Our best margherita pizza recipe is based on our visits to Italy and years of research! It features tangy pizza sauce & a perfect chewy pizza crust.
After 4 visits to Italy and years and years of research, we present: our perfect margherita pizza recipe! After falling in love with artisan pizza on our honeymoon in Rome Italy, Alex and I have been perfecting our homemade artisan pizza. And there’s no pizza we love more than the margherita. It’s the ultimate combination: stretchy mozzarella cheese, tangy tomatoes, and peppery basil, all piled on a chewy charred crust. After a pizza research trip to Naples Italy, the birthplace of pizza, and interviewing a few nationally-renowned pizza experts on our podcast, Alex and I have gotten the inside scoop to making the best pizza in the world. So here you have it: our recipe to making the best margherita pizza on the planet.
What is margherita pizza?
Allegedly invented in the 1800s, pizza margherita showcases the colors of the Italian flag: red from the tomato sauce, white from the mozzarella, and green from the basil. What does margherita pizza mean? Widespread belief is that margherita pizza is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, an Italian queen in the 1800’s.
How to pronounce margherita pizza? It sounds essentially like margarita pizza (which incidentally is a common mis-spelling of this pizza). With an proper Italian accent, it sounds like pi-za mar-geh-ri-ta.
How to make margherita pizza at home
A key to making a high-quality pizza is to use the best ingredients possible. What does margherita pizza have on it? Traditionally mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and basil. Some experts will argue that a margherita pizza can also have a topping of Parmesan cheese, so we’ve added that as an option in the recipe below. Artisan pizza is an exercise in restraint: you’ll see that the toppings are minimal, but they all add up to big flavor.
Because there are so few toppings, it’s worth buying high quality canned tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. This recipe uses our best homemade pizza sauce, made of fire roasted canned tomatoes, a little garlic, some olive oil and salt. Fresh basil is also a must. To get the slightly crispy crust authentic Italian pizza is known for, you need to bake the pizza at a high temperature, preferably on a pizza stone. Here are the tools you’ll need to make truly great homemade margherita pizza:
- Pizza stone: A pizza stone is what makes margherita pizza crust crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Here’s the pizza stone we recommend, and a bit more on pizza stone care.
- Pizza peel: A pizza peel is used to slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. We recommend this Standard pizza peel or this Conveyor pizza peel. The conveyor pizza peel is absolutely worth the extra investment since it makes it very easy to slide the pizza out of the oven.
- Pizza oven (optional): Now, a pizza oven is not necessary for making homemade margherita pizza. But if you want to step up your pizza game, traditional artisan pizza is cooked at temperatures way hotter than your standard oven can achieve. We’ve found a relatively inexpensive pizza oven that heats to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes! Here’s the Ooni pizza oven that we use and more on why we think it’s the best pizza oven.
How to make pizza dough
To make a great margherita pizza, you’ve got to start with a good margherita pizza dough. Alex and I have been working on our recipe for over 10 years. In honing our dough recipe, we’ve learned a few things from some of the premiere pizza restaurant chefs in America, who themselves have studied the pizza in Naples! Our best tip for next level margherita pizza dough is to use great flour! The flour we use is called Tipo 00 flour; it’s what Neapolitan pizza restaurants use. It makes for a beautiful, supple and fluffy dough. We buy our Tipo 00 flour online.
We have several pizza dough recipes that you can make depending on your tastes and equipment. Our Best Pizza Dough is our preferred method; we make it using stand mixer, but you can also knead it by hand. Our Easy Thin Crust method is similar but makes a thinner dough that you roll out. Or, you can try our quick pizza dough made in a food processor. Below is a video of Alex showing how to make and stretch the margherita pizza dough:
The secrets to margherita pizza toppings
Margherita pizza toppings are deceptively simple: tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. But they require the best quality ingredients and a modest serving size: just enough but not too much! In over 10 years of experimenting, here are the secrets Alex and I have found to making the best margherita pizza:
- Tomatoes: How to find that perfect tomato flavor? We’ve created our best homemade pizza sauce: a simple combination of fire roasted canned tomatoes, a little garlic, some olive oil and salt. The type of tomato is very important here: we’ve used canned fire roasted tomatoes, which are becoming widely available. If not, go for any high quality tomato: look for the San Marzano variety if you can find it. You’ll use only a very, very thin layer of sauce.
- Cheese: Use fresh mozzarella cheese, and cut it into small pieces for overall coverage — see the photo below for the approximate size. Then add a light grating of Parmesan cheese to add extra complexity.
- Basil: Fresh basil is key. Add it after baking your pizza in the oven so that it will stay green (otherwise it turns black). However, if you’re using a pizza oven, you can cook the pizza with the basil on since the pizza only cooks for 1 minute.
It takes a little bit of special ingredients, but after some practice you’ll be making homemade margherita pizza in no time! Let us know in the comments below if you try our recipe.
Is margherita pizza healthy? We wouldn’t call it a health food. But because the toppings on artisan pizza are minimal and the crust is fairly thin, it’s healthier than other types of pizza: especially delivery pizza.
Looking for more homemade pizza recipes?
Outside of this margherita pizza recipe, here are a few more of our favorites:
- Yogurt Ranch Salad Pizza
- Umami Bomb Pita Pizza
- Pecan, Grape, and Onion Pizza
- Goat Cheese and Tomato Pita Pizza
- Very Veggie Vegan Pizza
- Loaded Mexican Pizza
Related: Want a quick pizza dough without yeast? Rye Pizza Dough Cracker Crust
Looking for more vegetarian Italian recipes?
Here are a few more of our favorite vegetarian Italian recipes:
- Simple Calzone Recipe
- Tomato & Grilled Eggplant Stacked Sandwich
- Creamy Pasta Marinara
- 5-Minute Gnocchi with Romesco Sauce
- Spaghetti with Vegetarian Meatballs
- KitchenAid Pizza Dough Recipe
- Related: 10 Romantic Dinner Recipes | Easy Dinner Recipes for Two
This recipe is…
This homemade margherita pizza recipe is vegetarian.Print
The most classic homemade pizza, this margherita pizza recipe features a tangy pizza sauce, gooey mozzarella, and a perfect chewy pizza crust.
For the pizza dough
- 1 ball Best Pizza Dough (or Food Processor Dough or Thin Crust Dough)
- Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting the pizza peel
For the pizza sauce
- 1 small garlic clove (1/2 medium)
- 15 ounces crushed fire roasted tomatoes or high quality organic canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the toppings
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup pizza sauce
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese or 2 to 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- A few fresh basil leaves
- Make the pizza dough: Follow the Best Pizza Dough recipe to prepare the dough. (This takes about 15 minutes to make and 45 minutes to rest.)
- Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500°F. OR preheat your pizza oven (here’s the pizza oven we use).
- Make the pizza sauce: Cut the garlic into a few rough pieces. Place the garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and kosher salt in a blender. Blend until fully combined. (You’ll use about 1/3 cup for the pizza; reserve the remaining sauce and refrigerate for up to 1 week.)
- Prepare the cheese: If using fresh mozzarella cheese, slice it into 1/4 inch thick pieces (see the photos of the pre-baked pizza above). If it’s incredibly watery fresh mozzarella (all brands vary), you may want to let it sit on a paper towel to remove moisture for about 15 minutes then dab the mozzarella with the paper towel to remove any additional moisture.
- Bake the pizza: When the oven is ready, dust a pizza peel with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use a rimless baking sheet or the back of a rimmed baking sheet. But a pizza peel is well worth the investment!) Stretch the dough into a circle; see this video for instructions. Then gently place the dough onto the pizza peel.
- Spread a thin layer of the pizza sauce over the dough, using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. Add the mozzarella cheese. Top with a thin layer of fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a few pinches of kosher salt.
- Use the pizza peel to carefully transfer the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake the pizza until the cheese and crust are nicely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes in the oven (or 1 minute in a pizza oven).
- Allow the pizza to cool for a minute or two before adding the basil on top (whole leaves, lightly torn, or thinly sliced). Slice into pieces and serve immediately.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: margherita pizza recipe, margarita pizza, Italian style pizza, artisan pizza, pizza recipes, homemade margarita pizza
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.