when I get a serious life or death hankering for a margherita pizza.
Of course I’ve always loved pizza. I remember salivating as a kid when my Dad called me up on a Friday night to say, “Hey sweetie, how about pizza tonight?”. YES! This meant several hours on the couch in front of the TV while devouring half a sausage pepperoni pizza with an ice cold diet Dr. Pepper. What can I say? This time with Dad was special, even if it was bit gluttonous.
Yet my first pizza in Italy completely changed the way I thought about pizza. Sausage and pepperoni became a thing of the past – the mix of toppings were no longer important. Creativity and quantity didn’t matter any more -it was all about the quality (although quantity wasn’t entirely lost…).
Let me explain. The type of pizza that I fell in love with was Neopolitan margherita pizza. Thick crust around the border, thin crust in the middle and a simple tomato sauce, cooked in just a few minutes in a woodfire oven. It’s so simple but the ingredients are of high quality and the technique is hard to master.
Basically you just don’t get that kind of pizza anywhere else in the world. Even in Italy its hard to find a good Neopolitan pizza. Pizza is sold on every street corner, but there are really only a few pizzeria’s in every city that can claim to make a good Neopolitan-style pizza.
My first real pizza was in Florence, at a place that has become incredibly popular with tourists and study abroad students, called Gusta Pizza. While it’s no longer a hidden gem (now full of study abroad students and tourists), its still one of my favorite pizzeria’s in Italy.
The search for a good margherita pizza in Bologna has been tough. Bologna isn’t really known for its pizza and the demand isn’t so high as it might be in Florence or Rome. So far the winner on my list is Pizzeria Tonino.
Ever since I’ve moved into my new apartment that just happens to have a convection oven (this may or may not have been a big factor in my decision to move here), I’ve been obsessed with perfecting my own margherita pizza. While I know it won’t ever taste like the pizza that comes out of a woodfire oven, it comes pretty close and definitely satisfies by wild and ferocious pizza cravings.
This recipe for how to make the perfect pizza margherita is definitely something anyone can try at home. The only thing you need are high-quality ingredients and little bit of practice (you may have to adjust the quantities and cooking time according to your kitchen and oven). Besides…if you’re not in Italy, chances are this is the only way to eat real Italian pizza!
Servings: 2 pizzas
Time: 3-4 hours
- 2 teaspoons of dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup wate
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 cups Tipo 0 Flour
- 2 cups Tipo 00 Flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I prefer to use “passata”, which is basically pureed tomatoes that haven’t been cooked. A good brand to look for is Pomi)
- 6 leaves of fresh basil
- olive oil (for oiling pan)
- 2 balls of buffalo mozzarella (or any high-quality mozzarella cheese)
To make the dough:
In a measuring cup add water, olive oil, sugar and yeast. Mix together with a fork and let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl sift together flour and salt. Make a well in the middle of flour mixture. Slowly pour in yeast mixture, mixing with wooden spoon. Continue mixing, working with your hands if necessary, until dough forms a ball.
On a large floured surface, knead dough until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Place the ball of dough in a well-floured bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place, about 1 hour.
After dough has nearly doubled in size, punch down and divide into 4 pieces.
To assemble pizza:
Preheat oven to 480 degrees F (for convection oven, 425 degrees F).
On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into desired shape. Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and use your fingers to continue to stretch dough.
Top with sauce and salt to taste. Bake for about 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly top with sliced mozzarella cheese and torn basil leaves. Immediately place back in the oven and finish baking for another few minutes, until crust is golden and mozzarella has melted.