Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Margherita Pizza

Ah, pizza.... I don't typically consider "pizza" to be recipe territory; however, this particular pizza was (1) specifically requested and (2) lead me down a little road of history.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but when I hear something pronounced \mär-gə-ˈrē-tə\ I think of tequila, limes, and salt. Maybe that says something about me personally, but that's not what I'm here to discuss. I've had (and made) Margherita Pizza many times before without giving much thought to the name, but this time I was curious.

In the small amount of research I did, I re-discovered that pizza originated in Greece. The tomato sauce didn't happen until quite a bit later. In Italy, pizza was simply a flat bread (what we would consider to be just the crust) that the peasants ate. It was cheap and filling....the poor main's dream food. Sometime in the late 1800s, Queen Margherita of Italy discovered these flat breads as she toured her kingdom and fell in love with them. Although she was frowned upon for dining on peasant fare, she did as a queen would and ignored the masses. She invited Chef Rafaelle Esposito to the palace to create a pizza just for her. He came up with the tomato, mozzarella, and basil toppings to represent the flag colors of Italy, and thus the Margherita Pizza was born.

So, I learned something new and got to cook. I hope you enjoy my variation presented here. Being the lazy individual that I am, I prefer to buy pre-packaged pizza crusts; feel free to use your favorite recipe if you so desire. I added the red onion and olives as an option for two reasons: First and foremost, they are delicious, and secondly as an homage to the Greek origins of the pizza.

Margherita Pizza

2 8" pizza crusts, prepared
3 tbs light olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbs parsley, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, minced (or 1 tsp dry oregano leaves)
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/4 med red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c greek olives, pitted and coursely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper and salt

Preheat oven to 450F.

In a med sauce pan over med-high heat, heat 2 tablespoon oil. Sauté onion and parsley to golden; reduce heat to med and stir in garlic and oregano. Sauté for another minute.

Add tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pan (Important: Do not use pre-crushed tomatoes!). Stir in sugar and red pepper flakes. Boil, stirring, 15 minutes or until thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread half the sauce over each prepared crust. Divide basil, mozzarella, red onion (if desired), and olives (if desired) between the two pizzas. Sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt; drizzle with 1/2 tbs olive oil per pizza.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and slightly browning. Serves 4-6.


  1. Excellent history lesson! I'm glad I'm not the only person who enjoys dorky facts like that :]

    What brand of crust do you like?

  2. For a saucy pizza, I prefer Boboli Thin. It's sturdy enough to stand up to all the liquid, yet not so thick that it over-powers the toppings. When making less saucy pizzas such as pesto or hummus based, I prefer something like whole wheat pita or even flat bread (baked first so it has a nice crunch to it). I've even used leftover puri or naan from visits to Indian restaurants (rarely, though, since I have a hard time NOT eating it!). I've made pizza crust before, and frankly it's just not worth it. Although, I still need to experiment with making a quinoa and lentil crust....hmmm....

  3. i've always wondered where 'margherita' came from.... 'what is that? is it a place? a person? a kind? Now I know..... thanks to you!! i think there are a lot of peasant/flat bread stories of origination...... every organic indigenous group seems to have their own version of scooping, piling stuff on something bread'ish and flat.................

    I guess there's a pretty hardcore pizza dude in portland...... takes crust super serious and gets angry at crust ignorance...... speaks of balancing crisp, bubble, stretch and flake.......... sounds like a good reason to visit PNW.........

    damn. it's only 8:30 and I'm ready for pizza.......