Delicious Margherita pizza recipe loaded with melted fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and herbaceous basil leaves. Baking in a cast iron pan at a very high temperature ensures a crispy golden crust.
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A fresh homemade pan 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 repeatedly with other toppings. For convenience, this recipe uses store-bought dough, typically found in the refrigerated section at your local grocery store. If you have a homemade pizza dough recipe, definitely use it!
How to make margherita pizza in a skillet
- Let the refrigerated pizza dough ball sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Place the oven rack in the middle and preheat the 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 the edges with olive oil, and 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. First, heat the cast iron skillet in a 475-degree oven before adding the dough. This process quickstarts the cooking process the moment it hits the pan.
An even layer of olive oil in the 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 is tasty. Sprinkle salt and Italian seasonings for an herb crust, then par-bake the dough before adding the toppings.
The benefits of par-baking
When testing this recipe multiple times, I found that the dough didn’t seem cooked through enough. The higher moisture ingredients added on top of the raw dough prevented the dough from hardening. Even elevated baking temperatures didn’t work and 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, cooking the crust thoroughly and melting the cheese on top was no issue.
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 at its peak ripeness so that when it cooks down, the flavors concentrate and become sweeter. I like the petite size and intense flavor of cocktail or Campari tomatoes. Lastly, use fresh basil leaves, but don’t add them until ready to serve because they will quickly wilt from the heat. The leaves can also be sliced into thin shreds for a more robust flavor.
Keep pizza warm in the skillet
The cast iron skillet makes for an excellent faux pizza pan and is 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 adding the extra slices back to the warm pan. Set the skillet on the stove, so the crust doesn’t get soggy and the 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 separately dries 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 olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 pound pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
- ½ cup tomato sauce, or pizza sauce
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cocktail, Campari, or Roma, about ten ¼" thick slices
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- Preheat the Oven – If using store-bought pizza dough, allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat to 475ºF (246ºC).
- Warm the Pan – Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.
- Roll Out the Dough – Lightly flour a work surface, the dough, and the rolling pin. Roll out into a 12-inch circle.
- Grease the Pan – Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-safe surface. Add olive oil to the skillet and use a paper towel to evenly spread into the pan.
- Par-Bake the Crust – 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 for 3 minutes.
- Add the Toppings – Remove from the oven and evenly spread the pizza sauce over the dough. Place the cheese evenly on top of the sauce. Place the tomatoes evenly over the cheese.
- Bake – Bake the pizza until the bottom is golden brown and crispy, 10 to 12 minutes.
- To Serve – Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place basil leaves evenly across the top. Slice on a cutting board and enjoy hot.
- Skip Par-Baking: After topping the pizza, bake 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 for the dough to finish cooking throughout.
- Keeping Slices Warm: Extra slices can be kept in the skillet to keep the crust crispy and warm until ready to eat the next piece.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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