Both are Italian classics and covered in cheese, but if you’re looking for a slice of pizza Margherita and a slice of plain old cheese shows up, you’re going to be disappointed.
“Pizza Margherita” was allegedly created in the late 1800s by a Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) named Raffaele Esposito to display the colors of an Italian flag with tomatoes (red), mozzarella (white), and basil (green). The real secret is using the highest quality ingredients. The Neapolitan-style pizza has a simple sauce (often just crushed fresh tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes), and is topped with only mozzarella di bufala, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil—and perhaps some salt. It cooks quickly at a high temperature (in a wood-fired oven) and has a thin and crispy crust.
Cheese pizza, while just as delicious, doesn’t follow any of the strict guidelines that make a true pizza Margherita. Fresh mozzarella can be used, but often that’s reserved for the fancier artisanal pizza places—and regular packaged, grated mozzarella still makes for a delicious dinner. Cheese pizzas have a significant amount more cheese and no visible sauce, and various combinations of cheese are often used (like fontina, Parmesan, and other mild picks).
Check out our seven recipes for both cheese and Margherita pizza and you’ll be as happy as a hero in a half shell (those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knew what was up).
1. Whole Wheat Margherita Pizza
The whole wheat flour in this recipe adds another dimension with a chewy, crispy crust. Thinly sliced fresh basil leaves and whole-milk mozzarella keep this in the traditional realm of pizza Margherita, but you can add some caramelized onions or sautéed broccoli rabe if you want to branch out. Get our Whole Wheat Margherita Pizza recipe.
Smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced garlic, and sliced raw potatoes (medium-size red or other waxy potatoes like fingerlings) make this an unusual pie that’s perfect for a light lunch or appetizer. Get our Potato and Cheese Pizza recipe.
San Marzano crushed tomatoes are the base for fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, fontina, and Parmesan. Brush the crust with olive oil to give it some extra flavor and a little bit of shine. Get our Four-Cheese Pizza recipe.
4. Pizzetta 211 Margherita Pizza
This homemade Margherita pizza recipe recommends a pizza stone to get the crust extra crispy, but you can also substitute a preheated baking sheet instead. You can make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge or freezer for a great last minute dinner. Get the Pizzetta 211 Margherita Pizza recipe.
This recipe has detailed steps describing the dough-making process, and recommends a baking stone for a golden brown crust. Add the basil after cooking if you want it to remain bright green (once it’s in the oven it darkens to a blackish brown). Get the Pizza Margherita recipe.
Pizza for breakfast? Why not? Slices of thick-cut bacon, crumbled goat cheese, and some sliced yellow onion (along with dried herbs) are perfectly paired with two eggs cracked on top right before you pop it in the oven. Get our Bacon and Egg Pizza recipe.
Adapted from the Roberta’s restaurant in Brooklyn, this pizza Margherita is light on the cheese (less than 3 ounces of fresh mozzarella) and even lighter on the sauce—only three tablespoons. A drizzle of olive oil on top of the sauce and some fresh torn basil leaves and you’re ready to go. Get the Pizza Margherita recipe.