When it comes to favorite foods, pizza is at the top of my list. It is also one of my favorite things to make at home. Seriously, homemade pizza is so easy, even if you make your own crust. Plus, it’s easy on the budget.
I get my love of pizza from Mom. She is a bigger pizza fiend than me. Frozen, homemade, or restaurant…the variety doesn't matter. Whenever we’re together, I know if I suggest getting pizza, she will agree almost before I finish speaking.
However, The Picky Eater was a different matter. He only liked certain pizzas from specific restaurants and was never one to experiment with something new. Frozen pizza could only be Red Baron supreme, and no matter how many times I tried, I could never get him to like homemade pizza. I think I was doomed from the beginning. The first time I made pizza for us, I goofed on the sauce by adding too much salt. From then on, it was a loosing battle.
I've shared my favorite pizza sauce recipe before, but this pizza came about because I had a large tomato from the farmer’s market that was getting ripe fast and I didn't want it to go to waste. So instead of using sauce, I went for a Margherita-style pizza with sliced tomatoes and basil. (The name comes from Queen Margherita of Italy, who was said to like this style of pizza best on a visit to Naples in 1889.) The flavors are clean and simple…perfect for summer.
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees, or just warm to the touch)
1 packet rapid rise yeast
2 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
12 to 14 fresh basil, thinly sliced and divided
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
To make the crust: Warm the bowl to your stand mixer by filling it with hot water and letting it set for about a minute. Pour the water out and dry.
Place the bowl onto the mixer stand. Add the warm water, and then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Next add 2 1/2 cups of flour, salt and olive oil. Mix with the dough hook for 2 minutes. If the dough is too dry (not coming together in a ball), add a few drops of water at a time until it clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. If it’s too wet (sticking to the bowl), add more all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.
Once the dough has come together, continue to knead with the dough-hook for 2 more minutes. (Or you can knead by hand if you wish.)
Smear the bottom of a large bowl with olive oil. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Place the dough into the greased bowl, turning it over to oil the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. (I place my dough in my oven that I preheated at 450 degrees for 1 minute, and then turned off.) When the dough has risen, punch it down and then shape into the pizza form on a well-greased baking sheet or on top of a piece of parchment paper.
To top the pizza: In a small dish, stir together the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, and then brush the mixture onto the pizza dough. (You may not need all of it. I just used the oil, which had picked up the garlic flavor. If you like a stronger garlic taste, make sure some of the minced garlic is spread on the crust.) Sprinkle half of the basil over the pizza, and then top with both cheeses. Lay the tomatoes on top of the cheese and sprinkle just a bit of salt over each slice.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. (I often remove my pizza from the pan directly onto the oven rack after 10 minutes of baking so the bottom crust gets nice and brown.) Take out of the oven and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Cut and serve.