The Margherita pizza: a ubiquitous Italian classic, essentially a cheese pizza for grown-ups. It’s deliciously simple, consisting only of pizza dough topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and plenty of fresh basil. However, it is my firm belief that one simple ingredient can add that extra umami, tangy flavor the pizza ordinarily lacks: wine-poached mushrooms.
The cooking method is the most important factor in successfully elevating dishes with mushrooms. If you simply throw slices of raw, unseasoned mushrooms on a pizza and expect them to taste like more than half-cooked dirt, you are wrong. Yes, I know there are pizza places that will do that, but it’s a sad practice and I suggest you skip the mushrooms at such places or, even better, make your damn pizza at home. Contrary to how it might seem, pizza is easy to make at home, even if you decide to make the dough from scratch (all you need is warm water, yeast, flour, salt, and a little sugar).
Back to the mushrooms: start by sauteing them in REAL butter, NOT oil and NOT that fake buttery spread stuff that tastes just fine on toast but, let’s be honest, tastes nothing like butter. Once the mushrooms have begun to brown, add salt and pepper, toss them a bit so they become coated and flavored, then turn the heat all the way down and add just enough white wine to submerge the mushrooms. Next, turn the heat up on high, then down to medium-low once the wine begins to bubble, and let the mushrooms simmer until the wine is completely reduced.
The rest is equally simple. Just roll out the dough, mix up some marinara sauce, cut up some slices of mozzarella and fresh tomatoes (I recommend Romas; other varieties tend to be too watery and can make the pizza mushy and bland), and top the pizza off with ribbons of fresh basil and you’re done.
Here is a full list of ingredients I used:
- Pizza dough (homemade is better)
- Marinara sauce (tomato sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, onion powder, and red pepper flakes)
- Sliced tomatoes
- Slices of fresh mozzarella
- Mushrooms cooked in butter and simmered in white wine
- Fresh basil