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Recipe for Classic Plain or Margherita Pizza

Hello!

I would like to try making pizza in my oven at home. I want to make more classic plain or margherita pizza, preferably in the Neopolitan style, since I tend to be a purist when it comes to food. I have never made pizza, so I need a lot of guidance! I would appreciate any suggestions, even the most basic ones! Remember: I am a beginner, so I need guidance in all aspects of pizza-making: creating the dough, the sauce, choosing the best cheese, the spices and herbs,etc.

Thank You in advance for your help!

Sincerely,
Valentine

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  1. Too big a subject- you won't have to go far in searching past threads to find a lifetime worth of advice. To start a ball rolling; assuming you are familiar with breadmaking, pizza dough need be no more than bread dough. I find that it works best with a relatively soft dough, just the other side of sticky, and not too strong a flour; I use part all purpose and part rye along with bread flour. King Arthur brand all purpose works well on it's own. Most people use a good amount of olive oil in their crust; it should be high quality oil. Generally home ovens peak at 550-575 degrees, which is enough to do a good job; it should be baked at the bottom of the oven for about ten minutes, but individual ovens vary widely, not only in temperature but in how the heat is distributed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oldunc

      Thank you for the reply. oldunc. I actually did a search on "the best recipe for classic margherita pizza", but I was not at all satisfied with the information. Thus, I decided to post this thread.

      I need to practice and hone my skills. My husband is planning to build me an outdoor wood burning pizza oven. I want to learn as much as possible as quickly as I ca

    2. As far as crusts go, I stumbled across this recipe (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...) a while ago and have had excellent results every time I've used it. A few tips: if you don't have a baking stone (as I don't), shape and bake the pizza directly on a piece of parchment paper. When cooked on a pan, the toppings start to burn before the crust is cooked through. The raw crust is too thin to support the weight of even just sauce and cheese when cooked directly on the rack, however, and everything drips through and makes an enormous, inedible mess inside the oven. Trust me, the secret to making this pizza without a baking stone is parchment paper. Also, it freezes wonderfully. I currently have two blobs of dough in the freezer and I think I will take one out for dinner tonight.

      As far as toppings go, I like to play around a bit. I usually get lazy and use a bottled sauce, or diced fresh tomatoes. And I prefer fresh mozzarella, but have been known to use whatever semi-appropriate cheese is on sale or in the fridge. Otherwise, if you're using the crust I linked to, I would only add one or two other toppings. I've had success with fresh pineapple and bacon, spinach and garlic or ham and mushroom. But that's really up to you, and playing around with it is half the fun.

      18 Replies
      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

        OMG, Thank you sooo much, BananaBirk!!!

        This is the perfect link and is EXACTLY what I was looking for! I am going to study this information and try my hand at making pizza in our regular oven and on our grill. I will also use the recipe for the tomato sauce which is linked to the pizza crust recipe.

        Thanks again!!!

        1. re: Valentine529

          No problem -- always happy to pass on a recipe. I did end up making the pizza for dinner tonight, too, and it wonderful. Good luck with your pizza (and your outdoor pizza over)!

        2. re: BananaBirkLarsen

          Parchment paper, which is silicon impregnated, will start to scorch at about 450 degrees, too low a temperature for pizza- if you must, try aluminum foil. Try a perforated pan if you don't have a stone- makes a world of difference.

          1. re: oldunc

            I'm wondering if 'all' parchment paper is silicon impregnated. I thought it was just the baking type that is coated with silicon. I tried googling parchment paper and could not find that parchment paper is impregnated with silicon. Can you direct me? Thanks.

            1. re: Rella

              I no of no type other than the baking type- it's not coated, it's impregnated. It has always been made this way. This is fundamental cooking knowledge, not something I just looked up, so I can't tell you where to look. It's conceivable there are some miraculous modern types I haven't heard of, but the stuff generally available at groceries, cooking supplies etc. is plain old parchment paper and is not made for very high temperatures. Most packages will recommend a temperature limit of 400 degrees. I've scorched it a few times on my own; it is not good.

              1. re: oldunc

                Not all parchment paper is made with impregnated silicon.

                The Ifyoucare brand - a easily acquired brand of parchment paper

                http://www.ifyoucare.com/Baking%20pro...

                201-947-1000 Product Development Department says that their parchment paper is never made by impregnating silicone. They say that is is only slightly coated with silicone.

            2. re: oldunc

              I turn my over up as high as it will go, around 500F. The paper does start to scorn around the corners, but doesn't even yellow under the pizza. I never trim it, and thus end up with flaky bits of scorched paper at the corners (which does not change the taste of my pizza, although melted silicone vapor is probably not the best thing to have floating about in the oven ) but I imagine the more you trim it, the less it will scorch.

              I always lay the paper over a pizza pan and do the final adjustment of my dough shape on top (I have yet to master the art of tossing the dough and can only get it maybe 3/4 stretched between my fists as called for in the recipe). Perhaps the best thing would be to trim the parchment paper to the exact dimensions of the pan before I start, and then stretch the dough to the edges. That way, the parchment paper would be completely covered, and scorch free (save for the very edges where the pizza pulls away as it cooks).

              The times I've tried cooking the pizza on any sort of pan, the toppings burn long, long before the crust is anywhere near done. The one time I tried putting it directly on the rack... well, let's just say we went out for Mexican that night. I don't have a perforated pan, but will keep an eye out for an inexpensive one. That's certainly worth a try.

              1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                The part actually in contact with the food will stay at a considerably lower temperature; wax paper is frequently used to line baking pans, as long as it's covered. You could probably get away with parchment this way, but it seems like a lot of trouble- foil would anyway leave you a corner to grab to slide it onto a peel or cookie sheet . Ovens heat a lot different- the first oven I made high temperature pizzas in the best way was to throw the pan directly on the oven floor. An oven that will only reach 500 would be a small problem, As far as I'm concerned, stretching dough is mostly to show off for tourists; a properly rolled crust will be crisper and more consistent.

                1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                  I too use parchment paper for pizzas, cooked on a stone in the oven preheated to 500. I trim around the dough but don't worry about a little extra getting very brown. I prefer stretching to rolling because I find that rolling presses out developed air bubbles so the dough becomes too smooth for my liking--but it does get crispy that way, rather like a cracker.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Not my experience of rolled crusts at all, sounds more like the result of overkneading and/or too much flour. Certainly you aren't pressing out any gas bubbles when you roll; the tiny explosions and craters would be hard to miss.

                    1. re: oldunc

                      Don't knead at all or add flour. Just my experience is different from yours I guess.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        If you're making pizza crust without flour or kneading, you're certainly outside of my experience. Be that as it may, according to what seems a well researched Wikipedia article (unfortunately all of the interesting citations are in Italian), the Nepolese true pizza association requires a stretched crust for authentic Napolese pizza, which is what the op was looking for.

                        1. re: oldunc

                          I generally don't make my own dough so there's no kneading on my part and the only flour used is for dusting the board so it wouldn't be excessive. Sorry that I was unclear.

                2. re: oldunc

                  I like to build my pizzas on a steel pan and then slide them off of the pan after about 5 minutes on a very hot preheated stone. I also pre-bake the pizza crust for 3-4 minutes so the bottom is extra crisp[y but that may be overkill for you.

                  Homemade sauce is very easy to make with a can opureeded tomatoes and spices of your choice. I like powdered garlic, powdered onion and then generous amounts of oregano, fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. This sauce can either be used uncooked or it can be simmered for 30 minutes and then chilled to ambient temp before use.

                  Finish the pizza with chopped fresh basil, rosemary and parsley just before putting it in the oven.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    I don't have a formal definition for an "authentic" pizza sauce; the two I usually use- a cooked sauce that uses some sweet pepper and an uncooked summer version that's not really a sauce- would probably not qualify. It should probably stick to basics- the classic aromatics (odori) are onion, garlic, celery and carrot; probably just the first two for pizza- and quite a bit of them. Herbs should probably be limited to basil and oregano (or marjoram, but oregano says pizza to me).
                    My feeling is that any moisture you introduce in the sauce is going to contribute to soggy crust; I go to some lengths to eliminate it, by draining with weights for uncooked, by (VERY carefully) cooking down the cooked sauce as far as I dare. As far as I know, this is not widespread practice.

                    1. re: oldunc

                      Some say a thin ayer of olive oil over the crust before you lay down the tomato sauce will create a barrier to control a soggy crust.

                      1. re: Rella

                        I really do not like oily pizzas, and it doesn't work awfully well, but it is common practice.

                    2. re: Kelli2006

                      One of the easiest/best simple tomato sauce for pizza is Mario Batali's
                      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...
                      You can't go wrong with this.

                3. This is a lifetime quest for some people! I would recommend starting with American Pie by Reinhart. The crust, for me, determines how much I like a pizza. I really like his Neopolitan crust recipe in this book, but tried all of them before choosing our favorite. It was a rather fun family project- voting on pizza dough. Most library systems should have this book since it was released quite a while ago.

                  As for toppings, just buy the best quality ingredients you can afford and find.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: smtucker

                    Banana's link above is a link to Peter Reinhart's pizza crust.

                    The recipe on the link says 'bread flour' or 'all-purpose' flour. Your post speaks to this very well when you say it was a fun family project - that's what we like to do everytime I make pizza -- was it better than this or that one, using this flour, and so on. Pizza is always good, but sometimes it's better.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      American Pie is my "goto" pizza book. Pre-heating the pizza stone in a 500-550 oven after you've achieved oven temperature for 60-90 minutes is a good idea.

                      Good luck.

                    2. Valentine, you might like this site - it is primo. Many people recommend it for beginners as well as well-seasoned pizza makers, who can always learn something more.

                      http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Rella

                        Thank you very much, Rella!

                        This site is more than awesome! This is the type of information that I am looking for. In my dreams, I would open my own pizzeria. Pizza is an amazing creation. I have never met a person that does not like well-made pizza. I am on a pizza making quest, and the information that you have provided is extremely helpful. THANK YOU!

                        1. re: Valentine529

                          www.pizzamaking.com

                          You cannot go wrong with this site. Some hard core pizza makers, reverse formulating of various types of doughs and pizza styles, with step by step experiments.
                          Extremely knowledgeable people!

                      2. Not sure if you're read this one

                        http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

                        This one about using the food processor is also really interesting.

                        http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...