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pizza margherita

Grilled Pizza Margherita

"Less is more." Robert Browning, 1855

The classic pizza Margherita may be my all time fave, and I am not alone. It is so simply elegant, just dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and fresh green basil. Legend has it that it was first made by a local baker named Esposito in 1889 to commemorate the visit of Italy's Queen Margherita to Naples. He decorated it with the red, green, and white colors of the Italian flag. This one depends heavily on fresh basil and it just cannot be made properly with dried basil, so don't try. Before you start, I recommend you read my article The Science of Grilled Pizza (Pizza alla Griglia).

Makes. 1 (12") pizza

Preparation time. 30 minutes (not counting the time to make the dough)

Cooking time. 10 minutes


16 ounces Neapolitan style pizza dough

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 meaty tomatoes like Romas, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

4 to 6 large fresh basil leaves, stems cut off close to the leaf

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

2 pinches Morton's kosher salt

About the cheese. This pie is measurably better if you get fresh mozz, the kind sold at deli counters in water.

Optional. You can use tomato sauce if you can't find really fresh fully ripe tomatoes.


1) Make the dough one day in advance.

2) Preheat the grill until the sides and top are hot and the stone is about 600°F.

3) Pour the oil on the dough and with a brush, spread it to the edges. This helps seal the dough from the water in the fresh tomatoes. Lay the tomatoes on the oil, then the fresh whole basil leaves, then the cheese, then the salt. In the picture above I use tomato sauce rather than fresh tomatoes because it was winter. A good technique is to chiffonade the basil. This means that you gather the leaves and stack them neatly on top of each other. Then roll them like a cigar. Cut them in 18" slices making ribbons. Sprinkle the ribbons on before the cheese so the cheese will cover some of them and they won't cook as much. You'll then have a mix of well cooked and rare basil.

4) Bake until the bottom is dark golden and the cheese is runny and bubbling.

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