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What Is a Margherita Pizza?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Margherita pizza is a special variety of pizza that originates in Naples, Italy. In Italy, this pizza is a protected food, meaning that it must be prepared in a certain way to bear the “pizza Margherita” label, and the Italian government actually certifies bakeries that produce it. This pizza is very simple, placing an emphasis on fresh, wholesome ingredients and high quality bread dough. It is also the basis for many pizzas served around the world; most people can probably obtain a version of it from a local pizza establishment, and cooks can also make it at home.

Neapolitan pizza is traditionally made with a dough that includes flour, salt, and yeast. The dough is mixed, kneaded, allowed to rise, and formed into rounds that are covered in toppings of the cook's choice and then baked in a high temperature oven. The high temperature causes the dough to become very crispy; some Italians like theirs almost burnt, and it sears the ingredients used to top the pizza. After only a few minutes, the pizza is cooked, ready for slicing, serving, and eating.

The traditional toppings on a Margherita pizza are fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and mozzarella. Typically, the tomatoes are sliced and scattered across the dough before finely chopped garlic and basil are sprinkled on, followed by rounds of thinly sliced cheese. The pizza is drizzled lightly with olive oil and sea salt just before baking, and when well made, it is crisp without any trace of greasiness.

Variations on this pizza have been made in Italy for hundreds of years, but it acquired a special significance in the 1880s, when it was named for Margherita of Savoy, the Queen Consort of Italy. The colors of the pizza mirror those of the Italian flag, inspiring a Neopolitan baker to give the food a patriotic name. Authentic versions can be found in Napoli today, as well as in many other parts of Italy.

Cooks who want to make this Italian treat at home should ideally have a bread oven that is capable of reaching very high temperatures. Otherwise, the cooking time of the pizza will be too long, affecting the flavor and texture of the finished product. Cooks should use fresh ingredients and go light on the olive oil; a delicate drizzle is all that's needed. Buffalo mozzarella is best as a topping, and it is the traditional Italian choice of cheese for this pizza.

There are some variations on this classic recipe. Margherita bianca is made without the tomatoes, while the addition of anchovies turns it into pizza alla Romana. Any other additional ingredients, however, mean that it's really no longer an official Margherita pizza.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1005063 — On Jun 11, 2021

To anyone reading this, true Margherita pizza is made with tomato sauce, olive oil, mozarella and fresh basil. You don't use garlic for Margherita nor do you use a cheese blend or any other cheese except mozzarella.

Best Margherita I have ever had was also in Naples, Italy.

As an Italian, it really upsets me when Canadians or American pizza companies don't know how to make Margherita nor do they carry fresh basil or offer the option for Margherita.

One time I ordered Margherita and the pizza shop sprinkled it with oregano! I was pissed! Talk about messing it all up!

By anon321178 — On Feb 21, 2013

Do not mix two different concepts like pizza Margherita and pizza Napoletana.

Pizza Napoletana (including three pizzas-Margherita, Margherita Extra and Marinara-only this one includes garlic) vs. pizza Margherita (no garlic, only basil, tomato, mozzarella, oil).

By donasmrs — On Feb 17, 2013

@googie98-- I'm sure that a baking stone makes a huge difference with pizza but isn't pizza also meant to be cooked in a stove fire oven?

I think only then does pizza get the scent of the wood and the outer edges of the dough become crispy whereas the inside remains soft.

By ZipLine — On Feb 17, 2013

@anamur-- You make a great point in your post. Margherita pizzas traditionally only have one or two toppings which are cheese and tomato slices. When other toppings are added, it's not really a margherita pizza anymore.

By serenesurface — On Feb 16, 2013

When I went to Naples, my Italian friends took me to a famous pizza restaurant there and said that I would get the best pizza there.

This restaurant made only one type of pizza, margherita pizza and there was only one topping available which was cheese. You could alternatively get extra cheese.

I have to say that this truly was the best pizza I had in my life. I can't even describe how good it was. It's absolutely true that fresh ingredients and the simplicity of it is what makes margherita pizza so good. The tomato sauce was extremely fresh and the cheese and dough were perfect.

I consequently tried making homemade margherita pizza and went to some of the best pizza places in New York. But none even come close to the margherita pizza I had in Naples, Italy.

By CellMania — On Oct 25, 2010

@calabama71: Margherita pizza is actually very simple to make. I usually make one a couple of times a month. We love to eat them while watching football games or a great movie. The ingredients are:

Sliced Roma tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove garlic (finely chopped), ½ tsp. salt, 1 store bought pizza crust (your choice), sliced mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves (cut into julienne strips), and ¼ cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese.

Combine the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Marinate for about 30 minutes. Brush the pizza dough crust with olive oil. Top the dough with sliced mozzarella cheese, then the tomatoes. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Bake in oven at 450 degrees on a pizza stone. You can use a pan but a stone works better. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and top with parmesan cheese and the fresh basil.

By calabama71 — On Oct 25, 2010

I would love to hear from someone that has made a Margherita Pizza. How exactly do you make it?

By googie98 — On Oct 25, 2010

@anon27875: I ordered my baking stone off of Amazon. I absolutely love it! I love baking with it. I always do my homemade pizzas on it. The baking stone absorbs the heat from the oven and then transfers it to the bread.

The moisture disperses through the crust which gives you the great, light-textured breads and pizza crusts. It gives the pizza that crunchy crust.

The one that I have is ½” x 14 ½” x 16 ½”.

By anon27875 — On Mar 07, 2009

Where can I buy or order a Baking Stone? I am from Florida in Boca Raton.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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