If you’re looking for a classic Neapolitan inspired pizza then this Margherita Pizza Recipe is calling for you! Made with a small handful of simple ingredients, learn the key elements to making this beloved pizza with a perfectly chewy crust.
Every Friday we fire up our outdoor pizza oven and make all kinds of pizzas. And for years, the one pizza we come back to every time is the classic Margherita Pizza Recipe. This pizza is meant to be cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven but can easily be modified for your indoor kitchen oven too. The reason is the texture of the pizza dough. It’s only really attainable by using high heat and a low moisture dough. If you are just getting started on pizza research, check out our complete guide on how to grill pizza.
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Margherita Pizza Recipe Highlights
- The ingredients are simply prepared including a no cook pizza sauce.
- The dough is the secret ingredient to a good Margherita or Neapolitan inspired style pizza.
- For the perfect classic texture, the pizza stone needs to be at 700 degrees F (370 degrees C).
- It’s best to cook in a table top pizza oven, but you can modify in your oven at 550 degrees F.
When referring to a Neapolitan style pizza, it’s important to note that Neapolitan Pizzas originated in Naples, Italy and have very distinct rules for being called that. The organization Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana manages and sets the certification for someone making a certified Neapolitan Pizza around the world. It is important to note because it’s a very specific criteria of dough size, ingredients, cook time, and even the style of cheese that makes it authentic.
This Margherita pizza recipe is inspired by the style of Neapolitan Pizza.
What is Margherita Pizza
The classic style of pizza from Naples, is a 10 to 12-inch round pizza with a crust that is both crispy and chewy. It has a distinct crust that is slightly risen than the base with leopard spots on the crust and base from the high heat.
The chewy texture comes from the air bubbles caused from fermentation and cooking at a high heat.
The flavors are meant to be a simple combination of fresh tomato sauce (ideally using San Marzano canned tomatoes), fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil.
Traditionally these are cooked in hot pizza ovens with a stone base that gets to 700 degrees so that the dough can rapidly cook, and with a flame cascading over the dome of the pizza oven that simultaneously melts the cheese.
For the best flavor, use the freshest ingredients you can find. Here is what is on a Margherita pizza:
- A good pizza dough with a 66% hydration level (that’s water ratio to flour)*.
- Fresh and simple tomato based pizza sauce. A classic sauce is simply tomatoes and salt. We use a pizza sauce made in the blender and ready to go. You can use a canned or jarred sauce if easier. The secret to a good pizza sauce is less liquid. It should be thick.
- Mozzarella cheese, ideally in liquid, lightly pressed of the excess water. You can use the small balls, or break up the larger logs or balls into smaller pieces. If you use low moisture shredded mozzarella it will burn as you cook it at high heat. So we strongly suggest fresh mozzarella packed in water (unless you’re adapting this to the kitchen oven at a lower temperature).
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh Basil
The goal is not to have too much moisture from the ingredients otherwise as the pizza is cooking, it will steam and not cook through.
* Most store bought doughs are made with around 70% hydration level, which is fine, it just means you may have to cook it longer in the oven or pay attention to how fast it cooks in an outdoor pizza oven.
A few key tools are very important when making any pizza, here are some of them. For a complete list check out our complete guide for pizza tools.
- Good Pizza Stone – If you are using your kitchen oven (and not a dedicated pizza oven), you need this to retain that thermal heat for the crust texture. 13 inches is a good size for the average kitchen oven. Be sure to measure your oven before buying so it will fit with the door closed.
- Wooden Pizza Peel – Wood is superiors to metal because it stays cool. A warm pizza peel makes it more difficult for the pizza to slide off.
- Good IR Thermometer – You need to know the temperature of the stone and this is the only tool that will do it.
Optional – A turning pizza peel is a great addition as it’s smaller and easier to turn the pizzas in a dedicated pizza oven. We strongly recommend it.
Make sure the dough is at room temperature so it is easy to work with. Also be sure your pizza stone is at the desired temperature based on how you are cooking it.
Outdoor Pizza Oven – See below if using your kitchen oven and a pizza stone.
- Pre-warm the pizza oven so the pizza stone is 700 degrees Fahrenheit measured using a good instant read IR thermometer.
- Lightly flour a wooden pizza peel. (Metal pizza peels can be too warm and make it difficult to slide off onto the stone)
- Place the dough ball on the center of the pizza peel. With your fingers, gently press the dough in the center and slowly press and work your way outward to stretch the dough into a 10 or 11-inch width. Use your fingers to then pinch around the edge so you have a slightly larger edge than the center. We do not recommend using a rolling pin as that will cause the air pockets that make great texture from forming.
- Gently slap the center of the dough, this removes excess bubbles. DO NOT USE A FORK to press out bubbles on this style of pizza.
- Lift the edges of the dough and dust with more flour so it’s easy to slide on the peel.
- Add the ingredients and prepare to cook.
How to Make Margherita Pizza
We recommend this method for any pizza oven in the style of Roccbox, Ooni, or the Gozney Dome.
Total cooking time (excluding preheat): less than 90 seconds
- With the dough rolled out and still on the pizza peel, add the tomato sauce with a large spoon. You want a light coating. See recipe card for details.
- Add the mozzarella cheese and then the fresh basil.
- Place the pizza in the pizza oven with the stone at 700 degrees. Using a small pizza peel, slowly rotate the pizza every 10 – 15 seconds to allow for an even cook. After the pizza has rotated fully, the edges should have raised, and the cheese should be slightly bubbling. You can lift the pizza and see if the bottom of the crust has the right leopard style spots.
- Remove the pizza, and then top with a light amount of olive oil and then some finishing salt. Slice and serve.
Modification for Indoor Oven
If you do not have a pizza oven that can get a stone to 700 degrees, the next best option is to use your oven and a pizza stone. This method is inspired by Ken Forkish, a legend in wood fired pizzas.
Total cooking time (excluding the preheat): 8 minutes
- Position your pizza stone to the third slot from the broiler (6-8 inches from the broiler). Preheat your oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- Then put the broiler on high for 10 minutes. This adds more heat to get the pizza stone to 600 degrees F. You don’t want the stone on the top slot as the amount of heat may crack the stone.
- After 10 minutes, turn off broil and adjust the heat back to 550 degrees F and then place the pizza directly on the stone. Cook for two minutes, and then rotate the pizza 180 degrees using a turning pizza peel or tongs.
- Let cook an additional 4 minutes and then turn the broiler on high. Cook an additional 2 minutes under broiler or until you see the mozzarella melted and the base of the dough cooked.
- Remove, add finishing salt and then serve.
Dough – The first thing we will stress for the classic style of Margherita is to use a lower moisture level dough. It’s easy to make a homemade dough and you can control the moisture level. A store bought dough is typically made for a NY style pizza. If using a store bought dough, then plan to extend the cooking time or consider an alternative NY style pizza.
Stone Temperature – For this pizza, the stone needs to be hot. Follow our modification for using an oven if you don’t have a backyard pizza oven. If you have a grill, we recommend a NY style pizza using our grilled pizza method or our pellet grill pizza method.
Pizza too Wet – It starts with a low hydration dough, if the dough is low hydration, then be sure the mozzarella is pressed of excess moisture and the sauce is thick and not watery.