There’s a new weekly event happening in my house, and it’s amazing. Pizza Friday happens, well, every Friday, and each week I strive to make the best darn Italian pie I can. No phoning the local delivery service (I’m NEVER happy with pizza from a box) and obviously no cheating by sticking a frozen, pre-fab pie into my oven…even worse. I’ve sourced out a great Italian deli in my neighborhood who sell their fresh pizza dough and homemade sauce. All I need to do is take it home and create whatever type of pizza I feel like sinking my teeth into…which is ultimately the best part, plus the taste factor too. As I said, ah-mazing.
It’s a lot of work, right? Dialing for delivery is sooooooo much easier. Fine, sure. But if I’m going to indulge in Pizza Friday (with wine…there must be red wine) then I want to savour the best possible experience. So, getting a little messy in the kitchen is worth it…and hopefully you’ll agree after you try it 🙂
Here’s what you need:
- A round, perforated, thin metal pizza pan (I suppose you could use a stone, but make sure you heat it up in the oven and have a wooden paddle to sling the pie onto it). My pan is 16″, but something a little smaller would be just fine. Like this: http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-AMB-14PP-Classic-Nonstick-Bakeware/dp/B0000D8CAO
- Good quality pizza dough, at room temperature (if it’s refrigerated at the store leave it on the counter 2 hours before making your pizza ). It should be bouncy, stretchy and when rolled in a little flour it should feel soft and plump like a baby’s bottom 🙂
- Tomato sauce. It’s up to you which type you might prefer. Authentic Italian pizza doesn’t really even have a true sauce, mainly broken up cooked tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are what you want to look for if buying a can or jar at the grocery store. Otherwise hit up your local Italian deli for a container of their sauce…I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The sauce ultimately should be on the thin side, not thick or pasty.
- Cheese. Again, up to you what you like. BUT, let me be frank. If you’re going to add cheese don’t waste your time or taste buds on anything labelled ‘low-fat’ (blech) or ‘light’. If you cannot eat dairy you should be o.k. with a goat or sheep cheese, and there are lots to choose from. Creamy goat cheese is delish on a pizza and so is feta, especially if you go with other Meditearrean toppings like olives, bell peppers, and sundried tomatoes. If you’d rather stay away from cheese all together you can make a pizza with out it (not the same, but tasty in other ways) and choose other toppings to compensate, like maybe creamy roasted chunks of eggplant . I do not recommend soy or rice cheese….but again, your call.
- Your favorite toppings. It’s a free-for-all here. Sprinkle on whatever you love, but PLEASE DON”T ADD TOO MUCH. The Italians are minimalists when it comes to their pizza and pasta. Don’t weigh down your pizza with too many ingredients or you’ll have an un-cooked, soggy mess that will confuze the hell (heck) out of your mouth. Trust me. Pick no more than 5 and sprinkle them on so that 2-3 pieces of each ingredient make it onto each slice.
- Good olive oil, red pepper flakes (optional), dried oregano and sea salt for finishing off your master piece before it goes into the oven.
- Salad. Not on the pizza…duh. But EVERY meal needs something green, so serve your homemade pizza with a lovely side salad. It can be as simple as a bowl of baby arugula tossed in a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Red wine. Did I mention that one already? Pizza+wine is nothing more than a win-win combination.
Here’s how you make it:
- Preheat oven to the highest temperature it will go. Usually 550 degF is do-able in most ovens. Yep, I know, that’s really hot. But remember an authentic brick or stone pizza oven cooks a pizza at around 900 degF….so you’re fine.
- Flour a clean counter top and toss around your big blob of dough until it’s coated in a little flour and you’ve given it a few (gentle) punches and a couple pokes. Start to pick it up and stretch it out round to fit the diameter of your pizza pan.
- Brush some olive oil onto the pan, enough to thinly coat the bottom and sides. I like to sprinkle on some cornmeal to give the bottom of the crust extra texture after it’s cooked, but that’s totally optional. Just DON’T FORGET TO OIL THE PAN. Slide the dough onto the pan and finish stretching (and pushing) it to the edges. It should reach the edges and maybe even go over a little, which is fine, you can fold them back over later.
- Spread a layer of tomato sauce on first, enough to coat the bottom of the dough but not too much that it’s pooling in spots.
- Sprinkle on a thin layer of grated cheese (if using, and I would use 18% M.F. mozzarella), then the rest of your toppings, in small amounts…..remember don’t weigh down your dough. Very important. It doesn’t matter the order of toppings, whether it’s chopped or roasted veggies, sauteed sausage, etc. Finish with another thin layer of the same cheese, or if using two cheeses that include goat or feta, sprinkle on top.
- To finally ‘accessorize’ the pie and give it that “my-pizza-rules’ kind of success, please do the following 3 things:
- after the last layer of cheese goes on lightly sprinkle the top with dried red pepper flakes, for a little spicy kick
- do the same with dried oregano…just shake it lightly all over the top
- brush the outside edges of the crust (fold it back down off the edge if it’s hanging over) with olive oil and sprinkle the top with a touch of good quality sea salt
- Now, put it in your pre-heated oven, on the bottom rack, and let it cook for 12-14 minutes. My magic number seems to be 13 minutes. It’s pretty darn perfect with golden crust, bubbling cheese and fills my kitchen with that pizzeria aroma. Sigh.
- Let the pizza sit on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before you cut it with a pizza wheel slicer (they’re cheap, I bought mine at Ikea for 2 bucks) or transfer it from the pan to a cutting board for slicing with a big sharp knife. If you do this, return the pizza slices back to the pan and cooling rack or else the heat from the bottom of the crust will make it soft and soggy if it sits on that cutting board for too long. Boo.
Voila! Remember to take a picture and gloat to all your friends that you made pizza and resisted dialing that delivery number. Yahoo!
If you want to be a real copy-cat (I don’t mind) here’s what I usually put on my pizza….although when I’m feeling crazy I go with whatever pops into my head. A few weeks ago I had a pineapple sitting on my counter and was inspired to go Hawaian with bacon AND ham (crazy!), pineapple, green pepper, and red onion. So good. Anyway, my Italian version looks something like this:
- Grated Mozzarella on the bottom and dollops of goat cheese on the top
- Cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
- Chopped marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers
- Sauteed cremini mushrooms with thyme, garlic and balsamic
- Very thinly sliced or finely chopped red onion
- I heat up extra sauce for dipping crust into 🙂
Hopefully the pictures do it all justice. Also, leftovers make a quick and easy lunch when you’re busy running around on the weekend. Eat it cold or reheat in a 350 degF oven for 10 minutes.