Right here on this very page is the recipe for the best margherita pizza in the world. Johnny Di Francesco was crowned World Pizza Champion at the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza for it in 2014 in Parma, Italy. Di Francesco is also the first Australian trained to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoleonata pizza-making standards and Brunswick East locals have been enjoying his margherita since 2010 at his Lygon Street institution.
To replicate his version as closely as possible, you’ll need a wood-fired oven, peeled tomatoes and DOP-certified buffalo mozzarella. Make sure the base is less than 35 centimetres in diameter and that the edges don’t rise more than 2 centimetres. In a conventional oven, Di Francesco recommends using a pizza stone. ‘It really does make a difference,’ he says. ‘And give yourself enough time to let the dough rise properly – don’t rush.’ The rule with toppings is simple: ‘Go for quality every time. There aren’t a great deal of toppings on a margherita, so they all need to shine. The pizza should emerge with a soft, pliable base. Leave the cutlery and eat it with your hands.’
Makes 6 pizzas.
800g peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand and seasoned to taste
8 buffalo mozzarella balls
1 handful of fresh basil leaves extra-virgin olive oil
30g fine sea salt
1kg type ‘00’ flour, sifted 1–3g fresh yeast
This recipe will need to be started 1–2 days before serving.
For the dough, add the salt and 600ml of water to a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add about a tenth of the flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour and the yeast while mixing. Mix until all the flour is incorporated into a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured benchtop and knead until smooth and elastic. This can take up to 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside. Allow the dough to rest for half an hour, but preferably overnight.
Divide the rested dough into eight balls, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to prove. They can take up to 10–12 hours to double in size.
Preheat the oven to 230°C fan-forced (250°C conventional), or, ideally, heat a wood-fired oven to 400°C. If using a standard oven, preheat a pizza stone until ready to cook.
Once the dough balls have doubled in size, place one on a lightly floured benchtop and stretch by hand to flatten. Roll out the base, or stretch by hand. Spread 100g of tomato across the pizza and top with one ball of mozzarella torn into pieces. Scatter four basil leaves on top and drizzle with some oil. Bake on the pizza stone for 10 minutes, longer if you like it crispier – 90 seconds is enough in a wood-fired oven – and serve immediately. Repeat for the remaining pizzas.
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