The story goes that Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna di Savoia or Margaret of Savoy, Queen consort of Italy’s Umberto I (ruled from 1878 to 1900), was visiting Naples and Raffaele Esposito, owner of the Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi, made a pizza in her honor. The pizza with its red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella cheese) and green (basil leaves) colors represented the colors of the Italian flag.
Another version goes like this:
In about 1889, Queen Margherita, accompanied by her husband, Umberto I, took an inspection tour of her Italian Kingdom. During her tour in Italy she saw many people, mostly peasants, eating this large, flat bread. Curiousity got the better of her and the queen ordered her guards to bring her one of the Pizza breads. The Queen loved the bread and would eat it every time she was out among the people, which caused some consternation in Court circles for it is not seemly for a Queen to dine on peasant’s food.Nevertheless, the Queen loved the bread and decided to take matters into her own hands. Summoning Chef Rafaelle Esposito from his pizzeria to the royal palace, the Queen ordered him to bake a selection of pizzas for her pleasure.
To honour the Queen who was so beloved by her subjects, Rafaelle decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He baked a Pizza topped with tomatoes, Mozarella Cheese, and fresh Basil (to represent the colours of the Italian flag: Red, white, and green).
The pizza came to be known as Pizza Margherita, one of the simplest and best loved pizzas in the world.
You’ll find many ways of making Pizza Margherita on the web with some using parmesan instead of the traditional mozzarella. Some use sliced whole tomatoes while others make use of chunky tomato sauce. Whether or not prompted by the existence of so many versions, there are moves today to declare an official Pizza Margherita recipe. Which one that is, I have no idea. This is my version.
- Preheat the oven to its highest setting a good 20 minutes before you put the pizza in. If you have a pizza stone, put it in during the preheating stage.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll or pat each to form a 10 to 12 inch crust. Place on baking trays.
- Pizza Margherita with whole tomatoes
- Cut the tomatoes in halves and scoop out the seeds. Thinly slice the tomatoes. Divide into two portions and arrange on top of the crusts. Drizzle with some olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pile on the cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crusts are lightly browned around the edges.
- Pizza Margherita with chunky tomato sauce
- Spread the tomato sauce over the uncooked crusts. Smother with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with a little salt and some pepper. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crusts are lightly browned around the edges.
- Whether you’re making your Pizza Margherita with chunky tomato sauce or whole tomatoes, don’t forget the third color in the recipe. Just before serving, sprinkle the pizza with fresh sweet basil leaves.
- Slice and serve at once.