Rustic Margherita Pizza

Today I’m sharing one of my very favorite homemade pizza recipes with you! Who doesn’t love pizza, right? I know it’s easy to grab a frozen one while you’re in a rush at the grocery store, or pick up a few $5 Hot ‘N’ Readys from Little Caesars on the way home; been there, done that my friend! But let me just tell you, homemade pizza kicks take out pizza’s ass! It can be a much more nutritious meal since YOU are in control of the ingredients that go into the pie, and fresh ingredients have so much more color and flavor than fake or frozen or chemically altered. So really, it’s just the best. 

I’ve experimented with a few different homemade pizzas in the past; bbq chicken, spinach and artichoke, veggie pesto chicken and so on, but this margherita pizza is my all time favorite. It’s so simple – five ingredients total! It’s so colorful and so delicious, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This is also a super fun meal to make and perfect on chilly fall weekends. So please enjoy the recipe below, and I hope you find yourself inspired to give homemade pizza a whirl soon!

Rustic Margherita Pizza: (feeds 2-4, depending on appetites)

Ingredients:

  • one pkg. Whole Foods housemade pizza dough (feel free to make your own dough! this is just what i prefer)
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (i like to buy it pre-sliced)
  • 1 large tomato or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin (i prefer heriloom or beefsteak)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh basil leaves (very important, don’t get dried basil!)
    optional:
  • cornmeal
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • flour for rolling out the dough

I find it’s always very helpful to have my toppings prepped and ready to go before I start rolling out my dough. As for slicing the tomatoes, you don’t want to slice them so thin that they aren’t hearty when you bite into them, but also not so thick that they weigh down the dough.

When I make pizza, or anything that requires my rolling pin, I pull out my trusty enormous wooden cutting board. It’s HUGE, and gives me all the space I need for making a big flour mess and rolling out my dough. Because fresh dough is typically very sticky, I always sprinkle flour onto the cutting board and rub some on the rolling pin before rolling out the dough. I personally love the crunch of cornmeal in my pizza crust, so I always sprinkle that and mix in with the flour on the cutting board before rolling out the dough.

Once I’ve got the dough on the cutting board, I make sure it’s thoroughly coated in flour and cornmeal, and then I get down to business. I like to start by softly kneading the dough just a few times to limber it up, and then I stretch it a bit, being carefully not to pull it apart or create any holes. Now it’s time to roll out my dough! I never make round pizzas. I like ’em crooked and rectangular, plus, it’s just easier to roll out square crust on a square cutting board.

When you roll out your dough, you want to make sure not to stretch it too thin. Because margherita pizza calls for such juicy toppings (mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil), you want a solid crust that can hold up the weight without folding in on itself. I typically roll the dough out to approximately one inch thickness. Once I’m done prepping the dough, I carefully transfer it to the baking sheet. Now it’s time to add the toppings!

         I was multi-tasking! By the way, notice the flour all over my shirt? Aprons are helpful.

         I was multi-tasking! By the way, notice the flour all over my shirt? Aprons are helpful.

So we start by drizzling some EVOO onto the crust. As Rachael Ray says, “I just eyeball it there.” But, it’s very important to get it right – too much oil and your crust will be soggy, not enough and it will be too dry. I’d say no more than a tablespoon. Occasionally I like to mix it up and add a tiny bit of fresh garlic here as well. Your call! Next, I layer the cheese and then the tomatoes and finish by sprinkling the fresh basil and black pepper over the whole pie. There is no rhyme or reason to how you place your cheese or tomatoes, just try to keep the cheese beneath the tomatoes. I would love to say I just haphazardly drop the mozzarella and tomatoes wherever and that it turns out perfectly, but I need structure, so I place them strategically on the dough.

LOOK AT THOSE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES. Gah, so gorgeous.

LOOK AT THOSE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES. Gah, so gorgeous.

Also, can we talk about the scent of fresh basil leaves? Calgon take me away! So sweet and spicy and fresh. I could just sit and smell basil for hours.

Also, can we talk about the scent of fresh basil leaves? Calgon take me away! So sweet and spicy and fresh. I could just sit and smell basil for hours.

Look at that beautiful mesh of colors! Isn’t food stunning? Ugh, I love it so much. Now you’re ready to stick that baby in the oven and bake it to perfection. Your baking time can vary based on your crust preference. I like a crispier crust, so I bake mine a bit longer, and then leave it under the broiler on high for about one minute to get that nice crunchy edge on the mozzarella. 

And here you have your finished pizza pie! This pizza is so flavorful and SO YUM. I just know you’ll love it as much as I do! This beats take out any day, am I right?

Instructions:
Make sure your dough has been sitting out at room temperature for at least one hour before you roll it out.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Prep your toppings and set aside. Next, pull out your cutting board and sprinkle it with a few handfuls of flour and some cornmeal. Place the dough on the floured cutting board and lightly coat the dough in flour and cornmeal.

Gently knead the dough a few times to get it warmed up, and then stretch it out carefully, being sure not to tear it. Coat the rolling pin in flour and roll out your dough to desired shape and size.

Drizzle the EVOO onto the rolled out dough and then placed the sliced mozzarella evenly on the dough. Next, top the cheese and dough with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle the pie with fresh cracked black pepper.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is your desired texture, and the cheese has started to bubble. You also have the option of leaving the pizza under the broiler for a minute or two, on high, to get that nice cheese crisp.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Photos by Shawn McEntyre

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