Margherita Pizza

New York style pizza can be a real challenge for a home cook – the biggest challenge being the crust. Most traditional ovens lack the horsepower to properly develop the crust. On this episode, you’ll learn tricks to a crunchy crust that doesn’t sacrifice the ooey gooey topping.

Video Part one:

Video Part two:

The recipe:

* 1 cup warm water (8 oz) (100 – 110F)
* 1/2 cup American lager (4 oz)
* 2 tablespoons white vinegar
* 4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (19.75 oz)
* 1 tablespoons of olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
* 2 1/2 teaspoon of salt
* 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
* Extra flour for rolling out the crust

*28 oz can of diced tomatoes with basil added (San Marzano DOP preferred).
*5 sprigs of fresh basil – sliced into shreds
*1 lb of fresh mozzarella, preferably from buffalo’s milk.

1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar, and yeast, in water.

2. Wait 10 minutes until all yeast is dissolved/proofed

3. Add oil, vinegar, lager, salt and flour and stir in a mixer until incorporated. Mix on a medium speed for approximately 5 minutes until the dough forms a cohesive ball.

4. Cover with a damp cloth and store in a warm humid place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

5. Divide dough into 4 equal portions.

6. Roll each portion into a ball. You want a dough ball without visible seams on top.

7. Put pizza stone on middle rack in 500+ degree oven to “preheat.” The hotter your oven can get, the better.

8. Place dough ball on lightly floured surface and lightly flour the top. Using rolling pin, roll out a thin circle, using lots of flour on both sides to prevent sticking.

9. Top with tomato sauce and thinly sliced mozzarella.

10. After topping the pizza, carefully slide the pizza into the oven.

11. Bake in a 500+ degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until bottom of crust is golden. To check doneness, gently lift the the pizza using either a fork or a spatula/pancake flipper to reveal the underside of the crust. The pizza is done when the underside has considerable browning.

12. Top with a generous amount of sliced fresh basil.


Simmer tomatoes for over low heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour to remove as much liquid as possible

A word of caution on working with the pizza stone. It should be HOT in order to appropriately sear the bottom of the pizza. When you’re done working with the stone, let it cool to the touch before attempting to wash. If you try to wash it too soon the cold water will shock the stone, causing it to crack. Further, don’t use anything other than water to clean the stone. Soap will work its way into the stone, and make future pizzas taste like Palmolive.

“Baker Percentage:” traditionally, bread is rated by it’s rate of water saturation, based on weight. 1 lb of flour is approximately 3 3/4ths cups, and 1 lb of water is 2 cups. At this ratio, bread dough is considered 100% saturated. Good pizza dough typically sits around 60% saturation.

If you choose to omit the beer, increase water to 1 1/2 cups.

4 comments to Margherita Pizza

  • Jeni

    awesome alton! :) It looks delicious. Margherita is my favorite kind of pizza.

    Question: Have you tried putting the basil under the mozzarella? I wonder if that would keep it from drying out?

  • aLi

    haha, I was gonna say that your instructions remind me of the “good eats” guy. I LOVE it. I’m a fan. I just barely discovered your blog. And already I’m calling you famous!

  • Cook with Tom

    Great question Jeni. I ordinarily include fresh basil in the sauce, a habit that adds a similar flavor to the strategy you suggested. Putting the basil on top after the pizza cooks expands the flavor profile of the dish by including cooked and fresh basil. In addition, the Margherita pizza is traditionally patterned after the Italian flag. Without the basil on top, it looks more like Switzerland.

    Could you imagine swiss pizza?

  • G'pa and G'ma Woody

    Fun, Fun, Fun!!! I want to grow some herbs and get going! You are a natural, Tom! Where did you learn all this stuff? ie roasting the garlic? mmmmm. Food will never be the same! love, Mom

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