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Prue Leith’s Pizza Margherita

The classic Italian pizza made using fresh rather than dried yeast for the perfect crust. Use good-quality canned plum tomatoes for the sauce.

Makes: 2

Hands-on time: 30 minutes, plus rising

Baking time: 15 minutes

Skill level: Needs skill

For the dough:

200g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting

½ tsp fine salt

10g fresh yeast

pinch of caster sugar

115ml lukewarm water

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

semolina, for dusting

For the tomato sauce:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

400g can San Marzano plumtomatoes

juice of ½ lemon

½ tsp caster sugar

pinch of salt 

For the topping:

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

125g ball mozzarella

6 basil leaves

You will also need:

Large baking tray

Cling film, lightly oiled

2 pizza stones or baking sheets, for baking

2 pizza peels or baking sheets, for topping

Step 1 – For the dough, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well. In a separate bowl, mix the yeast with the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the warm water to a thin ‘cream’.

Step 2 – Pour the yeast mixture into the flour well. Add the olive oil, then enough water so that it comes together in a soft dough. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, until smooth.

Step 3 – Place the dough on the baking tray and cover with the oiled cling film. Leave to rise somewhere warm until doubled in size (about 45 minutes).

Step 4 – For the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the garlic for 1–2 minutes on a low heat, until softened but not coloured.

Step 5 – Add the tomatoes to the frying pan and squash them as much as possible with the back of a wooden spoon.

Step 6 – Bring to the boil and add the lemon juice, sugar and salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5–10 minutes, until reduced to a sauce consistency. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning.

Step 7 – Heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/Gas 8 and place the pizza stones or baking sheets in the oven.

Step 8 – Uncover the dough and knock it back on a lightly floured worktop. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Toss 1 ball into a 30cm round – avoid pressing the edges as that prevents a crust forming.

Step 9 – Dust 1 pizza peel or baking sheet with semolina. Transfer the dough circle to the peel or baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread over 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce and top with half of the mozzarella. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the other dough half.

Step 10 – Sprinkle the hot stones or baking sheets with semolina. Immediately transfer the pizzas onto the stones or baking sheets and bake for 12–15 minutes, until the crusts are blistered and the cheese is bubbling.

Step 11 – Remove from the oven and top with basil leaves before serving.