the queen’s pizza: margherita

March 10, 2008


With the sun streaming in through the patio doors, my thoughts turned away from hearty stews and casseroles to lighter, more summery* dishes like pizza. My ideal pizza has a thin crispy base, topped with juicy mozzarella and as much tomato sauce as I can get away with.

For the tomato sauce, I’d planned on whizzing up a tin of tomatoes and then adding a little salt and pepper. Quick and easy it may be, but the end result is a little lumpy. After a quick flick through Jamie at Home, I stumbled upon a tomato sauce recipe that is infused with basil and garlic, pressed through a sieve and reduced to a smooth liquid. It really is a joy to spread and well worth the extra effort.

* By the time I’d eaten the pizza, the weather had turned and flurries of snowflakes were coming down. So much for spring!


Makes 2 medium pizzas

For the dough:
175ml water, tepid
1/2 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet of yeast
250g strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp sea salt, ground
1 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
400g tin of plum tomatoes
1 handful of basil leaves, torn

For the topping:
125g buffalo mozzarella, ripped into small pieces
1 handful of basil leaves, torn
extra virgin olive oil

Stir the sugar in the water. Sprinkle on the yeast and give it a quick stir. It will probably look really lumpy but this is okay. Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until the mixture goes frothy.

Sift the flour and salt onto your work surface. Make a well and pour in the olive oil and the yeast mixture. Don’t worry if the liquid overflows. Use a fork to mix the flour in gradually. With one hand, knead for about 10 minutes or until you’ve got a smooth dough. If it’s too sticky, using your other hand, keep sprinkling the work surface with flour until the dough comes away cleanly. Lightly flour your hands, shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The dough should double in size.

While the dough is rising, make the sauce. Heat a frying pan and add the olive oil. Lightly cook the garlic until it starts to brown. Add the tomatoes and basil. Press the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. When the sauce starts to bubble, remove it from the heat. Strain the sauce over a bowl and press through as much of the tomato as you can. You should be left with the seeds, garlic, basil and a small amount of pulp. Discard these and scrape the tomato from the underside of the sieve into the bowl. Reheat the sauce and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce thickens a little. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and put a baking tray in. With a hot surface, you’ll end up with a crisp base.

Lightly knead the dough to knock back and remove the air from the dough. Cut into 2 pieces. Lightly flour the work surface and a rolling pin, and then roll out each piece until it’s about 3 or 4 mm thick. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes.


Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place a pizza base on it. Spread about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the base. Scatter some mozzarella and basil leaves on top. Season and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.


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