I love making pizza – it’s a beautiful meal, and can be quick and easy. Oh sure, many pizza recipes call for parking the dough in the fridge for a day or two, but my (admittedly unorthodox) version uses a dozen ingredients (including salt, pepper, and all the pizza dough ingredients) and was on the table in less than an hour.
And is so, so good.
The first thing you have to remember is that even though bread dough typically does best when it’s allowed to rest and rise for an hour or more, there are no food police who will come cuff you for ignoring that part. The second thing is that using a few simple ingredients that are really, really good often yields better results than using a ton of fancy ingredients. So when you’re looking for tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil, go for the best specimens you can find.
And, without any further ado…
Elisa’s Margherita Pizza
- Bread dough to make one pizza crust (aka 1/2 of my basic bread dough recipe, or 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and enough flour to make a wet dough)
- 12 small garlic cloves, skin on (you can use larger ones, and adjust the numbers accordingly, but I had a ton of the teeny tiny ones that I hate to peel and I wanted something that cooked quickly)
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced (obviously you can use larger or smaller ones; I ended up with about a cup of tomatoes)
- 2 handfuls of fresh basil (about 2 tbsp chopped – and please don’t use dry basil here)
- 1 handful of fresh parsley (about 1 tbsp chopped… this is optional but I do like it)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, or several ounces of sliced mozzarella cheese (the sliced stuff won’t melt as well, though)
- small uncooked shrimp, sausage, or chicken pieces (optional and not traditional, but we often add them if we’re looking to have this as our main meal with salad instead of a side dish)
Please read the basic bread dough recipe first, as I’m just going to gloss over the technique here. While the yeast, sugar, and water for the pizza dough proof in a bowl, wrap the garlic cloves in tin foil and pop them in the toaster oven at 300 (use a toaster oven for this step so you can bake the crust in the oven at the same time). Check on them often; you want them to roast enough to mash well but the idea isn’t to burn them, and small cloves burn faster than large ones. Yes, I know that this is also not a traditional technique for roasting garlic, but it works well for this purpose!
I actually am finding myself making more use of my stand mixer with it’s dough hook for wetter doughs; I like to mix pizza dough with less flour than I would use making standard “smooth and elastic” dough, especially when I’m not going to let it rise for a long time. For this pizza, I’d say to add about a cup and a half of flour to the mixer and let it incorporate fully before adding any more; if the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, you don’t need to add any more. Obviously you can mix this by hand – I’d actually say to use a big spoon rather than your fingers, since I really do prefer to keep this sticky. Let your stand mixer mix this dough for 3-5 minutes on medium (but don’t let the dough creep out the top – if it starts to, push it down and turn down the mixer). Add a little olive oil to the bowl to coat the outside of the dough and set it aside, covered by a towel, in a warm place, to rest for 10 minutes.
Lay out your tomatoes on top of a paper towel on a plate and salt and pepper them. You don’t want to use too much – I use about a teaspoon of each – but this will be all the seasoning for the pizza, so don’t skip this step. Also, don’t skip the paper towel – it ensures that you don’t have too much liquid on the pizza. Set the tomatoes aside while you chop the herbs.
After the dough has rested for 10 minutes, stretch it out on a large cookie sheet to your desired thickness (I like a nice thick outer crust with a thin inside). Immediately bake it in a preheated oven at 450 for 7 minutes.
While the crust is cooking, remove the garlic from the toaster oven and unwrap the tin foil. Enjoy the gorgeous aroma before de-skinning the garlic (it peels very easily when it’s cooked this much, and sometimes you just need to poke it a little and the whole clove comes out). Mash it up a little bit in a bowl or on a plate before the crust comes out of the oven.
Remove the crust from the oven (it will only be slightly baked, but it will ensure that the middle gets completely cooked) and top it with the mashed garlic. You really want to make sure that every piece has some nice garlicky flavor, so spread it thinly throughout.
I usually lay out my tomatoes and then add basil and parsley and any meat I’m using before drizzling olive oil on the top and scattering mozzarella cheese on the top. I find that this way I don’t have puddles of olive oil or burned herbs, but your mileage may vary.
Pop the pizza back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese gets bubbly and starts to get golden brown on the edges. Enjoy with a large salad or as an appetizer.