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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pizza Margherita and More!

Probably the most famous food that ever came to America from Italy is pizza. In various forms, pizza has a long history dating back to the 6th Century B.C. But the style of pizza we know today originated in Naples in 1889. It’s inventor, Raffaele Esposito, a famous pizza chef at the time, called the special style "Pizza Margherita” after Queen Margherita of Italy for whom it was first made. The story goes that Esposito made the pizza with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes in honor of the green, white, and red colors of the Italian flag.
Since then, the history of the pizza has been the cause for much debate. Some in China still claim erroneously that Marco Polo brought it back from his travels while purists in Italy believe there are only two true styles of pizza – “Marinara” and “Margherita.”
Pizza in Naples today is taken so seriously that there is a True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) which sets down very specific rules as to how a true Neapolitan pizza must be made.
But, while it is similar in style, the original “Pizza Margherita” was not quite the pizza we know today. It is healthier and fresher. Being that pizzas originated so long ago, there are endless variations of its recipe. And even the three essential ingredients (dough, tomatoes, and cheese) come in numerous tastes and styles. So, instead of being the unwholesome, fast-food lunch that most people consider it, pizza can be suited to anyone’s specific taste and diet. Here is one of my favorite recipes, but for more get your copy of the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at

Pizza Margherita
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. tomatoes, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
Enough dough to make a pizza pie about 12" around and roughly 1/8 – ¼ inches thick (most bread machines have a pizza dough setting).
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 fresh basil leaves cut into julienne strips
extra virgin olive oil

1. Let olive oil, tomatoes, and salt marinate in bowl while making the dough.
2. Flatten dough out with hands and lightly rub with some olive oil. Remember to flatten the dough evenly and thinly to ensure it will rise appropriately
3. Turn the edges of the dough up slightly and top with tomatoes and mozzarella, then sprinkle some olive oil on top.
4. Preheat oven to 450F and bake on pizza stone (clay stone) for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
5. Top pizza with basil leaves after removing it from the oven.
6. Allow pizza to cool, then cut into slices and enjoy.

Experience Italy Cooking School & Villa Stay in Umbria Sept 23- Oct 6th. Join me at the villa in the hills of Umbrai

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