I love homemade pizza. And you know what I love more than homemade pizza? Homemade pizza parties. A few months ago my friends hosted a “make your own pizza” party with various toppings, cheeses, and doughs. The party was a success, and I have been craving homemade pizza ever since. Actually, what I have really been craving is some New York style white pizza with broccoli. I would even settle for a slice of plain or Margherita, as long as it was NY style. That’s pretty much the only thing I miss about New York, the pizza. There is nowhere in the Bay Area that even compares to NY style pizza. Of course there are people that claim to serve up the traditional NY pizza, but it’s not the same. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great places (Delfina or Pizzetta, in particular) that make a fantastic “California pizza”; organic, local ingredients, fresh greens, thin crust that is almost like flat bread, and usually they throw an egg on top for good measure. I can make almost the same thing in my own home for much less money. And it’s more fun, too!
The key to making a good homemade pizza is good ingredients, staring with your dough. Lots of people make their own dough, but I just really don’t have the time or baking skills for that… yet. So I buy my dough from Trader Joe’s. They make whole wheat (my favorite), plain and herbed doughs and sell them in plastic packaging. I usually just throw it in the freezer after I buy it, and then put it in the fridge 1-2 days before making the pizza to let it defrost.
When you’re ready to make the pizza, take the dough out of the wrapping and set it on a lightly floured surface for about 20 minutes before kneading it, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Kneading dough can be kind of tedious, but it’s important to use a little flour and a large, flat surface. Use your hands, use a rolling pin, you can even use a wine bottle if you need to. Just try to get it thin and even, then fold up the ends to form a crust. Sometimes it’s easier to make a rectangular pizza (it’s also easier to cut and serve for more people), especially if you’re not using a pizza stone – which I don’t use, because I don’t have one. Once the dough is rolled out, throw it in the oven for 10-12 minutes for the initial bake. You want it to crisp up a little before you add the toppings and cheese and throw it back in for the second bake.
The great thing about homemade pizza is that you can make whatever you want. One of my favorites is prosciutto, asparagus slices and Manchego. Prosciutto is also good with a little fontina, arugula and olive oil. The possibilities are really endless. For some more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board.
Last night I was making pizza for MM and friends and decided to do one Greek vegetarian pizza and one Italian sausage pizza. They both turned out great and it was a split between which was the favorite; I liked the sausage more, MM liked the Greek more “because it had better cheese” – he’s pretty easy to please, though.
Italian Sausage Pizza:
- 1 garlic basil chicken sausage link, casing removed (this is what I had in my freezer, but I would recommend using a hot or medium Italian sausage)
- 1 bell pepper (any color works, though green or red would be best. I used orange because that’s what I had)
- 1 cup sliced mushroom caps
- 1 cup tomato sauce or pizza sauce, divided into two 1/2 cups
- 1 1/2 cups shredded park-skim mozzarella (or full fat, if that’s how you roll)
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste
Greek Vegetarian Pizza:
- 1 TB olive oil
- 2 Campari tomatoes, sliced
- 10 Kalamata olives, sliced
- 1 cup canned or jarred artichoke hearts, chopped into bite size pieces
- sliced red onions (optional, I left them out)
- handful of fresh baby spinach
- 6 oz (one container) of crumbled feta cheese
- 1 cup shredded park-skim mozzarella
- salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to taste
For the Greek pizza, brush the olive oil over the dough before you put it in the oven for the initial cook. The olive oil will crisp the dough, making it more like a flat bread. After the dough goes through the initial cook, add the spinach onto the first layer. Top the spinach with the feta cheese and mozzarella cheese, then add the olives, tomatoes, artichoke heats, onions and the seasoning. Put it back in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown.
The Italian Sausage pizza has a few more instructions, but it’s still really easy. While the dough is cooking in the oven, saute the sausage over medium heat in a non-stick pan. You don’t need to use any oil or spray, because the fat from the sausage is enough. Saute and break it up for about three minutes, then add in the mushrooms and peppers and continue to stir for five more minutes. Add 1/2 cup of pizza sauce to the pan and stir to combine. This will help meld the flavors, and also make it easier to add it to the dough in one smooth movement.
Once the dough is ready, add the other 1/2 cup of sauce to the base, then add the sausage mixture on top while it’s still warm. Top it with the mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, and spices. I like this reverse style of toppings under the cheese because the toppings are pretty much cooked and it’s really the cheese that you want to brown. Plus the weight of the toppings adds a softness to the dough while it continues to cook, which is a perfect base for a more heavy-style pizza like this one. Cook the sausage pizza for about 12 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown. Let it cool for about 3 minutes before slicing with a pizza slicer or sharp knife.
By the time you’ve finished your sausage pizza, the Greek pizza should be ready to eat. Again, let cool for a few minutes before slicing. In the meantime, nosh on some green salad or a light Cabernet or spicy Merlot, such as JAQK Cellars 22 Black Cabernet or Bone Dance Merlot – both great pizza wines.
As I said before, the possibilities are endless with homemade pizza. So get creative, do some experimenting, throw a topping party, and have fun! Because that’s what pizza is all about, isn’t it?