This is the sequel to my previous post: Thin pizza crust: The Roman way.
To make the dough for this pizza, start there.
This post will cover one of our most famous pizzas: Pizza Margherita.
The name comes from the Italian Queen Margherita of Savoia, wife (and cousin... yes, you read that right) of Umberto I, one of our most controversial kings. A Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) made the pizzas as a tribute for the royal couple, and the one with the 3 colors of the Italian flag (red tomato sauce, white mozzarella and green basil) was so liked by the queen, he named it after her. The irony here is Umberto I is also known for the 1898 bread riots in Milan. When a general opened fire with cannons on the demonstrators, Umberto I decorated him. So that patriotic pizza was made with a special ingredient: fear.
King Umberto I fought in the third Italian war of Independence (it took us a while, we weren't that effective). But when he was elected king, he allied himself with Austria and Germany, our former enemies and masters, and began a rather repressive regime in Italy at the end of the 1800s. He expanded the Italian colonies in Ethiopia and central Africa, and as a result of his domestic and foreign politics, he was the only king to be assassinated after Italy's unification (by an Italian-American anarchist).
To me this pizza is a reminder that justice, like a delicious meal, will be served in due course.
Buon appetito — and don't forget to share.
1 recipe of Roman pizza dough, out of the refrigerator for 2 hours. Makes 4 pizzas.
1 2-lbs can of Muir Glen organic tomato sauce, or 2 lbs of homemade tomato sauce. If you are going to use canned peeled tomatoes, drain them first through a colander, and chop them finely.
1 lb fresh mozzarella, diced in small cubes (Do NOT use a cheese grater, as the pressure of passing it through even the larger holes will change its texture, and it will not make the lovely melted mozzarella puddles on the tomato sauce.)
1 cup of basil leaves (fresh and fragrant)
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil (use the best you have, we’re going for flavor here.)
Finely chopped garlic
It would be very useful to have a peel. Otherwise, use an edgeless baking sheet.
A rolling pin
Divide the dough in 4 equal balls and set them aside, covered with a kitchen towel.
Preheat the oven to 500F with your baking stone on the bottom oven rack for about an hour, and no less than 30 minutes (in case you forget, I know how these things go...).
Take one ball of dough, sprinkle some flour on the peel, center the dough on it and with the rolling pin, pushing always in one direction (don't go back and forth, it won't work) start rolling the dough flat. Add flour as needed; it shouldn't be sticky. As you push the dough with the rolling pin, turn the dough 1/4 turn. Then roll again, keep doing it until it's approximately a 12" circle and 1/16 of an inch thick (like a vinyl LP record, if you remember them). Always make sure it's not sticking to the peel. Add flour under it, if needed; it should slide on the peel freely.
If you don’t have a peel, use an edgeless baking sheet. It'll work in a pinch.
Spread the tomato sauce with a spoon, and use the back of the spoon in with circular motions, touching the surface of the pizza with it to spread the sauce.
Do not soak the dough. The layer of sauce should be fairly transparent. With such a thin crust, if you put too much sauce it’ll become soggy.
Add 1/4 of the mozzarella (more if you like).
Scatter a few of the basil leaves on top of it.
Sprinkle with the garlic, salt and pepper.
Finally, top it with the fragrant Extra-virgin olive oil. We’re going for flavor, so don't use the cheap stuff.
Slide the pizza off the peel/baking sheet and onto the preheated baking stone in a 500F oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until crust is browned and cheese has melted.
Slide the peel under the pizza to remove it from the baking stone. Place it on a cutting board, slice, and devour immediately. Repeat with remaining dough balls for the next pizzas.