Margherita Goat Cheese Pizza

There are about a thousand and one things to love about the farmer’s market. One of the things that I love is when you buy a bunch of herbs for one dollar . . . and you go home with a bunch that fills an entire shelf in your refrigerator. On Tuesday I bought fresh basil and heirloom cherry tomatoes. I contemplated making a pasta dish or a casserole or even a salad but I think I knew when I bought them that they were destined to become a pizza.

There are a lot of really good pizza places around us, that probably happens in most metropolitan areas, yes? You know those really good pizzas that are full of ingredients you’d never think of? I love those. We had our rehearsal dinner at one of my favorite pizza spots, and with good reason. In past weeks I’ve enjoyed a pizza topped with sausage, pepperoni, bacon, pineapple and banana peppers; a pizza topped with garlic mashed potatoes, bacon, broccoli, cheese and green onions; a pizza I like to think I invented and is the best thing ever – chicken, pineapple, goat cheese and red onions; and a pizza topped with barbecue chicken, mushrooms, banana peppers and onions. There were others in there too, but those were my favorites.

I rarely feel the need to recreate what my favorite places can make for me. And to be completely honest, I never order a pizza at a restaurant that I could easily make at home. I want unique, amazing toppings. I want complex flavor layers and ingredients I’d rather not mess with at home (read: pineapple, mashed potatoes) and I almost never want to order the traditional American pizza of red sauce and salted meat. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it. But we’ve probably all eaten our fair share of the plain, boring pizzas and could do with some new flavors. **This does not mean that when confronted with a traditional NY pie I will try to fancy it up. No, I will take that giant, flat piece of pepperoni pizza, fold it in half and shove it into my face. Some things are sacred.

When I thought about turning my basil and heirloom tomatoes into a pizza I was quite nearly giddy just at the thought. I settled on a slight twist to the classic Margherita. First because I had all the ingredients on hand. Second because I never order Margherita pizzas. I can crush tomatoes and rip up basil on my own time, thank you very much. The goat cheese. Oh the goat cheese. The goat cheese is there because goat cheese makes everything better. Everything. I tossed on some onions as well because caramelized onions are like vegetable candy.

This was a pretty damn delicious pie. The honey wheat crust was crisp but chewy. The heirlooms roasted and when lightly crushed, gave the pizza a sweet, flavorful sauce. The goat cheese made everything perfect, as it does. The basil under the cheese gave tons of flavor while the basil on top of the cheese got crispy and reminded me of bacon. I’m not sure why, but it was good so I suggest you try it. This recipe made two pizzas, one 10 inches and the other 12 inches with crust that were ‘original’ thickness. It would easily make three thin crust pizzas as well or two 12-inch pizza of medium thickness.

So, what are you waiting for? Tomatoes and basil are in season. Now is the time. Ready, go.

Goat Cheese Margherita Pizza

for the crust

2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water. Stir with a wooden spoon (not metal) and let sit for 10 minutes until the mixture is creamy.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and honey. Pour in the yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon by hand until the mixture comes together into a ball. Place on a floured surface and knead, adding more flour if the mixture is too sticky. Knead until the dough is relatively smooth, about two minutes. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover lightly with a towel. Let rise for 10-15 minutes.

for the toppings

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large bunch fresh basil

1/2 white onion, chopped

3 cups cherry tomatoes

1 cup goat cheese

3 cups shredded mozzarella

garlic powder

sea salt

coarse ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the dough in half and roll out the first pizza to your desired thickness. This dough gets poofy so if you want it really thin, roll it out very, very thinly.

Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the crust. Sprinkle the crust with garlic powder and some chopped basil. Use just enough so that the crust is lightly covered in basil.

Top with one cup of shredded mozzarella, followed by the chopped onions. Add the tomatoes, whole, spacing them as evenly as you can. Then add large pieces of torn basil. Use as much as you’d like, the more the better. I try to make sure there’s enough basil for some in each bite.

Add half of the goat cheese and another half cup of shredded mozzarella. Drizzle the top with another tablespoon of olive oil.

Finally, season lightly with sea salt and pepper.

Place in the oven on a medium rack. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese in the middle has melted. If desired, place the entire pizza under the broiler for 90 seconds. This will crisp the crust edges, melt the cheese completely and roast the vegetables to perfection.

Let stand for five minutes before serving. Using a fork or mashed potato masher, smoosh the tomatoes that haven’t burst open.

Serve with crushed red pepper and fresh basil.


4 Comments on “Margherita Goat Cheese Pizza”

  1. Jessica says:

    I’m a SUCKER for good pizza. And good cheese. WIN WIN.

  2. Jenny says:

    This looks so tasty! Amazing.

  3. billpeeler says:

    There is nothing better than fresh basil. I mean it – NOTHING. Your pizza looks delicious – love the goat cheese and the different colored tomatoes – wish I had a slice right now!

    Herbally yours –
    Basil Freak


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