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Homemade Margherita pizza

By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / July 1, 2009

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Makes 2 rounds or 1 large rectangle

Make the dough one day and bake it the next (refrigerate it and punch it down every 8 hours), or make one round and freeze the other piece of dough in an oiled plastic zipper bag. You can also freeze the rest of the sauce.

DOUGH

1 cup lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups flour, or more if needed
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
1. Have on hand 2 large baking sheets or 1 rectangular pan (11-by-16 inches).

2. Pour the water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes.

3. With a wooden spoon, stir in the olive oil, salt, and half the flour. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the remaining flour a little at a time until the mixture forms a soft dough.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Scrape the bowl clean. Add a few drops of oil and set aside.

5. Knead the dough, adding more flour until it is smooth and elastic (it is still quite soft). Transfer to the bowl and turn to coat it with oil on all sides.

6. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until doubled in bulk.

7. Punch down the dough, turn it onto a floured counter, and knead out the air. Leave the dough in one piece and shape into a rectangle. Or divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a round. Set aside while you make the sauce.

SAUCE

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained (save the liquid for making soups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1. Using kitchen shears, snip the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. In a skillet, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly.

3. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and red pepper, if you like.

ASSEMBLY

Cornmeal (for sprinkling, optional)
Olive oil (for the pan and sprinkling)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1. Set the oven at 500 degrees. Heat a pizza stone, if you have one, and dust the baking sheets with cornmeal. If not using a pizza stone, oil the sheets. If using one rectangular pan, oil it lightly. Slide an oven rack near the bottom of the oven (or closest to the heat source).

2. On a lightly floured board, roll the rounds to 12-inch circles or roll the large piece of dough into an 11-by-16-inch rectangle. Lift up the rounds and transfer each to a baking sheet. Lift up the rectangle and ease it into the rectangular pan.

3. Spread the tomato sauce to within 1 inch of the edge. Add mozzarella and a sprinkle of olive oil.

4. Either slide the pizzas off the sheets onto the stone or bake them on the sheets. Bake the rectangle in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the sides are firm to the touch and the cheese melts.

5. If not using a pizza stone to bake the rounds, for the last 3 minutes of baking, slide the pizzas off the sheets onto the bottom oven rack. Bake for 3 minutes or until the undersides are browned. (If baking a rectangle, leave it in the pan the entire time.)