Skillet Margherita pizza recipe loaded with melted fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and herbaceous basil leaves. Baking in a cast iron pan at very high temperature ensures a crispy golden crust.
A fresh homemade pizza is always better tasting than ordering from delivery, and you can’t go wrong with a classic combo like a Margherita pizza. Using a cast iron skillet is similar to cooking with a pizza stone, as this material is excellent at retaining heat which helps to create a crunchy crust.
Trust me, once you experiment with this concept you’ll want to try it over and over again with other toppings. For convenience, this recipe uses store-bought dough which is typically found in the refrigerated section at your local market. If you have a homemade pizza dough recipe you like, definitely use it!
How to make Margherita pizza in a skillet
- Let the refrigerated pizza dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Place oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 475ºF (246ºC).
- Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven.
- Roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle.
- Carefully add the dough to the skillet, brush edges with olive oil, bake for 3 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and tomato slices.
- Bake until the cheese is melted, and the crust is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Top the pizza with salt, pepper, and fresh basil.
Nailing the perfect crust
There are a few tricks to a crispy pizza crust. The first is to heat the cast iron skillet in a 475-degree oven before adding the dough, this quickstart’s the cooking process the moment it hits the pan.
An even layer of olive oil in pan creates a nonstick surface that lightly fry’s and flavors the dough. Brush the edges with oil so that each bite from the center to the ends are tasty. Sprinkle some salt and Italian seasonings for an herb crust, then par-bake the dough before adding the toppings.
The benefits of parbaking
When testing this recipe multiple times I found that the dough just didn’t seem cooked through enough. The higher moisture ingredients added on top of raw dough prevented the dough from hardening. Even elevated baking temperatures didn’t work and actually made the crust too thick and hard on the bottom.
The solution was to par-bake the dough for a few minutes without any toppings so that the surface could cook and drive off excess moisture. I do a similar technique when grilling pizza. Once the additional ingredients were added, there was no issue cooking the crust completely, and melting the cheese on top.
Margherita pizza toppings
The beauty of this pizza is the minimal ingredients letting the tomatoes, cheese, and basil, shine through. First, lay down some tomato sauce or pizza sauce, I like to use my homemade marinara sauce for a slightly chunkier consistency. Fresh mozzarella adds a mild and sweet flavor, it’s typically cut into thick slices, but shredded or buffalo mozzarella are also excellent choices.
There are several types of tomatoes, choose one that’s at its peak ripeness so when it cooks down, the flavors concentrate and become sweeter. I like the petite size and intense flavor from cocktail or Campari tomatoes. Lastly, use fresh basil leaves, but don’t add it until you’re ready to serve because it will quickly wilt from the heat. The leaves can also be sliced into thin shreds for a stronger flavor.
Keep pizza warm in the skillet
Not only does the cast iron skillet make for an excellent faux pizza pan, but it’s also great for keeping the pizza crisp and warm as you’re eating the first slice or two. I recommend cutting the pizza into slices on a wooden board, then add the extra slices back to the warm pan. Set the skillet on the stove so the crust doesn’t get soggy and cheese stays melty.
Serve this with
Why you should twice bake the pizza
There’s a lot of moisture in raw pizza dough, so baking it first separately drives off surface moisture on the bottom and top. During the five or so minutes it takes to add the toppings allows for carryover cooking. The second bake browns the cheese, concentrates the tomato flavor, and further cooks the inside of the dough. This par-bake technique ensures all the ingredients evenly cook for maximum flavor.
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil , plus more for brushing
- 1 pound (454 g) fresh pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
- ½ cup (120 ml) tomato sauce, or pizza sauce
- 4 ounces (113 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cocktail, Campari or Roma, about ten ¼-inch thick slices
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- If using store-bought pizza dough, allow to sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Place oven rack in the center position and preheat to 475ºF (246ºC).
- Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.
- Lightly flour a work surface, the dough, and the rolling pin. Roll dough out into a 12-inch circle.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place on a heat-safe surface.
- Add olive oil to the skillet and use a paper towel to evenly spread into the pan.
- Carefully add the pizza dough to the hot skillet, spreading the edges into the corners.
- Lightly brush olive oil on the edges of the crust.
- Bake the pizza dough for 3 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and evenly spread the pizza sauce over dough.
- Place the cheese evenly on top of the sauce.
- Place the tomatoes evenly over the cheese.
- Bake the pizza until the bottom is golden brown and crispy, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the basil leaves evenly across the top.
- Slice on a cutting board and enjoy hot.
- Parbaking the dough separately can be omitted by topping the pizza and baking until the cheese is melted, about 12 to 14 minutes. Allow the pizza to sit in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to allow the dough to finish cooking throughout.
- Extra slices can be kept in the skillet to keep the crust crispy and warm until ready to eat the next piece.