At our house, especially on lazy Sunday evenings, we love to make homemade pizza. To keep it simple, we use a store-bought crust, usually the par-baked Herbed Pizza Crust from Whole Foods Market. It has a wonderful flavor and costs only $1.99.
Another great option is the frozen pizza dough that you can find in the frozen foods section at Whole Foods or HEB. The dough comes, frozen, in a ball (about the size of a softball). All you have to do is let it defrost on the counter for a couple of hours; then you can roll, toss, or stretch it into a 9- or 10-inch crust.
With either type of crust, I like to then drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil on a pizza pan or cookie sheet to prevent the crust from sticking. (Some cookbooks say to use stone-ground cornmeal; I prefer oil, as the cornmeal tends to burn and also makes a bit of a mess.)
If you are using the par-baked Herbed Crust, you can set it on the pan while you preheat the oven, make the sauce, and prepare the toppings. However, if you are using defrosted pizza dough, you’ll want to wait to roll/stretch/toss it until after everything else is ready. (The raw dough will shrink as it sits.)
To start, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. A nice hot oven will ensure a crispy crust.
While the oven is heating, make the sauce. Over the years, I have tried several different cooking methods and combinations of ingredients. My favorite, by far, is two raw Roma tomatoes blended with a few leaves of fresh basil, a sprinkle of salt, and a touch of olive oil. (You could add a clove of garlic and some fresh or dried oregano for more flavor.) Roma tomatoes are perfect for pizza sauce because they are less juicy than some other varieties. You want to avoid juicy tomatoes because otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy crust.
Just chop them up and toss them in the food processor or blender. Add two or three leaves of fresh basil, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and salt to taste.
Jack loves to blend anything in our mini food processor, so I try to delegate the sauce to him as often as possible.
Next up? Cheese and toppings. We love mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and grated Parmesan. Sometimes we use Canadian bacon instead of pepperoni, and if I have it on hand, I love to mix a little Fontina cheese with the mozzarella.
When the oven is hot and all of your toppings are ready to go, you can begin to assemble your pizza. First, spread a few spoonfuls of sauce on the crust. (Note: You won’t use all of the sauce if you are only making one pizza. You can store the remainder of the sauce in a small container and freeze for up to one month.)
Then add about one cup of grated mozzarella cheese.
Next, add the pepperoni.
Then the mushrooms.
Then some grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Then, bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned on the bottom. Wait a minute . . . I forgot the olives. (Perpetual mommy brain strikes again!) No big deal though; just add the olives and continue cooking.
When the pizza is finished, I like to add some chopped basil. Love the fresh flavor and bright green color.
Transfer the pizza to a large cutting board. Slice with a pizza cutter (I recommend this one) and serve!
Oh, right. One more optional step: Peel off any toppings that the kids don’t like. To avoid waste (which is always a good justification for eating more pepperoni!), place peeled-off toppings on mommy or daddy’s slice.
As far as side dishes, I like to counter the bread/cheese/grease aspect of the meal with some simple veggies. Oven-roasted asparagus is a favorite.
As is a big green salad.
Do you make pizza at home? What toppings do you recommend? What about the crust — homemade or store-bought? Look forward to hearing from you!