Traditional Pizza Margherita
Pizza alla Margherita

serves: Four 12-inch pizza doughs

If you want a really crispy, evenly baked crust, take the time to squeeze the tomatoes of excess liquid when you make the sauce and drain the mozzarella briefly in a sieve before you put the pizzas together.

Lidia's Pizza Dough
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
coarse cornmeal
1 cup Lidia's Neopolitan Pizza Sauce
½ pound fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated and drained in sieve
20 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips


For instructions on how to prepare Lidia's Pizza Dough and Neapolitan Pizza Sauce, follow those online recipes then follow the instructions below.

Prepare the pizza dough, dividing into four portions after the first rising.

When the dough has risen for the second time, place the oven rack in the lowest position, center a pizza stone over it, and preheat the oven to 475 degrees. (See below for notes on baking pizzas without a stone.)

Roll or stretch each of the dough balls out to a 12-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick with a slightly thicker border around the edge. Brush each circle lightly with some of the olive oil. Working with one crust at a time, sprinkle a pizza peel of flat baking sheet generously with the cornmeal. Place the circle of the dough on the cornmeal and spoon 1/4 cup of pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a thin border around the edge. (See Lidia's Neapolitan Pizza Sauce for instructions on how to make this sauce.) Scatter 1/4 of the mozzarella over the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the pizza lightly with salt and scatter some of the basil over it. Drizzle a little of the remaining olive oil over the cheese.

To bake the pizzas on a stone: Pull the oven rack out partially and slide the pizza onto the stone. The best way to do this is to bring the peel down to the stone and lift the peel until the pizza starts to slide. Once the crust makes contact with the stone, pull the peel quickly from the pizza. Make sure you center the peel and pizza over the stone so the pizza doesn't over-hang the stone when you remove the peel. Push the rack back in, close the oven and bake until the pizza is golden brown underneath and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Remove the pizza by nudging it onto the peel with a spatula or pair of tongs. Allow a few minutes for the stone to reheat before cooking another pizza on it.

To bake the pizzas without a pizza stone: Choose a heavy 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle-cast iron is ideal. Lightly oil the bottom of the skillet, place the dough circle in the skillet, and arrange the toppings over the dough as described above. Set the skillet directly on the floor of the oven and cook until the underside is evenly deep golden brown, about 6 minutes. (If you have two such skillets, you may bake two pizzas at a time.) The pizzas may be baked on cornmeal-sprinkled cookie sheets as well. Arrange one rack in the lowest position and one in the upper third of the oven before preheating the oven. Bake two pizzas at a time, rotating the sheets from side to side and shelf to shelf once during baking. Pizzas baked on sheets will take from 10 to 12 minutes.