Pizza Margherita

Mitchell Davis

James Beard Foundation, NYC

"This is the classic pizza topping from Naples, arguably the home of the best pizza on earth." –Mitchell Davis


  • 2 teaspoons semolina or cornmeal
  • 1/2 batch Quick Pizza Dough 
  • 5 or 6 small, very ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks, or 5 or 6 canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with juice
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves


Place a rack in the top portion of the oven, as high as it will go, and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Sprinkle the semolina or cornmeal evenly over the bottom of a round, aluminum pizza pan, cookie sheet, or half-sheet pan (or two pans if baking smaller pies).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Flatten it into one or two disks and let the dough sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes to take the chill off. Pick each disk up in your hands to stretch it into a sort of Frisbee. My technique is to hold it so the disk is perpendicular to the work surface and stretch it gently between my fingers and thumb as I turn it like a steering wheel. Gravity will help it to stretch. Tug gently on any part that seems thicker than the others. (Although it is disheartening to make any holes in the dough, they don't really affect the finished pizza.) When the dough is about 12 inches round for large pies or 8 inches round for small pies, lay it out on the prepared pan and finish stretching it on the pan, pulling at opposite sides until it is around 14 (or 10) inches in diameter. Use your fingertips to push the dough to the edges of the pan. Sometimes it helps to stick the dough to the side of he pan while you stretch the other side. (Note: I know some people who swear that a rolling pin is the best way to make a pizza crust. It works well enough, but it doesn't give you the same sense of pride or tactile sensation that making a hand-stretched dough does.) If making smaller pies, repeat with the second disk of dough.

Scatter the fresh tomatoes over the crust or squeeze the canned tomatoes between your fingers onto the crust. Arrange the slices of mozzarella evenly on top of the pizza and sprinkle with the Parmigiano. Drizzle the olive oil over the pizza and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is crisp. When you take the pizza out of the over, scatter the basil on top and serve.


One 14-inch pizza or two 10-inch pies