As summer gives way to school buses, you might find yourself with an embarrassment of riches: a whole lot of gorgeous tomatoes and basil. If so, I’ve got a solution. Our favorite local naturally grown farms were bringing in crates of tomatoes and selling basil by the bag. We still have pesto in the freezer, so I decided to branch out to pizza application of both basil and tomato.
Specifically, I decided on Margherita pizza, which according to legend, was prepared for Queen Margherita in 1889 who enjoyed pizza despite its peasant food status. Unlike the American tradition of saucy pies, the pizza created for the queen had mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes to represent the colors of the Italian flag.
As usual, I had to add my own touches to the recipe, but this improvisation fits right into the history of pizza which seems to have begun with flat bread eaten by the ancient Greeks or Romans and had neither cheese nor tomatoes. Those early breads were flavored with oils, nuts, herbs, and fruits and sometimes small fishes. I am thinking of trying such a version some day (without the fishes–sorry Wayne). For now, however, I give you the Margherita Pizza.
Makes one pizza, enough for two hungry people or for those with more modest appetites, dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Homemade half-whole wheat pizza dough ball (or good quality pre-made dough ball)
- About 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded (or best quality you can find). I used mozzarella cheese curds with basil and garlic, because that’s what our local cheese farmer had left and it was amazing.
- A bunch of basil leaves
- Two large fresh tomatoes, your favorite slicing variety, sliced into medium-thick slabs
- EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- salt & pepper to taste
- optional: Parmesan cheese shreds, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes
- Stretch out the dough onto your pizza sheet.
- Paint a thin layer of olive oil over the entire dough surface, including the crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Artfully distribute the cheese.
- Cover the entire surface with basil leaves. They will shrink so don’t hold back.
- Next add the tomato slices.
- If desired, add parm, oregano, crushed red pepper and additional salt and pepper to the top.
- Bake for 14 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is nicely browned.
- Allow pizza to rest for two minutes before cutting so that the cheese has a chance to set up and remain on your pizza instead of transferring to your pizza cutter.