homemade pizza basics: simple margherita & pesto

pizza is a journey.

i've made a lot of homemade pizzas in my day, and i'm still trying to master my ideal recipes. homemade thin crust being my next endeavor...

but here are some 'zaws that are best because of their simplicity.

my friend whitney & i took a neapolitan pizza class from some real live neapolitans when we were in new york city, and i definitely have been following their advice on simpler toppings for homemade pizzas since then. if only i had a super hot woodfire oven and i could perfect that dough...

although i did just see some sort of goofy newfangled outdoor "pizza oven" at the hot tub store for $250. and the wheels were a'turning.

i mean there's really nothing to this. and yet so so simple and so great.

shoutout hot mama's pizza in the capitol hill neighborhood of seattle, who's incredible pesto pizza i aspire to recreate.

oh the imperfection of homemade pizza. so practically perfect in every way.

Homemade Pizza Basics: Margherita & Pesto

Total Active Time: 1 hour (2 hours inactive rising time)

Makes (2) 12" pizzas



Thick Pizza Dough - (Recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats go-to pizza dough!)

  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. (one packet) active yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Simple Margherita

  • 14 oz. San Marzano peeled tomatoes (1/2 a large can - specifically these tomatoes!)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (this ratio of the San Marzano tomatoes to salt is ideal - you will have leftover tomato sauce)
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin rounds
  • a few fresh basil leaves

Simple Pesto

Instructions -

Combine warm water, yeast packet, honey & olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Whisk and set aside until slightly bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add half of the flour and the salt, stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add a bit more flour and mix the dough with your hands.  Lightly flour a large surface. Add the remainder of the flour into the dough and form into a ball, kneading it on the floured surface until the dough is plump and not sticky. Just add a TB of flour at a time if the dough is too sticky. 

Place the dough in a large bowl, greased with 1-2 TB of olive oil. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise for about 1.5-2 hours in a warm place.

Prepare your pesto as instructed. For the margherita pizza, either pulse the tomatoes and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Gently slice the mozzarella cheese. 

Once the dough has about doubled in size, knead the dough on a floured surface with your hands. Divide the dough into two equal halves. 

If baking on a baking sheet, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  If baking on a pizza stone, preheat oven to 475 degrees F and bake the stone about 10 minutes to heat it up.

I generally like to roll the dough out on a piece of parchment paper, where I build the pizza if I am baking the pizza on a baking sheet. These pizzas were baked on a pizza stone, in which case sprinkle the pizza stone with some cornmeal and carefully place the rolled out pizza dough onto the pizza stone and add the toppings there. 

Prepare one pizza for baking at a time. Lightly brush the rolled out dough with a little olive oil. Spread about 1/2 cup of prepared tomato sauce or prepared pesto all over the dough - about 1/2 an inch from the edge. Top with 4-6 slices of fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves.

On a baking sheet - Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes

On a pizza stone - Bake at 475 degrees F for 12-15 minutes 

until cheese is browned to your liking and crust is golden!

Slice while the cheese is still hot, and serve immediately.