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How to Make A Pan Pizza Margherita

Turn a wet dough, simple tomato sauce, fresh basil & mozzarella into this grown-up square version of pan pizza.

Once upon a time, square pizza was a school lunch room staple. It had a flabby crust, not quite enough sauce and a blanket of cheese. But we loved it!

This pan pizza takes all of those good feelings with a lifetime of experience and a research trip to Italy. So, you end up with a tasty, crispy crust, just enough tomato sauce studded with basil leaves and fresh mozzarella.

Yes, square pizza has grown up, and we are so glad!

Italy’s Original Square Pizza

This recipe is built on my memories of the Forno Campo dei Fiori nearly 20 years ago. This is Roman street pizza and it is always square.

I had the chance to watch those famed pizza makers in action and learned two key elements of pizza making I still use.

The first lesson was the dough. It was a very wet dough and I watched it whip around the bowl of the mixer at a surprisingly high rate of speed. This produced a light and airy crust, the baker said.

Another baker showed me how to make the fresh tomato sauce: into a food processor, whole tomatoes, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Taste it, she offered. This sauce was pure tomato deliciousness.

One of the famous pizzas they make is just dough and sauce called pizza rosso. And of course, the others have melted mozzarella cheese with other toppings.

As I’ve been making this pizza dough and sauce, we’ve discovered that our favorite pizza is margherita {originated in Naples, reportedly} with fresh basil and fresh mozzarella.

So simple and good!

Pan pizza is so much easier in general than making round, hand-shaped pizzas. And you don’t need to blast your oven.

Four Steps to Pan Pizza Margherita

I’ve adapted my sheet pan pizza dough to make this winning pizza margherita:

Step 1: Spread the dough into the sheet pan and spread it with tomato sauce edge to edge.

Step 2: Arrange the basil leaves next over the sauce and under the cheese so they do not scorch.

Step 3: Space the mozzarella around the dough and sprinkle evenly with the parmesan.

Step 4: Bake in a hot oven until the crust is golden brown and the mozzarella is bubbling.

I make it for my family and there’s enough for the kids to take slices for school lunch the next day. {Or if your kids are still at home, this is the best WFH lunch.}

I recommend making two.

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Pan Pizza Marguerita

You can produce this pan pizza in under three hours from start to finish. Or break it up into two days. Because it's a very wet dough, you will need a stand mixer to knead the dough. After that step, it all comes together with a quick sauce, fresh basil and cheese. If you do not have fresh mozzarella cheese, feel free to substitute grated mozzarella.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pan pizza
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Rising time 1 hour 30 minutes
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

For the pizza dough:

  • 4 cups (18 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for oiling pan
  • 2 cups water (75-80 degrees F)

For the pizza sauce:

  • 5 whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoons black pepper or red pepper flakes

For the toppings:

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella or 4 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated parmesan

Instructions

To make the pizza dough:

  1. To make the pizza dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water in a bowl with a rubber spatula to form a rough dough. Let it hydrate for 5 minutes.

  2. Use the dough hook on a stand mixer at medium speed to knead the dough until it is smooth and stretchable, about 10 minutes. It will be glossy and very sticky.

  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set it in a warm place and let it rise until nearly doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. {You can prepare the dough in advance up until this point and chill it overnight in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature for 2 hours before proceeding with the recipe.}

To make the pizza sauce:

  1. Blend the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper using an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning.

To prepare the pizza:

  1. Oil a 11-by-17 rimmed baking sheet with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread it around using your hands. With your oiled hands, turn the dough into the pan and gently stretch and dimple the dough with your fingers to coax it the edges and corners of the pan. It will spring back, so let it rest for 10 minutes, then try again. Repeat the process until the dough is even and covers the pan.

  2. Let the dough rise uncovered while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, about 20 minutes. If you do not have a pizza stone, place the oven rack in the lowest position.

  3. Spread the pizza sauce all over the dough up to the edges. Space the basil leaves and the mozzarella around the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the parmesan.

  4. Bake the pizza for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan. Continue baking until the cheese is bubbling and the crust edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Transfer to a rack to cool for a couple of minutes.

  5. Run a metal spatula around the edges of the pan and underneath. Slide the pizza onto a cutting board and slice into 8 large (or smaller) serving pieces.

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