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Photos by Pamela Rothbard.

I didn’t grow up in Chicago or New York with their signature pizza styles. My first slice was in a Pizza Hut in Orlando in the 1970s. With my elbows resting on the sticky red and white checkered tablecloth, I bit into an extra cheese with pepperoni. Ah, a food I could eat with my hands without getting in trouble, a crunchy crust, long stringy cheese and not a vegetable in sight—could this really be dinner? No matter that it was mass-produced and inauthentic, I was hooked.

I ate that poor stand-in for years until I met my husband and discovered the crispy heaven of a giant New York street slice. Then, when we moved to Chicago, I became addicted to the stomach-filling goodness of deep-dish.

When you live in a pizza town, it seems silly to make your own at home. But here are some reasons to consider it: it’s an easy meal to throw together, you can please everyone with customized toppings, your kids will love to help and—this is really the most important bit—it’s delicious. I promise. Don’t be deterred by the idea of making your own crust; there are plenty of great grocery store options (a few are listed below).

Here are some recipes to get you started and product recommendations to up your homemade pizza game.

Fresh Veggie Pizza

The bright, fresh vegetables on this pizza are complemented by the crunch of the lightly-honeyed dough and the creamy fresh mozzarella on top.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Toppings:

  • 1/4 cup homemade* or store-bought pesto
  • 1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, very thinly sliced
  • Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn on the cob
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic glaze for drizzling

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Directions:

1. To make pizza dough: In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add in 2 1/2 cups flour and salt, stirring with a spoon until the dough comes together but is still sticky.

2. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work in the additional 1/2 cup flour, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes. Rub the same bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1-1 1/2 hours.

3. Place pizza stone or steel on center rack in cold oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Alternatively, if using a pizza pan or baking pan for cooking, preheat without pan in oven to 425 degrees.

4. After the dough has risen, punch it down and place it back on the floured surface. Roll dough into desired shape and place on a well-floured or parchment-papered pizza peel. Place the towel back over the dough and let sit in the warm place for 10 minutes.

5. Time to add toppings: spread pesto onto pizza dough, use more or less to taste. Place zucchini and corn kernels on top of pesto then layer on sliced fresh mozzarella. Grind on salt and pepper to taste.

6. Bake pizza on steel or stone for 7-9 minutes or in pan for 20-25 minutes. Drizzle the finished pizza generously with balsamic glaze to add sweetness. Slice and enjoy.

*Easy Homemade Pesto: Pulse the following ingredients in a food processor or blender: 5 tablespoons chopped pine nuts, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped.

Alternative: Don’t like pesto? Brush dough with extra-virgin olive oil instead and scatter chopped garlic before layering other ingredients.

Alternative: Saute thinly sliced onion in a drizzle of olive oil in a pan over medium heat until the onion because soft and translucent and starts to brown, about 5-7 minutes, before adding to pizza.

(Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.)

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Quattro Pizza

I’m tempted to call this the “picky family pizza” because it’s an easy store-bought crust topped with the favorites of each member of my family—handily segmented for each eater. You can customize the ingredients for your own picky eaters or try the topping combinations suggested below.

  • 1 Whole Foods fresh pizza dough
  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces burrata*, gently sliced
  • 5 slices prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive tapenade
  • Honey for drizzle
  • Rosemary, basil or other flavored oil for drizzle

Directions:

1. Place pizza stone or steel on center rack in cold oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Alternatively, if using a pizza pan or baking pan for cooking, preheat without pan in oven to 425 degrees.

2. To caramelize the onion, coat pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sliced onion and stir to coat with oil then spread out evenly in pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes until onions are soft and brown.

3. Roll dough into desired shape and place on a well-floured or parchment-papered pizza peel. Brush olive oil and sprinkle garlic over the whole dough, leaving the edges bare.

4. For my pizza, I added the toppings to each quarter of pizza as follows and in this order:

  • prosciutto and burrata (drizzle with honey after cooked)
  • burrata and pistachios (drizzle with honey after cooked)
  • caramelized onions and burrata (drizzle with flavored oil after cooked)
  • olive tapenade, caramelized onions and feta

5. Bake pizza on steel or stone for 7-9 minutes or in pan for 20-25 minutes.

*Burrata is a decadent cream-filled mozzarella. Because its insides are not firm, it’s best handled gently and right before use.

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Pizza Product Recommendations

Pizza Dough

  • Whole Foods Fresh Pack Pizza Dough—An easy-to-roll, generous dough that bakes into a nicely-bubbled chewy pizza.
  • Cup for Cup Gluten-Free Pizza Crust MixGluten-free doesn’t have to mean pizza free; this is a delicious option.

Pizza Peel

Pizza Cooking Surface

  • Baking SteelSteel is a more active conductor of heat than stone; the steel cooks fast and creates perfect, evenly-crispy pizzas.

Pizza Cutter

  • Epicurean Pizza Cutter—Easy rocking motion makes quick work of cutting pizzas, breads and sandwiches; plus it’s dishwasher safe.

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