Just like home

Homemade pizza is an indelible part of my childhood memories. Dad was in charge every Saturday night and I got to help. Back then, we made pizza in a hand-crank dough maker. Dad would also make his pizza sauce from scratch.

I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and I won't turn my nose up at canned sauce (Mid's is my favorite) so things go a little quicker than when I was a kid. Still, homemade pizza is one of my go-to dishes. (Risotto, especially since I can use the leftovers for suppli di riso, being another).

I have two recipes; one for when I need something quick and one for when I'm planning on a crowd.

Quick pizza:

Makes 1 14" pizza (or 2 thin-crust 12" pizzas)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup warm (110-120F) water
  • 2 1/4 tsp (one packet) active dry yeast.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Put the water, honey and yeast in your mixing bowl. I proof the yeast to make sure it's good (I buy in bulk and store it in the freezer). Basically, wait for it to bubble a little. The honey is going to cause the yeast to work overtime.

Add in the flour, salt and oil while mixing on low with a dough hook.

Knead for about 5 minutes. You should get a smooth ball of dough that feels slightly elastic (not sticky) to the touch. If it's sticky, work in a little flour (no more than a tablespoon) at a time. If it's dry and crumbly, add a little water (just a few teaspoons at a time).

Coat the dough with a little olive oil (just smear it around the ball with your hands) and then either place into a large pizza pan or put it back in the mixing bowl.

Place somewhere warm (like by the oven!)

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Let the dough rise for 30 minutes or so. If you can let it go for an hour, even better.

Punch the dough down (work out any frustration you have!) and roll it back into a ball. Let it rest for a little bit while you get everything else in place.

Roll the dough out in a pan or, if using a pizza stone, some parchement paper (or just toss it around if you're feeling cheeky and then throw it on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel).

Top the pizza with everything except the cheese. Bake at 450F for 6-8 minutes.

Remove from oven. Add your cheese. Back into the oven at 450F for 4-5 minutes. This ensures we get a lovely melt on our cheese and don't brown it.

Slow pizza

Makes 12 12" pizzas

  • 4 1/4 cups warm water
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 12 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • Olive oil

4 1-gallon ziplock bags, with the inside lightly coated with olive oil.

Same basic process as above, but this time, after you're done mixing, divide the dough in four, round into balls and place each in the ziplock bag. Make sure the dough is nicely coated with oil.

Squeeze the excess air out of the bags, seal, and place in the fridge.

The dough needs to rise overnight but will keep for at least a week. You will need to periodically "burp" the bags by opening them up and letting the excess air out before re-sealing them. If you add honey to this recipe, you'll need to punch the dough down too to keep it in the bags. You'll end up with a nice, complex taste though.

Prepare and cook the same as above.

Toppings

What's the fun of pizza without toppings!

We'll skip the standards (pepperoni, sausage, etc).

ala Carmen:

Our Italian friends insist that this is the way to eat pizza.

  • Olive oil for the sauce
  • Thin-sliced potatoes
  • Onion cut in thin strips or thin medallions
  • Rosemary
  • Cracked pepper

You can partially cook the potatoes ahead of time.

Green apple:

  • Olive oil for the sauce
  • Carmelized onion
  • Granny smith apples
  • A bit of brown sugar sprinked over
  • Touch of salt
  • Sharp cheddar (go very light on this)

Butternut squash:

  • Olive oil for the sauce
  • Butternut squash cut into thin medallions
  • Onion cut into thin strips
  • Pine nuts
  • Rosemary
  • Asiago cheese

Roast the butternut squash and onions for 20-25 minutes at 400F. You want them mostly cooked so they can finish on the pizza.

Top pizza with the squash and onions, sprinkle with pine nuts and a bit of rosemary. Bake at 450F. Add the cheese and bake a little longer.

"Indian":

A brainstormed invention with our Indian friends. They furnished palak paneer and I happened to have some spicy garlic pickle in the fridge.

  • Olive oil and sriracha for the sauce
  • Palak paneer
  • Garlic, or garlic pickle
  • Roast potato slices (or medallions)
  • Mozarella cheese (if the paneer isn't enough)

"Ben-mex":

  • Olive oil and taco sauce for the sauce
  • Refried beans
  • Salsa
  • Queso cheese blend

Bake

After removing from oven, top with

  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Lettuce