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Making classic margherita pizza.

Posted by Suzanne on 18 Mar 2016



"Pizza dough is easy to make; it simply needs a little time to rise"

(David Herbert)

When I see the pizza dough rise well, doubling in size, I feel quietly pleased. Using a favourite pizza base recipe from English cook David Herbert’s fabulous book “Complete Perfect Recipes”, (Penguin Australia 2007), along with a couple of  hints from other pizza makers I enjoy making pizzas from scratch.


The 'legend' of the margherita pizza

Last night I kneaded the dough to make the classic margherita pizza. It is often just topped with the simplest ingredients: tomato salsa, mozzarella, and sprigs of fresh basil. 

And, the story of this much loved pizza involving: Naples, a queen, a newly unified Italy and a famous Neapolitan pizza maker is well known or, is it?

All of this is covered in a fun article by BBC Food and the writer discovers some culinary intrigue; it tells a fascinating story about one of Italy's simplest foods.


A couple of tips from some pizza makers

As I made the pizza dough yesterday evening, I recalled, once again, the hints that a couple of pizza makers have given me: use only just tepid water so as not to kill the yeast and no need to add any olive oil to the dough.

I haven’t added the olive oil for a while now (I used to and David Herbert does) and I always double check that the water is really tepid. 


David Herbert's recipe and method

David Herbert’s recipe and method follows (I was unable to find a link on his website for the pizza base I use from his “Complete Perfect Recipes” but he does have a quick pizza base recipe which also looks good and easy).



1x 7g (1/4oz) dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 ½ cups bread flour


2 tablespoons olive oil (I leave this out)



Dissolve yeast and water in a small bowl with 200ml (6 ½ fl oz) of tepid water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes, or until the mixture froths.

Place flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Make a well and add the yeast mixture. Here he adds the olive oil. (I don’t add it) Mix until a firm dough forms.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5- 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Place in a clean lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place (sometimes I place it outside in the warmth of the sun or on top of the stove) for 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 210c (415F) (do this early on so the oven is very hot)

Work the dough a little more. David Herbert recommends punching down the dough to release air.

Divide into 2 or 3 portions and roll out or press. David Herbert suggests 5mm (1/4 inch)

Place on to lightly oiled pizza tray. (I use lightly floured trays).

Top with your choice of toppings and cook for 15 minutes.

Makes three 23cm or two 30 cm pizza bases.


The tomato salsa

For the tomato salsa I used a 400 g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt to taste and then let it simmer and reduce a bit for about 15 minutes. This does two 30 cm bases.

For the classic margherita just add the pieces of sliced mozzarella. About 300g of mozzarella made two 30 cm pizzas. Add the basil once the pizza is out of the oven.

I have always added fresh tomatoes to my margherita; the first pizza last night was a classic margherita and the second was dotted with cut cherry tomatoes.

The classic made a simple, tasty  dinner; the base was light, soft to bite with a slightly chewy crust. 






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