Pizza is one of those satisfying meals that’s gotten lost or obscured in the blur of fast food restaurants and frozen aisle entrees. Many of us have become accustomed to the taste of those assembly line pizzas, the drive-thru Take & Bakes, or the frozen pies wrapped in plastic and cardboard. Not a bad choice in a pinch, but nothing remotely resembling the deliciousness of a home baked pizza. Once you’ve had one, you realize that nothing else compares.
The variations are endless. Combine various crust recipes with the almost infinite toppings and you’ve got the perfect movie night at home. Or the pizza bar party with friends — assemble a variety of toppings, from the standards like diced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped black olives, and pepperoni, to some unconventional or personal favorites like marinated artichoke hearts, crumbled feta cheese, and caramelized onions. Fresh basil and oregano make a mouthwatering last minute addition, giving each slice that extra unforgettable oomph. Or, rather, Mmmmmm.
Here are some ideas for some homestyle pizzas. Use them as is or create your own signature pie. You’ll soon work out your own rhythm for rolling the dough, choosing toppings, and baking the perfect meal, one that can quickly become a family favorite. As with any recipe, always experiment with what works best for you. These pizzas are the traditional style — crust, sauce, cheese, toppings. There are many other types to try, like no sauce, or white sauce, vegetarian or with meat, even a dessert pie with cheese and fruit. Imagine the possibilities and go for it.
Makes 2 – 4 pizzas
2 – 4 pizza crusts, recipe follows
pizza sauce, recipe follows
1 – 2 lb mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
1 c parmesan cheese, grated or sliced
Any variety of toppings, such as: sliced or chopped black olives, sliced or chopped green olives, sliced or chopped vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, etc.), cooked meats (crumbled Italian sausage, sliced pepperoni, chopped bacon or proscuitto, etc.), fresh herbs (basil, oregano, cilantro, etc.)
There are many pizza crust variations, possibly as many as there are pizza chefs. This one is a basic crust, made with either white or whole wheat flour. You can use this as your basic recipe, a perfect beginning to any pizza, or develop your own variations with combinations of cornmeal, various other flour choices, and an assortment of seeds or spices.
2 c warm water
1 T honey
2 T yeast
2 t sea salt
5 – 6 c flour, white or whole wheat
1 – 2 T EVOO
- Pour the warm water into a large bowl, add the honey, and stir to dissolve.
- Stir in the yeast and let the mixture proof, about 5 minutes.
- When mixture is frothy, add the salt, and begin adding the flour 1 cup at a time. The first 3 cups or so will make a batter of sorts, and it will be easy to mix the dough by stirring it with a large spoon. As you continue adding flour, however, it will get stiffer and more pliable until it forms a ball.
- Scrape any dough from the sides of the bowl and incorporate it into the ball.
- Sprinkle 1 c of the flour on a wide counter or board and begin to knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, paying close attention to the condition of the dough. Not enough flour will create a sticky dough that is impossible to handle, and too much flour will be tough and too stiff to roll. You’ll know when it’s right. If you’re not sure, err a bit on the side of not enough flour, as you can always add more.
- Drizzle the EVOO down the sides of the mixing bowl, letting it flow down into the bottom. Put the ball of dough in the oil and turn it a couple times to coat the outside thoroughly.
- Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and let dough rise for an hour or two, until doubled.
- Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the EVOO.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic and onion, and stir well, sauteing until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the fresh herbs and continue sauteeing another minute or so.
- Add the tomato puree or sauce, stir well, and cover. Turn heat to simmer and let the sauce simmer at least 15 minutes or all day. This is one of those recipes that improves with age. If you decide to make a day of it, keep an eye on the pan, adding additional water if necessary so it doesn’t dry out or get too thick.
- Season with S & P to taste.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Divide the dough into two (or three or four) equal portions and roll it out into a shape to fit your pan. If you have some perforated pizza pans, that’s great. Roll out your dough and place the dough carefully on the pan while you prepare your toppings. If you don’t have a designated pizza pan, a jelly roll pan or baking sheet works fine. Be sure to sprinkle some flour or cornmeal on any pan you use before laying the dough on it — a pizza dough that sticks to the pan is VERY disappointing! If you have a pizza stone, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and proceed.
- Ladle about 1 c of the pizza sauce over the dough and spread it evenly over the crust using the back of a spoon. Spread the sauce close to the edges, leaving about 1/2″ margin.
- Sprinkle about 1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese over the sauce, and add the toppings of your choice, adding the parmesan cheese as the final topping. (If you decide to use fresh herbs, it’s best to bake the pizza almost completely, and add the herbs during the last 5 minutes of baking. Just set a timer for 5 minutes before the pizza is done, add the herbs, and continue baking the final 5 minutes.)
- Bake the pizza at the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Crust will be lightly browned and the top will be bubbling.
- Take the pizza out of the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before attempting to cut it. When it has cooled, use scissors or kitchen shears to cut the pie into 8 equal pieces. Enjoy!