Since we had a quick math lesson yesterday, today it’s time for a quick history lesson. Picture it, Italy, 1889 (in my best Sophia from The Golden Girls voice), a baker named Raffaele Esposito is asked to make some pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy. At this time, pizza was mostly a way for peasants to use up food that would otherwise spoil, and thus eaten mainly by poor people. Esposito decided to make three different pizzas for Queen Margherita and she favored the one made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. Queen Margherita’s letter of thanks to Esposito was used to promote his restaurant, where the pizza was named “pizza Margherita.” Queen Margherita is rumored to have especially loved the pizza because the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil were reminiscent of the red, white, and green in the Italian flag.
Whether or not the flag had anything to do with it, it’s not hard to see how this became a popular pizza. What makes this pizza great is its simplicity. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to have an extra large with everything. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to enjoy a pizza that isn’t laden with toppings. Even though fresh basil is the only real topping here, this pizza is far from lacking in flavor.
- 1/2 recipe basic pizza dough, or 1 lb. your favorite pizza dough
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, minced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 1/2 C. (28 oz. can) whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/3 C. fresh basil leaves, torn
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
In a 10 inch skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and oregano and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet, crushing them as you add them to the skillet (a potato masher works great for this).
Bring to a boil and stir for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
Lightly oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan (or sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza stone).
Heat the oven to 450 degrees and place an oven rack as low as possible.
Roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible, about 1/8 of an inch thick, into a 14-16 inch round. Fold the edges slightly to create the crust.
Place the dough onto the prepared pan or pizza stone and let rest for 10 minutes.
Top the crust evenly with the sauce, then the basil, then the mozzarella.
Drizzle the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil evenly over the pizza.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden and mozzarella is bubbling.
Makes one 12 inch pizza.
Source: adapted from The Splendid Table