If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be, without a doubt, pizza. I love pizza! I love thin crust pizza. I love deep dish pizza. I love Chicago style pizza. I love New York style pizza. I love just cheese pizza. I love veggie pizza. I love meat lover’s pizza. I love pizza rolls and pizza mac and cheese. I love it all!
I think what I enjoy the most about pizza is the vast variety that you can get out of the same basic combination—crust, sauce, toppings. That makes pizza totally adaptable to your mood, the weather and what you have kicking around in the kitchen. I think it’s so cool that pizza can be both a junk food and a health food (depending on how it’s made). I love that there are pizzas out there for omnivores, vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free people…pretty much everyone! And I’m amazed at how you can make a winter-inspired pie with roasted potatoes, cream sauce and gorgonzola cheese and it is somehow considered the same dish as a summer-inspired slice packed with nothing but fresh herbs, tomatoes and mozzarella.
Margherita pizza is one of those combinations that sounds too simple to be good. The basic combination of tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella shouldn’t be this flavorful, but it is. Margherita pizza is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) pizza combinations around and it’s stuck around for so long for good reason—it’s crazy easy and crazy good.
My version of the Margherita strays a bit from the traditional. A classic Margherita would be lighter on the sauce, heavier on the cheese and probably have a thinner (and definitely white floury-er) crust. I’ve had my fair share of the classic version (one of my favorite pies being from a restaurant in Philly a few years back), but I was craving a more hearty pizza experience this time around. So I went with a thicker, whole grain crust and topped it with my chunky homemade Margherita tomato sauce made from our homegrown tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of Margherita pizza.
Speaking of fresh herbs, I’m going to be absolutely crushed when it’s time to retire our herb plants for the winter. I’ve gotten so much use out of them this summer! I’ve, obviously, used fresh herbs before, but I think this summer has really been the first time I’ve been using them without the fear of killing the plants or the fear of paying $3 for a tiny packet at the grocery store. We have pots and plots bursting with so many fresh herbs that we could never get through them all in a season (we already have some drying). I almost feel like its my duty to try and use up as much as I can before the first frost of the season. And man, I’m doing my darndest.
If you don’t have a ton of fresh herbs and tomatoes kicking around, fear not! This sauce would work well with canned whole tomatoes (look for the best tasting brands in the Italian food aisle in your grocery store) and a hefty dose of dried Italian herbs. Or, you could just come over here and I can give you an armful of basil. Whichever.
Hearty Margherita Pizza
The superstar of this heartier take on the Italian food classic is the simple homemade herbed tomato sauce. If you can’t get your hands on fresh homegrown tomatoes, skip over to the international foods aisle and pick up a can of whole Roma tomatoes.
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, divided
- 4 large roma tomatoes, chopped
For the Pizza
- 1 batch prepared whole grain pizza dough
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- To prepare the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add in all remaining sauce ingredients, bring a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes have lost their shape and it begins to resemble a chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- To prepare pizza, preheat oven to 475°. Spread the crust into a lightly-greased pizza pan and parbake for 10 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown.
- Remove from oven, spread on tomato sauce, layer on the cheese slices and half the basil ribbons, then drizzle with the olive.
- Continue baking in oven for an addition 10 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and melty. During the last 2-3 minutes of baking, slide the pizza off the pan and directly onto the oven rack for a crispier crust, if desired. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining basil ribbons and season with salt and pepper.