Pizza Margherita

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The secret to a great Pizza Margherita is to use the best ingredients you can find—and to approach them with restraint. For this pizza, just because a little cheese is good doesn’t mean a lot will be better! The Pizza Margherita is is all about moderation. Start  with your all-time favorite pizza dough recipe making it a slightly wet dough The mositure of the dough baking on a hot pizza stone, produces a crisp yet chewy crust, the perfect canvas for bright homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and verdant basil leaves.

For a twist on the taste nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi paste was added to the fresh tomato sauce.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dough:
One  1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce:
5-6 whole fresh Pomodorini tomatoes*
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 Tablespoons nduja paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:
4-6 Fresh basil leaves
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Special Equipment:
A pizza stone

Directions:
Make the dough: Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. Note: If mixture doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl. The dough will be slightly wet.

Knead on a floured surface, lightly re-flouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make tomato sauce while dough rises: Pulse tomatoes  in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the nduja and stir until the nduja melts into the oil. Add tomato purée, basil, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seaonsing with salt and  set aside to cool.

Heat pizza stone while dough rises: At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put stone on oven rack in lower third of electric oven (or on floor of gas oven) and preheat oven to 500°F.

Shape dough: Do not punch the dough down. Dust dough with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14-inch round, re-flouring fingers if necessary.

Assemble pizza:Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border (there may be some sauce left over). Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.

Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone. Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is golden and bubbling in spots, 13 to 16 minutes. Using peel or baking sheet, transfer pizza to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some basil leaves before slicing.

Cook’s Notes:
Dough can be allowed to rise slowly in the refrigerator (instead of in a warm place) for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before shaping.

*If fresh Pormdorini tomatoes are not available in your local area, you can use any type of fresh tomatoes or you use one 14-ounce can of Pomodorini, San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes in their juices. Add the entire can of tomatoes with their juices and pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Tomato sauce can be made 5 days ahead and chilled.

Nduja paste is available at your local Whole Foods Markets. If nduja is not available, finely chopped pepperoni can be substituted in the sauce.

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