Pizza – A Love Story

Pizza – A Love Story

Pizza at HomeNothing more needs to be said. Pizza is awesome. Deep dish, Neapolitan-style, NY-style, it simply doesnt’ matter. Pizza is one of the great contributions to our diet and everyone seems to have their own individual thoughts and opinions about which pizza is the absolute best.

My cousin Chuck always loved Hawaiian pizza as a kid.

My dad swears he doesn’t like pizza, although always wolfs it down when its front of him.

The kid in Home Alone loved cheese pizza.

The folks in Chicago think that having super thick crust is the right way to enjoy pizza while people from New York swear by the thin crust and greasy slice.

Go to Italy, and you will find that there really is only two proper ways to eat pizza (either folded in half or with a fork an knife), and only certain ingredients qualify as “authentic” (OO Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes. fresh buffalo mozzeralla, the oven it is being cooked in, and so on).

Ingredients are as different as opinions on the current government shutdown. From pepperoni to prosciutto and from mozzarella to grana, there are meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauces to please virtually every taste.

It is fun to go out on a Friday night and eat pizza. Its fun to order it in for the big football game on Saturday or Sunday too, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to eat or acquire a good pizza but what I have found, with my family, that making it at home, fairly often, is the most fun. You can easily get the kids involved, the process is more simple than people realize, and it usually tastes a LOT better than the stuff you can find when out and about.

Here are 3 ways to enjoy making pizza at home.

The first of course is a good dough. I shared in a previous post a brilliant and easy-to-make pizza dough recipe that I have used many times and love. The recipe makes two batches of dough so, depending on the size of your family, you can either keep one in the freezer for another time or eat it all at once!

If you aren’t ready to make the pizza dough yourself or want to “ease into it” you can certainly buy pizza dough. In my neighborhood, we have a pretty darn good pizza joint, Zeek’s Pizza and they will sell me dough. It is thick, contains olive oil (a tad unusual) and is bagel-like. It is excellent for grilled pizza especially.  I am usually leary of pizza dough you can buy at the store, but have discovered that the dough you can find at Trader Joe’s isn’t too shabby, and it is dirt cheap! $1.19 per bag of dough is practially theft! I am ok if you want to buy your dough there (in case you were looking for my permission). Oh and if you have some pita or flatbreads laying around that you don’t know what do with, use those!

After the dough question is answered, it is now time to have some fun. Look through the fridge and see what bits of meat, veg, cheese, heck even fruit that are laying around and start there. I figure if it tastes good in an omelet, it would probably taste good on pizza. You can certainly get fancy and stop off at the local grocer and pick up some of your fave ingredients too. Just do me a favor and try to buy the best you can afford. One of the benefits of rummaging through your fridge is typically you have a 1/2 cup or so of something that you made eariler in the week that was awesome, so that means it probably still is awesome.

When it comes to sauce, the purists will say that a tomato base is always best but just drizzling some good quality olive oil on the dough is pretty awesome too. A lot of people panic, I feel, when it comes to the tomato sauce, that it has to be something special, or Grandma so-and-so from Italy’s secret, or something. The very best pizza base, is simply high quality tomatoes (I personally swear by San Marzanos but there are some other good ones), pureed, with a pinch of sea salt and maybe a drizzle of olive oil, not even cooked! But if you have some marinara from amother recipe or a little “spaghetti” sauce left, you can use that too. Everything will be OK, I promise.

So here are a couple of recipe variations that are fun and dead simple.

Take your dough out of its package and let it rest on your counter for at least 20 minutes, especially if was in the fridge. If baking in the oven (easiest), then set your temp to 500 and lightly olive oil a cookie sheet (if you have a pizza stone, and all that, of course that is the very coolest and most hip, but if you don’t, do it this way!). Stretch your pizza dough out to almost the very edges of the cookie sheet. Square, rectangle, or circle, it doesn’t matter. Take your tomato sauce and spoon out a few puddles, and using the back of your spoon, gently spread it up to about 1 inch or so from the edge of the crusts. I like a light layer of sauce, just enough to cover the dough, but some like more so go for it! Next, add your ingredients. If you like cheese, place that down at this point. If shredded then easy to drag over the pizza. I personally love fresh buffalo mozzarella (at Costco they sell two logs of sliced and imported mozzarella that is fab and is at a great price).  If you have any parmiaggiano-reggiano, it is fun to grate a touch of that too for some added tang.  Next add your meat. I like to pre cook my meat, no matter where I am finishing the pizza (required for pork products and cooking on the grill since it doesn’t take long to cook the crust there and the meat won’t cook through if starts raw). I love good quality Italian sausage. I make my own and its great, but love Uli’s Famous Sausage in Pike Place Market, so when I am there, I usually grab some and that can end up on a pizza too. Next the veg. Whatever you want, do it. Tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, olives, pickled veg, you name it.

Here are a couple of specific recipes I love.

Breakfast Pizza

Set up the oven, dough, and tomato sauce like above. Add 2-4 slices of thick-cut bacon, green veg like asparagus, and crack two eggs on top. Bake in oven at 500 degrees for 12-18 minutes or until egg is squidgy and bacon is baked through. Its awesome.

Italian-Hawaiian

Set up the oven, dough, and tomato sauce like above. Tear apart your mozzarella all over, add proscitto de Parma, pancetta (Italian-style bacon), and chunks of pineapple. Bake in oven at 500 degrees for 12-18 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Sausage, Mama Lil’s and Fresh Basil

Set up the oven, dough and tomato sauce like above. Tear apart mozzzarella all over, add pre-cooked italian sausage, mama lil’s spicy peppers. Bake in oven at 500 degrees for 12-18 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Add freshly torn basil leaves over the top after out of oven.

There are many awesome ways to make pizza, and hopefully there is enough here to give you a shot of confidence to make more at home. It is easier than you may be thinking, and I know it tastes brilliant!

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