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.