I’m not the best pizza maker in the family; that honor goes to my son Sean, who makes the most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten. Since pizza is my favorite food, that’s saying a lot. So if I can make good pizza at home, anyone can. I’ve taught or made pizza to and with a few folks including parents and kids over the years and they, in turn, have made it with family and friends as it’s a fun group project. It’s simple for the solo cook as well. I made the first grilled pizza I ever saw back in the mid ’80s. And you? Always wanted to make pizza? Frightened off by words like yeast or wood-fire? Have an oven and a rimmed sheet pan? You’re in business, about to eat well, and this post is for you!
Food and health guru, writer Michael Pollan is fond of saying,
“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
While pizza isn’t exactly junk food as it’s often full of good things, it is highly caloric for the nutrition available. It’s also really easy to chow down on it. If you make it yourself, you’ll be careful about how much you eat because you had to make it! Try making the salad first and eating it while the pizza bakes. You’ll eat less pizza. Do include the kids: get them in on the baking; they love to make pizza and you’ll add a great skill to their arsenal of abilities. To say nothing of the positive memories.
This pizza, based on a Tyler Florence recipe, makes 12 or 15 pieces –enough for 4 to 6 people–and goes from start of dough to ready-to-eat in about an hour and a half. Maybe less. The dough recipe makes enough for two pizzas, so you could be prepping a second while the first bakes if you have a crowd. It uses no special equipment like a pizza stone or pizza peel. In fact, if you don’t have a pizza cutter (the little gizmo handle with a spiffy wheel at the end), you are not in trouble; a knife works fine and perhaps better. You’ll need a large bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a saucepan, a jellyroll or half-sheet pan (2 for $8.99 at COSTCO), and a stove with an oven. If you have a standing electric mixer like a Kitchen Aid, that will help make the dough, but if not, your hands and arms will work just as well and you won’t have to lift weights that day. I give directions for both methods. You can also pick up fresh dough from your local pizza place or the grocery store (check refrigerated section), but it’s just as fast and much cheaper to make it.
If you’re not in tonight’s class, try this at home and join us that way:
HOMEMADE MARGHERITA PIZZA–makes 1 half-sheet pan of pizza or 12-15 pieces
The needed ingredients/directions are divided into three sections: dough, sauce, making and baking the pizza. Please note you’ll preheat the oven with the jellyroll or half-sheet pan in it while you make the sauce. You can also make this pizza with meat; I give directions for a half Margherita and half salami/fried pancetta or bacon pizza. You can, of course, choose the toppings you like best. Read through before beginning.
DOUGH: Begin with my slightly edited version of Tyler’s (or someone else’s) dough. Note: The dough recipe makes enough dough for two large pizzas! (Or you could make bread sticks, etc. with half of the dough.)
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees F or baby bottle warm)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- Several tablespoons olive oil
In a small bowl, mix yeast, sugar, and warm water; let sit until bubbly–about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the flour and salt with a spoon or the paddle attachment. If the mixture doesn’t bubble in 10 minutes, throw it away (check the expiration date on the packages) and begin again with fresh ingredients.
FOR MAKING WITH A STANDING MIXER (Do not use a hand-held electric mixer): With the mixer running on low and using the dough hook, slowly pour in the bubbly yeast mixture until the flour incorporates. When the dough begins to come together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough really gathers itself into a ball or some shape that’s clearly holding together. (Maybe 2 minutes, though it took less for me in a new 6-quart Kitchen Aid.) Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and turn the mixer on low, off, and back onto low a few times until oil is incorporated. Scrape dough off hook if needed. If the dough feels dry when squeezing a bit of it between your fingers, add a bit of water–say 1 tablespoon. If the dough is sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Either turn dough out onto a floured surface and hand-knead until smooth and elastic or leave in mixer bowl, and turn onto medium-low for a minute or two.
BY HAND: Add the bubbly yeast mixture to a large bowl and stir in the salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Begin stirring in the flour. When it’s too stiff to stir, begin using your hands to knead in the rest of the flour, adding just enough so the dough is soft, but not sticky. Squeeze a little dough between your thumb and fingers, adding a tablespoon or so of water if it’s dry/crumbly or a tablespoon of flour at a time if it’s too sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic–about 10 minutes.
WHETHER YOU MADE BY MIXER OR BY HAND, YOU’LL NEXT…Form the dough into a round and put it in a large bowl you’ve greased or oiled with more olive oil. Rub it around in the oil and turn it over to make sure all of the dough is covered with a little oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit to rise until doubled in size for an hour or so. (You’ll punch down the dough after making sauce.)
While the dough rises, make the pizza sauce, gather and prep your toppings, and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F with the pizza pan–a jelly roll or half-sheet pan– in it!!
Do make your own and use canned tomatoes, not canned tomato sauce. There’s no sense paying for jarred, sweet pizza sauce. Besides, you can adjust the seasonings to your own tastes. You might have a little leftover to top your breakfast eggs.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 1 generous teaspoon EACH dried thyme, oregano, and basil
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat oil garlic, and onion over medium heat for a minute or two. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so. Set aside until needed.
Below: punched down dough
MAKING AND BAKING THE MARGHERITA PIZZA (YOU CAN ALSO DO 1/2 MARGHERITA AND 1/2 SALAMI OR PANCETTA/BACON PIZZA)
- Olive oil
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- Fresh basil leaves–about a handful
- Other toppings, if you wish: 4 ounces thinly sliced salami or fried pancetta/bacon, 1/3 cup sliced, cooked onions or green peppers or mushrooms, etc. as to your taste
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, optional
1. Punch dough down after poking it with your fingers. Place it on a cutting board and, with a large knife, cut it into two even pieces. You’ll only need one of the pieces. You can a. make two pizzas, b. store the leftover half in the fridge for a day, or c. freeze it, well-wrapped, at 0 degrees F for 2-3 months. (cont. below)
2. Remove hot pan from oven and drizzle the entire surface with olive oil. Stretch the pizza dough out so it’s just bigger than the pan and carefully lay it in the hot, oiled pan, doing your best to keep the dough even in the pan. You can continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan, patching holes or tears as you go, if necessary Try to push the edges of the dough up the sides of the pan to form a crust.
3. Spoon on the tomato sauce evenly over the pizza. Lay the torn mozzarella evenly over the dough and top with the basil. If making 1/2 salami – fried pancetta/bacon, put the meat down on half the pizza before the cheese and basil.
4. Season entire pizza evenly with 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
5. Using oven mitts or potholders, place pizza pan in oven on middle rack and bake 15-25 minutes* or until browned and bubbly. If there are watery spots from the sauce, gently dab them with a bit of wadded paper towels to soak up liquid. Remove pan from oven at 15 minutes and check bottom pizza to see that it’s browned in the pan if the top is bubbly and browned in spots. If not browned on bottom, return to oven for 3 minutes or so at a time and check again until done. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Let sit 2-3 minutes. Cut and serve while hot.
*At altitude, this pizza has taken between 20 and 25 minutes depending on a few different elements. At sea level, the time might be 15-18 minutes depending upon weight of pan or how long the hot pan has sat outside the oven for dough to be stretched/placed.
STELLAR SALAD–A BASIC CHOP
Your own stellar salad should have everything you love and also those things that love you. You can use many things you’ve got in the fridge! Be creative. Instead of spending cash on meals in restaurants, invest in excellent quality olive oil and vinegar; eat at home. Shop Williams-Sonoma in person or online–look in the sale bins; check out Whole Foods and taste test when you can. Try one of your local olive oil shops. Leave the boxed greens in their box and buy the freshest greens you can find. Wash and dry them and mix them with beautiful fresh herbs–yes, you’ll need fresh herbs,– lots of crunchy vegetable favorites, maybe a little cheese and/or nuts, and a well-seasoned vinaigrette. A good dose of salt and pepper in both in the greens and in the dressing is something many people forget. If you salad still tastes dull when you’re finished, give it a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon and toss again.
- 1/2 Chopped yellow or red pepper or 1/2 cucumber
- 1/4 cup Chopped red onion or chopped green onions
- Handful chopped parsley or basil
- 2 Romaine lettuces, cleaned, dried, and chopped into 1-inch pieces or 1 romaine and 1 Boston, etc.
- 1/4 cup grated very sharp cheddar or Parmesan
- Avocado or tomato, chopped
- 1/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
You can either 1. chop everything on a large board, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and add your vinaigrette ingredients right there at the center of the salad, mixing with your hands or, 2. You can toss them together in the bowl and add the vinaigrette ingredients there, tossing well until everything is well-coated. Eat immediately or maybe you like things a little less crisp and are willing to let it rest a few minutes? Why not?
CHOPPED SALAD VINAIGRETTE: 2 tablespoons good quality red or white wine vinegar (Fini is easy available), 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper.
Watch a Jamie Oliver video on basic salad. The above salad is a riff on a Jamie Oliver chopped salad. Be creative and change ingredients to suit yourself.
Want a balsamic vinaigrette? Here’s a favorite from the blog:
Alyce’s (and soon to be yours) Balsamic Vinaigrette makes 1 cup dressing
1/3 cup fine quality balsamic vinegar (I like Masserie di Sant’eramo)
2 heaping tablespoons dijon-style mustard (Grey Poupon is fine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste–this is a cup of dressing)
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
several drops tabasco
In the food processor, pulse vinegar – Tabasco until thoroughly pureed and very-well mixed.
- 2/3 c best quality you can afford extra-virgin olive oil (I like Olio Santo (California) or Ravida (Italy)
With machine running, slowly pour the 2/3 cup olive oil into the tube on top of the processor and leave running until thoroughly emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Keeps in frig several days. (Without shallot and garlic, will keep for weeks.)