Yield: one 12-inch pizza
This is your classic Neapolitan Margherita pizza…so simply, but when the flavors are balanced correctly, it is truly your perfect pizza. This is the time to break out all the big guns: good homemade dough, homemade pizza sauce with San Marzano tomatoes, and the best-quality fresh mozzarella you can find. True Margherita pizza with made with buffalo mozzarella, which is so rich, flavorful and creamy, you will wonder what the heck that fresh mozzarella you find in the little vacuum-packed balls are made from. It’s worth the splurge for this simple pizza, where the quality of the ingredients will really shine.
One ball of Neapolitan-style pizza dough, store-bought or your favorite homemade recipe
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1/2 ball of mozzarella di bufala or high-quality fresh mozzarella (about 3.5 to 4 ounces), cut into small pieces
5 to 7 basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle
Preheat your oven to its highest heat setting (usually 500 to 550°). Place a baking stone or steel in the middle of your oven and let preheat for at least 1 hour.
Lightly flour your work surface and hands. Gently pat down the ball of dough into a circle, rotating as you work. Using the tips of your fingers, gently push down around the edge of the round, rotating as you go, to create the edge. You can use the heel of your palm to gently stretch the dough out into a circle also. Pick up the dough and lightly pass it back and forth between your palms, trying to rotate as you go to form the round. When you have a round of dough approximately 12 to 13 inches in diameter, transfer to a large piece of parchment or a pizza peel. Optionally, you can sprinkle a little semolina flour on your parchment or peel to provide a little crunch to the bottom and ensure your pizza releases. When your baking apparatus has preheated for at least 1 hour, prepare to bake your pizza.
Place 1/4 cup of pizza sauce in the center of your dough and use the back of a spoon to spread around the pizza, leaving a 1-inch edge free of sauce. Place the mozzarella around the pizza dough; it should not cover the entire pizza so don’t try it. Place the dough on your baking stone or steel and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough is lightly golden and browned in spots, and the cheese is melted, but has not spread to form one layer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute. Place the basil around the pizza. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt to finish.