What I won’t do here is what food writers often do, which is give you a margherita recipe, and then tell you that you can’t possibly make a decent pie because we don’t have the fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala, 800-degree clay ovens, yada yada, that they have in Campania, so why even try. Nonsense.
So, a variation on a classic fresh tomato-and-basil margherita pizza, with some strategic additions and substitutions of ingredients that you can get virtually anywhere in the U.S., and that you can easily make in a home oven.
Note that the topping ingredient details are approximations. It’s really up to you to decide how much or exactly what toppings you want to use, just don’t overload the crust with a very thick layer of toppings or you’ll lose the advantages of the high-heat quick roasting and you’ll get a soggy under-layer of ingredients.
Makes: 3 medium-sized pizzas; feeds 6-8 guests.
Time: 2.5-3.5 hours, much of it unattended.
- 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 tablespoons of yeast
- 1.5 tablespoons of Kosher salt
- 1 12 ounce bottle of lager beer, room temperature
- 1 cup of warm water
- 3 sticks of Margherita-brand or other spicy pepperoni, thin-sliced
- 1 12-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts
- 1.5 cups of finely-grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups of rough-chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 8 plum tomatoes, sliced
- .5 cup olive oil
- Mix all crust ingredients thoroughly, and scoop the fairly moist dough into a greased bowl for rising.
- Allow the crust to rise at least 1.5 hours, plus about an hour more if your schedule permits. The longer the dough rises, the easier it is to work, and the more complex the flavor.
- In a quart bowl, mix the chopped basil, oregano, and olive oil and set aside
- Place your baking stone into the cold oven, and then preheat the oven to 450°F. Allow sufficient time for the stone to heat completely; at least half an hour at 450°F.
- Remove the risen dough from the bowl onto a floured surface, and gently stretch the dough ball into a thick line of dough. Use a knife to divide the dough into three equal parts.
- Stretch the dough into thin circles, about 14 inches in diameter. I use a heavy rolling pin to do most of the work. I like a more rustic-looking pizza, so I don’t fuss to get a perfect circle. Sprinkle plenty of flour around to keep the dough from sticking.
- Transfer the dough circle to a bread peel, or a thin cookie sheet prepared with a scatter of corn meal to keep the dough from sticking. You can also use a sheet of baking parchment to keep the dough from sticking to your cookie sheet or peel.
- Using a large spoon, spread one third of the chopped basil mixture evenly across the dough. Putting the basil on the bottom layer keeps the leaves from burning, and preserves the fresh flavor.
- Scatter a third of the tomato slices and artichoke hearts across the surface, then place the pepperoni slices. Leaving the pepperoni on top of the other ingredients allows the roasted pepperoni to fuse with the roasted cheeses.
- Sprinkle .5 cup Pecorino Romano over the whole surface, plus a scattering of the shredded mozzarella. I don’t use much mozzarella because I prefer the sharper taste of the roasted Pecorino Romano. If you want a typical American slab-o-mozzarella pie, skip this whole thing and just go to Pizza Hut.
- Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and slide the pizza into the oven and onto the stone.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until the topping reaches your personal desired degree of doneness.
If you are not getting a sufficient roasting effect at 450°F, try flipping the oven from “bake” to “broil” for the last few minutes of the oven time. WATCH the pie very carefully with the oven door slightly open so you can see what’s going on, as just a few moments can make the difference between a wonderfully roasted pie and a scorched mess. Once you pull the first pie out, don’t forget to flip the oven back to “bake” for the next pie.