This is my favorite kind of summer meal: it uses fresh garden ingredients, takes practically no time at all to make, looks so pretty you can serve it to guests with pride, tastes heavenly, and is really, really good for you. Unlike most conventional pizzas, Pizza Margherita is light and low in fat, and it uses some of those luscious ripe tomatoes lolling blowzily in bins at the Farmersí Market.
The pizza is named for a Queen of Italy, and the colors mimic the Italian flag: red tomatoes, green fresh basil, and white fresh mozzarella. Served with a crisp salad and a glass of good red wine, it makes a meal that really satisfies. Here is the recipe for this garden-fresh, healthful pizza:
1 basic pizza dough (I cheat and get mine from our local pizzeria, but you can find it in the frozen food section, or make your own. Whole wheat is preferred.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into pieces
2 stems fresh basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spread pizza dough into a 15 or 12-inch pizza pan.
2. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, making sure not to brown the garlic. Add tomatoes and their juice, 1 stem of basil, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Simmer over low heat, covered, 4 to 5 minutes, until tomatoes have just softened. Add salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
3. Brush olive oil around the outer border of the dough. Tear 3 large leaves of the basil into large pieces and add to sauce. Pour sauce onto dough, spreading evenly and leaving the oiled border exposed. Sprinkle pizza with Parmesan.
4. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and firm. Scatter mozzarella over the pizza and sprinkle with remaining oregano. Bake 5 minutes more, until cheese has melted and crust is nicely browned.
5. Allow pizza to cool 4 or 5 minutes. Garnish with a pretty basil sprig in the middle, and scatter more fresh basil over the pizza. Serve warm.
By Cait Johnson, inspired by The Tomato Festival Cookbook by Lawrence Davis-Hollander (Storey Books, 2004).