“If you ask me what my favourite dish is, the one I can have day after day, twice a day, every day of my life, my answer will always be pizza!” Mariella Bliss says.

The Italian cookery school teacher from Tackley, adds: “And you may think: ‘Of course, pizza is never boring, you can have a different topping every time’ but the one I always order (after looking at the pizza menu for 10 minutes every single time) is a Margherita. The one I make every Sunday at home is a Margherita. Simple, delicious and filling. But then, at the end of the day, I am from Naples!  

“And if you ask me what I like teaching the most: pizza of course.” 

So here she is during lockdown creating the perfect pizza recipe for you all to make at home without pizza oven, a simple recipe that will guarantee a delicious, light pizza which can be cooked in a domestic oven.

A few helpful facts before we start:

  • a Margherita in a wood fired oven bakes at 500’C for 1 minute
  • A Margherita in our domestic oven  bakes at a maximum of 275’C (if we are lucky) for more than 10 minutes. The consequence is that, unfortunately,  we simply cannot use the same pizza base recipe for both cooking methods.
  • A pizza dough ready to go in a wood fired oven for 60 seconds has a low hydration (60% of water of the total amount of flour),  a pizza dough that will bake for 10/12 minutes in our domestic oven will then need a higher hydration (approz 68% of water of the total amount of flour) to avoid drying out by the end of the cooking time. The result will be a stickier dough but still easy to handle.

Tips for the topping:

  • Less is more . I know this sounds a common place but it applies to a good pizza 100%. Keep the topping light and simple and add the cheese only at the end (2 minutes before cooking time ends) . The cheese shouldn’t have develop brown spots.
  • Choose good quality ingredients like a fresh mozzarella balls rather than the cubed or shredded variety.
  • And last but never least: a Margherita does not have chilli, oregano, black pepper or garlic on the top. Just once, only once, try it the authentic way, the Naples way!   

But it’s your pizza…

My Recipe

Ingredients for one round pizza (30cm diam) – For a thinner crispier pizza use a 30×40 tray. 

  • 300g ’00′ flour or strong white flour (12.5g protein)
  • 200g Water 
  • 6g salt
  • 1g dried yeast  (or 2g fresh yeast )
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • Semolina or polenta to dust the tray. 

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:

  • Approx half tin of good quality tinned plum tomatoes.
  • Fresh basil
  • 2tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and a pinch of sugar 

With a fork or with your hands squash plum tomatoes (straight from a tin, you don’t need to cook it ) ad reduce it to a pulp; add salt, a generous amount of olive oil and a pinch of sugar  

Topping: Mozzarella ball: drain the mozzarella from its original liquid, cut into long strips, place it between 2 layers of kitchen paper and squeeze out the excess of moisture. You will also need basil, light extra virgin olive oil

Method: Start making your dough at 10am:

10am : Mix all the flour and water until the flour is just incorporated (no dry spots) and let it rest for approx 30/40 minutes.

10.45am Mix the doughAdd the yeast on one side of the dough,  the salt on the other side and mix again, slowly add the oil and keep mixing.

Transfer the dough onto the counter. You will find the dough slightly sticky (due to the higher hydration), don’t be tempted to add extra flour, just wet your hands and keep folding on itself rather than kneading it. Use your fingers rather than the palm of your hands. Within 5 or 6 minutes the dough will feel smoother and almost firmer. Please don’t worry if it doesn’t  look perfect (yet!), remember : ‘time will work instead of your hands’!

Let it rest (covered) for 1 hour.

12noon Fold the dough: After this time, place the dough on the counter and fold on both sides (picture below) and let it rest covered with the bowl. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times every 30 minutes.

1.30pm Place it in a large bowl (add some olive oil to the bottom) covered with cling film or a shower cap and let it rest for 5 to 6 hours or until at least doubled in size. 

Turn the oven on at the max temperature (preferibly static, 250* – 275*)

Lightly oil the baking tray you are using and dust with some semolina or polenta flour.

 6.30pm Shape: Once the dough is risen back, gently tip the dough onto the pizza tray (first video on the left)   and start flattening it with your finger tips. Keep shaping your pizza by gently pushing the sides toward the edges of the tray. For a light pizza , don’t use a rolling pin, you may end up tearing the dough and flattening the air pockets, (just to say: in Naples is forbidden)

Add the crushed tomatoes mixture making sure you leave the ‘frame’ (crust) with no tomato and without pressing it. Rest for 10 minutes

6.50/7pm Bake it for the first 8-10 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven.

After this time, lower the temperature to 220 static /200 fan and transfer the pizza to the top rack for another 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Add the mozzarella and bake until melted but not browned! Add the basil and enjoy!

For a longer rest I recommend placing your dough in the fridge or in a cooler room for up to 24 hours just after the foldings. (Take it out the fridge 5 or 6 hours before baking time. Gently gently fold it once again and let come to room temperature. Carry on from ‘shaping stage’)

Mariella runs private cookery classes for adults and children, as well as cooking as a private caterer. She runs courses at Denman College WI Institute, Honesty Cookery School, Abingdon and Witney College, Marlborough School Community Education.