Best Margherita Pizza

If you’re like me, then you LOVE (yes, L-O-V-E) pizza. I like to say its thanks to my Italian heritage – but, who am I kidding. Pizza is just an awesome and often quick meal idea.

Margherita pizza is one of my favorite, dressed down pizzas. Absolutely simple to do and utterly delicious to eat! Not only is there the perfection of the crispy, handmade crust used in this recipe, but decadent mozzarella cheese, garden-fresh tomatoes, and aromatic basil. Utter perfection, at least in my book.

Best Margherita Pizza: To make this pizza, you will need…

  • 1 Tsp sugar
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 1 envelope yeast
  • 3 1/4 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 12 oz mozzerella (you can use shredded, but fresh motz or buffalo motz or sliced/unsliced ball motz. Whatever you prefer!)
  • 8 oz feta, crumbled
  • 2-4 tomatoes, depending on the size of the tomatoes and the size of your pizza (I suggest using big tomatoes. Garden-picked ones are the best. If you don’t have a garden, then check out your local farmer’s market for kinds like Big Boy or try out some heritage tomatoes for a bit of excitement – these can come in yellow or pink, as well as red)
  • 1 onion, sweet yellow (Walla Walla)
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Olive Oil

The first step is to make your crust. I absolutely love this recipe for pizza dough; it tastes great and you don’t need to let it rise for hours. I typically whip this dough together 2-3 hours before I plan on making the pizza. If you have leftover dough, it can be stored in the fridge for several more days and used for more pizzas or calzones.

To make the dough, add a 1/4 cup of the warm water to a mixing bowl and add the sugar. Stir it to dissolve, then add the yeast and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Once the five minutes are up, add the flour, salt, oil, and remaining water to the yeast mixture and mix well with the bread hook attachment. After everything has come together and is looking relatively dough-like, turn it out onto a lightly floured board or mat and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny. Depending on what the weather is like, I’ll sometimes add a bit more flour and knead it into the dough at this point, especially if the dough seems sticky.

Oil a bowl – I reuse the mixing bowl – with olive oil and put the dough ball in it, turning to coat the dough with oil. Take 1-2 paper towels and moisten them with warm water and drape them over the top of the bowl. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free location. Oven often have proofing settings, that can work, or even just placing the dough in the oven with the door ajar is enough, since the light bulb in the oven gives off heat. If its really warm, placing the dough on the counter will work.

Let the dough rise for a couple of hours. Be sure to check it and punch it down a couple times (hint: opportunity to work out any anger issues…)

I test the dough and know it is ready to be used when I can form it into a rough crust shape and the dough does not retract a lot. At this point, select a handful dough and work it into a crust. I hand-stretch it and then roll it a bit with a pin. The crust should not be thin, maybe a 1/4″ in thickness or slightly under that is perfect.

Toss a bit of olive oil on the crust and spread it to the edges. Then, spread your cheese on the top. Be sure, whether using cut motz rounds or shredded motz, to leave a bit of space between the cheese and the edge of the crust for a hand-hold.

Shred the basil leaves and toss them on top of the cheese. At this point, I’ll put a few cranks of our salt and pepper shakers over the top of the pizza. Top the cheese and basil with the sliced tomatoes. I try to go edge-to-edge on the cheese with tomatoes. Try to keep the tomatoes sliced as thinly as possible too, since they are easier to eat this way.

Top off the tomatoes with onions. I use sweet yellow onions and cut them into rounds. To do this, peel the onion, then simply slice from the bottom, where the roots would have been, to the top. Take the rings, pop them apart, and scatter them over the pizza. Toss the crumbled feta over this and, voila, your pizza is complete.

Bake the pizza at 450 F for 15 minutes. You want the crust golden and the cheese bubbly. Some of the feta should have a slight browning on them, as well.

So, that’s the recipe. Simple, right? Give it a try. I’ve also used the crust recipe to make supreme pizzas and calzones (which are also great).

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Warming Autumn Soup

I will admit, I found this recipe on the back of a candle I bought at the grocery store… But, before you judge, it made a very excellent pot of soup!

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Warming Autumn Soup: To make this soup, you need:

  • 1/2 pumpkin, cubed (I used a whole, small Cinderella Pumpkin and simply doubled the recipe)
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped (I used 2 medium red potatoes, though Russets or Yukon Gold might work better)
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed (To do this, simply place the peeled garlic on a cutting board, put the flat side of a vegetable knife on the garlic, and smash your fist down onto the clove. It will break it up nicely and you can throw the splattered garlic straight into the pot.)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS coriander (Fresh or Dried. I used the dried and it worked perfectly).
  • 4.2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken, since it makes a heartier soup)
  • Cayenne, to taste (I added this to give the soup a bit more of a bite since I like spicy food).
  • Caraway Seeds, to taste.
  • 1 cup whole milk, optional
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 and 1/2), optional

*Other spices that might work well in this soup: allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon. I have not tried it with those, but I think small amounts could work wonders with the flavor.

To make this excellent soup, heat the olive oil in a stock pot until hot. Add the veggies and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking. You want to cook the vegetables until they are crisp-tender. Then, add the stock and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes – I went until the vegetables were very tender.

Then – and this is the fun part – use a food processor or blender to puree the soup until mostly smooth. I left the soup a bit coarser than what the recipe suggested, but I think it gives a better mouth feel to have the texture of the vegetables in there. Put the blended soup back into the pot and start seasoning!

I started out with salt and pepper, then added in the caraway seeds and cayenne for more depth of flavor. Because this is a mostly vegetable soup, I wanted to make it a bit heartier, so I added about 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream (you could also use 1/2 and 1/2). Once the soup is warmed through, I tossed a handful of chopped parsley on top. This added some more color to the soup and tasted great with it.

Side Dish: Since this soup is fairly light, I made a batch of sweet corn muffins to go along with it. They were fabulous and helped round off the autumn inspired meal.

As I mentioned, I doubled this soup, so we ended up with a lot of it. Without doubling, it will make about 4-5 servings. Since we get to have it again tonight – yay! – we are going to add a bag of frozen corn to the pot.

As a side note and a warning, in case I post any other recipe I do here, I tend to cook by taste. So, when seasoning things, I may differ from what the recipe calls for. It just depends on how I feel in that moment. I love cooking that way, since it give more depth to food by adding your personality into it. So, be bold! Try out whatever spices you think might fit the overall flavors of the soup! If you try out something exciting, share it through the comments below!