My search for the best homemade margherita pizza (made in a standard oven with everyday ingredients) is over! You’ll want to make this margherita pizza recipe over and over again. Check out the margherita pizza video below!
The time has come! I’ve been teasing you on Instagram for weeks, and I sincerely apologize. I was busy eating this margherita pizza.
Ok, so let me be honest. I rarely ever, EVER tell you that a recipe is the best of anything. Let alone, put it in caps! Sure, I’ll say that something is delicious, but declaring such bold statements generally makes me extremely uncomfortable. I’m terrified that you will go home and make said best-ever-recipe and be disappointed. I would hate that.
But I’m feeling very good about this best margherita pizza recipe and I’m confident that you will love it.
I’m not an authority on pizza by any means, but I’ve definitely eaten my share of pizza, both excellent and not so great. The best margherita pizza that I’ve ever eaten in my entire life was in Naples, Italy a few years ago during our trip to the Amalfi Coast. We stood in line in a cobblestone street just off of Via Tribunali in the historic neighborhood (known for having the best pizza places in the entire world), and snagged a table at the famous Gino Sorbillo.
It’s always a good sign when you’re in Italy and a million other Italians are standing in line for the exact same pizza. No tourists, just Italians. It wasn’t fancy in the slightest. There was a disco light hanging from the ceiling, the cups were of the flimsy plastic variety, and I believe they only had three types of beverages: bottled water, one type of beer, and table wine.
Oh, but it was glorious. The pizzas cost only three euros and arrived flopping off of the plates. Literally, flopping. They were huge. I ate every last bite of that pizza and came back for another one the very next day.
So, when I say that today’s recipe is the best homemade margherita pizza, I’m taking all of these pizza-eating experiences into account. I’m not going to sit here and claim that this pizza tastes identical to a true Neapolitan pizza or that you’ll never taste a better pizza outside of your own kitchen again. That would be ludicrous (and slightly obnoxious) and just not true.
But I do believe that this is the best margherita pizza that you’ll be able to make in your own kitchen, with a standard oven, with normal everyday ingredients (no fancy flours required), and without preparing some incredibly time-intensive pizza dough days and days in advance.
First things first. Let’s talk equipment. A baking stone is a must for great pizza in a standard kitchen oven. I use this one and though its bulky and sometimes annoying, I store it in my oven 99% of the time so that it doesn’t take up valuable storage space (just be sure to remove it from your oven when you are baking or cooking other recipes!).
Pizza stones can be expensive, but I genuinely believe they are 100% worth the investment if you are interested in making pizza or bread at home. Baking stones absorb the heat from your oven and allow you to mimic brick-ovens, which generally reach temperatures in excess of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. They help you achieve crispy crusts by pulling moisture from whatever dough you are baking, including pizza crusts.
On that note, I also recommend a pizza peel, because it will make pizza-making so much easier. Wooden or metal, it will allow you to slide the pizza quickly onto the baking stone and make it much easier to remove the pizza from the oven once it is done. If you don’t own a pizza peel (or don’t want to own a pizza peel), you can use the back of a large baking sheet or flat cookie sheet to transfer the pizza onto the stone – but it is not as easy!
For the best homemade pizza, you will want to preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible.
For my oven, that is 550 degrees Fahrenheit. I allow my baking stone to preheat for at least 30 minutes (regardless of whether my oven is ready, as it takes some time for your baking stone to get to temperature). The higher the temperature the better. This recipe makes two 10-inch pizzas, and they should be able to properly cook in 7 to 8 minutes at that temperature.
[I have heard of some substitutes for pizza stones (such as using a cast-iron pan, which does work, or preheating a baking sheet), but I generally find that they involve a very, very hot piece of equipment (that you’re then transferring the pizza onto) and it involves a bit more hassle.
It is essential that your pizza dough is very thin when it goes into the oven. The edges can be slightly thicker, but you should be able to see some light through the dough (in the center), otherwise you won’t be able to achieve a thin, yet crisp pizza crust.
Ok, that was a lot of discussion about pizza stones. Let’s get to the toppings! I’ve experimented a lot with homemade pizzas over the years and have generally been disappointed in my early attempts at margherita pizzas for various reasons.
I have learned along the way that raw tomato sauces are the way to go. Pureed San Marzano canned tomatoes (highly recommend over standard canned tomatoes, especially when you are only using a handful of ingredients in a dish!), garlic (minced in my garlic press), a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Done. Whatever you do, avoid putting a thick layer of sauce on the pizza. It should be very thin.
Mozzarella! Buy fresh mozzarella, preferably not packed in water. Avoid the cheap stuff that you find in the refrigerated section of your grocery store alongside the milk and yogurt (and please don’t buy grated cheese, gahhh!). Go to the special cheese section and buy the good stuff. Instead of thinly slicing it and placing several large slices all over your pizza, I strongly recommend cutting the mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkling it evenly over the pizza. It helps distribute the cheese and moisture evenly.
If you are buying water-packed mozzarella, be sure to pat the cubed mozzarella dry with paper-towels before it goes onto your pizza. Otherwise, it can leach water during the cooking process, and result in a soggier crust.
Finishing touches! Fresh torn basil, a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and a little drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Whatever you do, don’t over-do it with the toppings. Minimalism is essential when it comes to a great pizza at home. Go forth and make pizza!!!
NOTE: If you want to save time (and be able to make this pizza on a weeknight, which is totally do-able!), this pizza dough can be prepared and frozen ahead of time. See the recipe notes for more details!
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