Ode to Pizza

{UPDATE: A whole new series dedicated to perfecting homemade pizza with updated recipes and a lot of step-by-step tutorials on baking, so you may want to check that out first!}

For the last couple of years, our tradition has been to make homemade pizza every Saturday night. We haven’t missed many Saturday nights, which means a) we probably need to get out more and b) we have made A LOT of pizza in our day. I think we finally have the combination of dough, sauce and baking style that works perfectly and we won’t be making many changes in the future, except to get wild and crazy with the toppings (turkey pepperoni, anyone?).

Here are my tried and true recipes for pizza dough (and I have tried A LOT of pizza doughs in the last few years, trust me) – one is a slow-rise pizza dough that is best to make the night before and let rise in the refrigerator for nearly 24 hours, the second is for a quick and easy pizza dough recipe for those nights when I haven’t planned ahead (ahem, shamefully that happens more often than not). Both are fabulous – pliable and easy to manipulate into the perfect pizza plus they taste great. I shape the dough with my hands to get a thin crust…and yes, I have to admit that occasionally (ok, frequently), I will toss the dough into the air like a REAL pizza afficionado and then subsequently toss that said piece of dough into the trash because it usually either lands on one of my children or on the floor.

I’m also including my go-to recipe for pizza sauce. If you haven’t made your own pizza sauce before, please, please try this. Stop opening the jar of generic spaghetti sauce (I know you do that, because I used to also) and try this. You’ll never, ever go back. It is so simple, it is beyond words, and the result is thick and exceptionally flavorful.

Trade Secrets: Here are a few things I swear by when making homemade pizza:
1) use a baking stone if at all possible (and a pizza paddle works wonders – I just have a really cheap wood one and it works great for sliding the pizza in and out) – it really produces better pizza than using a metal pan – but if you don’t have a stone and are using a metal pan, still cook the pizza at a high temperature (maybe 25-50 degrees less than if using a stone)
2) about 45 minutes before making the pizza, I stick my pizza stone in the oven and crank the oven up to 500 degrees and let the stone get nice and piping hot – I bake the pizzas at either 475 or 500 degrees, depending on how thick I am doing the crust that night (higher temp for thinner crust)
3) finally, I never use pre-grated cheese. As I mentioned in an earlier post, most pre-grated cheese is coated with a substance that prevents it from clumping, but it also prevents it melting into yummy gooey-ness like cheese you grate yourself (I always use mozzarella for pizza).

Slow-Rise Pizza Dough
Printable Version
Printable Version with Picture

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 1/3 cup water
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt.

The beauty about making this recipe the night before is you can just throw all the ingredients together cold (no warming the water) and stick it covered in the refrigerator. That is all I do – mix the dough to the desired consistency (I like my dough pretty soft) and really try not to overflour it and then place it in a greased bowl covered with saran wrap in the refrigerator. Be sure to take it out of the refrigerator a few hours before you make the pizza so the dough has time to warm and relax. This recipe makes 2 medium-sized pizzas. (It feeds our family of two adults and two children and we eat a lot of pizza.)

Directions for baking pizza:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. (If using a pizza stone, let stone heat for at least 30 minutes in the oven before baking pizza.) If baking in a sheet pan, press dough onto sheet pan and top with sauce and toppings. Bake for about 12 minutes (checking often) until crust is browned and cheese is golden and bubbly. If baking on the preheated pizza stone, slide pizza onto stone and bake for about 8 minutes. Makes 1 large pizza.

Fast and Easy Pizza Dough
This recipe was given to me by my Aunt who got it from a woman named Linda who I have never met – but in the event she miraculously stumbles across this blog, I’ll give a big thanks, Linda!

3 cups flour, more or less
1 tablespoon honey, heaping
1 tablespoon oil, heaping
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. (If using a pizza stone, let stone heat for at least 30 minutes in the oven before baking pizza.) Mix all pizza dough ingredients together, except the flour. Add flour and knead for a bit then put into pan (or use a pizza peel and pizza stone). If baking in a sheet pan, bake for about 12 minutes (checking often) until crust is browned and cheese is golden and bubbly. If baking on the preheated pizza stone, slide pizza onto stone and bake for about 8 minutes. Makes 1 large pizza.

Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Oregano
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency. I leave mine slightly chunky. On the seasonings, I just sprinkle them in to taste. If I use crushed red pepper, I only use a few flakes because my kids don’t like spicy things, but it definitely adds a nice kick to the sauce to use it. I also substitute for whatever I don’t have: basil leaves for oregano, garlic salt for garlic powder, etc. This recipe is open to interpretation. Use what you like and it will be delicious.