Homemade pizza … you can make it exactly how you like it, then eat it piping hot with stringy-cheesed goodness. But isn’t the best part of pizza eating cold leftovers the next day for breakfast and lunch? The inspiration for this one is the classic Margherita Pizza; I call my riff on it Pizza with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil.
Basil’s on my mind these days, as this is the time of year to enjoy it fresh from local growers. I wish I could say I have a garden patch of it, but alas I don’t, and I used up the big pot on the balcony to make pesto before my last getaway. Regardless, I’m happy to buy fresh basil at my favourite market. I’m making a lot of basil-inspired dishes right now (potato salad, anyone?), so it’s not surprising that when I decided to make a pizza for dinner recently I thought about the classic Margherita version, with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
I used a normal batch of dough but turned it into two thin-crust pies roughly 10 x 15 inches in size with the edges turned over. It took me about 30 minutes to simmer fresh tomatoes and some basil (of course) down into a thick sauce. There are also two kinds of mozzarella on these pizzas: a few ounces of leftover “regular” mozzarella that I shredded, and slices of creamy buffalo mozzarella. There’s lots of fresh basil on there, and then a good shower of freshly grated parmesan. If I do anything differently next time, it would be to scatter some more fresh basil over the pies as soon as they come out of the oven, to showcase it even more.
Lots of Options for Crust
Making homemade pizza is fairly easy, and while it’s rising you can use the time for other things. But I know a lot of people are daunted by the idea of making their own dough; luckily there are alternatives. You can purchase fresh dough at some stores, or use pitas or wraps for the crust. I might even try my hand at a cauliflower crust one of these days — that’s me, always a year or two behind the trends.
Usually I make pizza dough using the stand mixer to do the kneading. There’s something wonderfully meditative about kneading, but with a repetitive strain injury in both wrists and a bad break in one that acts up sometimes, I’ve had to adapt how I go about some tasks in the kitchen. Occasionally I get my hands in there, but generally I let the machine do the heavy work for me. And, I still get to enjoy the heady aroma of yeast blooming and magically inflating a dough. (I’m not sharing a dough recipe here, because I still don’t have mine “just so” — don’t worry, when I’ve got the recipe perfected you’ll hear about it!)
Speaking of aromas, what’s better than a tomato, cheese and herb pie fragrancing the kitchen? It’s enough to have you standing next to the oven, just waiting for the timer to go off so you can cut that first slice, catch that long, stretchy string of mozzarella and enjoy your first (ooh, hot!) bite. There’s a reason pizza with tomato, mozzarella and basil is a much-loved classic: it’s simple, and in that simplicity lies utter deliciousness.
Pizza with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil
© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life 2017
This recipe assumes you’ll be using the pizza crust of your choice: homemade or purchased dough, or pitas, wraps. You can roll out or otherwise prepare the base while the tomato sauce is simmering. As for the shredded mozzarella, I was using up a leftover hunk of cheese and didn’t think to weigh it; I estimate I used about 3 ounces but really you can use as much as you like. If I were making a thick crust pizza, I’d probably use the same amount of toppings as for these two thin-crust pies to counterbalance the extra crust.
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
- 1 tbsp or so extra virgin olive oil
- 4 very large Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on a fine rasp
- a good grating of freshly ground pepper, to your taste
- pinch salt
- several large basil leaves, torn
- about 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- about 12 large basil leaves, torn
- 125 g ball buffalo mozzarella, slice about 1/4-inch thick
- fresh parmesan for grating
- optional: drizzle of olive oil and some to brush on the crust
Start by making a fresh tomato sauce. Add the oil, chopped tomatoes, garlic, pepper, salt and basil to a small skillet and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a somewhat lively simmer and put a splatter screen on top of the top to keep your stove and its surroundings from being tomato speckled. Stir occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Taste somewhere along the way to check the level of seasonings; adjust if you like. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the juices have reduced and the sauce looks thick enough for pizza. It will be somewhat chunky, which works for me.
Prepare the pizza bases and ready them on baking sheets. If rolling out dough, scatter some flour and/or cornmeal on the trays before putting the dough down to help prevent sticking.
Divide the sauce among your pizza bases. On a single 10 x 15-inch pizza, this will be a generous amount of sauce. If you’re making two thin-crust pizzas, there’ll be a thin smear of sauce on each. That’s okay; there’s no need to overload the toppings (unless you want to, and hey, it’s your pizza, not mine!).
Scatter the shredded mozzarella over the base, and then the torn basil. Place the slices of buffalo mozzarella somewhat strategically. I knew I’d be cutting my two pizzas into six big pieces each, and was able to put a nice amount of this extra creamy buffalo mozzarella on each. The final touch is a flurry of Parmesan grated over the pizzas — how much is up to you. If you like, you could drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the pizzas and even brush some onto the edges of the crust. I wish I had, as this particular dough turned out fairly pale.
Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is getting bubbly and brown. You’ll know when it’s ready!
In the Mood for More Pizza (Or Something Close)?
Here are two more pizzas for you, and a dish with a crust and cheese that isn’t a pizza, but in some ways something similar: Asparagus and Proscuitto Pizza, Red Pepper and Feta Pizza, and Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart.