This recipe for Pizza Margherita (makes one 12-inch pizza), from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan (Knopf, 1992), assumes the best-case scenario: the tomatoes are fresh, the mozzarella is good and all is right with the world.
Use a pizza dough recipe that promises a thin crust and a baking stone to ensure it is light and crisp.
Pizza dough for a 12-inch crust
3/4 pound fresh, ripe, firm plum tomatoes
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, preferably imported buffalo-milk mozzarella
Cornmeal for bottom of pizza crust
Flour for the rolling pin
Salt to taste
About 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for sprinkling
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
7 fresh basil leaves
Prepare your favorite pizza dough and set aside to rise.
At least 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, place the baking or pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Using a vegetable peeler, skin the tomatoes. Cut the skinned tomatoes into 1/2-inch wide strips, discarding all seeds and any runny matter; set the tomatoes aside.
Slice the mozzarella as thin as possible; set aside. Sprinkle a baker's peel generously with cornmeal.
Remove the risen pizza dough from the bowl. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter, sprinkling flour over the dough if it sticks. Finish flattening the dough with your fingers, making it as thin as you can.
Carefully transfer the dough onto the baker's peel. Just as you are ready to bake the pizza, spread the tomatoes evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with salt to taste and drizzle with a little oil. Carefully slide the dough from the peel onto the heated pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven, quickly top the tomatoes with the mozzarella and then the Parmesan and return the pizza to the oven. Bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Drizzle with a little more oil and spread the basil leaves over the top.
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