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Pizza perfected at home

Story and photos by Angie Sutton

www.mothersapronstrings.com

Homemade pizza with a crisp, golden crust, zesty tomato sauce and a heap of toppings draws even the busiest of families around the table. This main dish is popular in our home because it gets everyone involved as they build their own pizza with toppings dictated by their own taste buds. The adults can spice it up a bit while the kids stick to the basics. Everyone is happy!

Of course, homemade pizza is quite forgiving and can be made on the simplest baking pan in your oven. Pizza night has become a regular ritual at our home so we’ve invested in a few items that amp up the taste and ease of baking.

You can purchase a pizza peel, typically a long-handled wooden plane about 14- by 16-inches in size. I like to spread a bit of yellow corn meal on my peel before stretching out the dough. The cornmeal makes it easier to slide your dough onto the preheated pizza stone or grill grate. You can also use a dusting of flour. A flat baking sheet covered with parchment paper can provide the same ease of transferring the dough.

A pizza stone is a good investment as its porosity and heat retention result in a beautifully crispy pizzeria-style crust. I use the stone when I make pizza in the oven. If you are using a premade crust, simply add the ingredients you desire and slide the pizza from your peel to the preheated pizza stone. If you aspire to make your own crust, you’ll want to bake the crust for a couple minutes and then flip it over before adding your toppings. Those few minutes will give your crust a nice firm surface to add toppings to with no worries of a soggy outcome.

We’ve been trying different topping variations and baking pizza with our pellet-grill. With this route you’ll want to slide your dough directly onto the grate of a pre-heated grill. Bake for a couple of minutes, flip it over, drizzle with olive oil and then add your toppings. We find that an over-sized flat long-handled spatula is needed for grilling a pizza safely.

The route to a quick-to-the-table pizza is purchasing a crust or rolled dough. Grab a bottle of pizza sauce and then simply customize it with your favorite toppings. I encourage you to try starting from scratch a couple of times to experience the taste difference!

Creating a basic pizza sauce from scratch gives you the opportunity to take advantage of fresh vegetables from your garden, adding a nutritional punch. If you like to preserve with the canning process you can stretch your harvest with the Basic Homemade Pizza Sauce. Here are two basic pizza sauce recipes to start with.


Super Simple Homemade Pizza Sauce

This no-cook sauce is a quick version of yum. Kick it up by adding 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. This is enough sauce for two pizzas.

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (extra thick & zesty)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

In a bowl, stir together tomato sauce and tomato paste until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients until combined throughout.


Basic Homemade Pizza Sauce

This basic sauce is enough for two pizzas. I like to blend in the extra veggies. This sauce takes about an hour to make but is worth it.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley<
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 3/4 lb. fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 28 oz. can, undrained)
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley, stirring to coat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and add garlic. Cook uncovered about 30 seconds before adding tomatoes and their juice; stir. Add the tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper; stir. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to create a smooth consistency, being careful of the hot liquid.


Best Pizza Dough Ever

This recipe makes enough dough for two 10-inch pizzas. You can freeze this dough recipe for up two weeks. Read your pizza recipe before proceeding after dough has been precooked.

1 1/2 cups warm water (105 F to 115 F)
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal

In the large bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, add the warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. You may need to gently stir at the end of the 5 minutes. Using the mixer’s mixing paddle, add the olive oil, flour, salt and sugar on low speed for about a minute. Replace the mixing paddle with a dough hook. Knead using the mixer and dough hook, on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. You can also knead by hand. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil or cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the bowl and turn the dough around so it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place (75 to 85 F) until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Toward the end, preheat your oven to 450 F. Remove the plastic cover from the dough and punch the dough down. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls of dough. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic and let sit for 10 minutes. Take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a lightly floured work surface or pizza peel. Starting at the center and working outward, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter—10 to 12 inches. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the very edges if you want to form a lip. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil. Use your fingertips to press down and make dents on the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Spoon on the pizza sauce and place your desired toppings on the pizza. Slide the pizza off of the peel and onto the baking stone in the oven. Bake pizzas one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.


Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

This is a favorite recipe of our household! We like to add even more bacon than called for in the recipe. This pizza is a home run with the homemade crust recipe.

1/2 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. seasoning salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 c. pizza sauce
1 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with onion and garlic; drain. Add seasoned salt, pepper and 1/4 c. parmesan. Add in the pizza sauce; reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. While this is cooking, prebake your crust for about 8 minutes if it is homemade. Remove the crust from the oven and top with the ground beef mixture, then sprinkle top with cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Evenly crumble the bacon over the top of the cheese. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 8 minutes.


Pizza on the Grill

This route is simple and delicious. Our grill is large enough to cook two pizzas at a time so we have an adult version and a kid version, which is typically cheese and pepperoni.

Heat your grill to medium-high. Spread the Best Pizza Dough Ever about 1/4-inch thick. Brush one side with olive oil and put it, oil side down, onto the grill. Brush the top with a bit more oil and close the cover. Cook until the bottom is lightly browned and top is set, about 5 minutes. Flip the crust over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the crust from the grill, brush with a bit more olive oil and add your toppings and return to the grill, close the cover and cook for about 6 more minutes.

Pizza Topping

Combinations

The topping combinations are endless. Think of the crust as a blank slate waiting for you to customize it with fresh vegetables, meaty goodness and layers of cheese. Combo 5 is amazing!

Combo 1: 1/2 c. pizza sauce, 1 c. chopped tomatoes (drained), 1/4 c. sliced black olives, 1/4 c. roasted red peppers, 2 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese, 3 Tbsp, chopped fresh basil.

Combo 2: 1/2 c. pizza sauce and 5 slices smoked mozzarella. Bake 6 minutes, remove from the grill and top with halved cooked meatballs (if using frozen, they should be thawed) and 1 c. grated Asiago cheese.

Combo 3: 1 c. cooked shredded chicken, 1/4 c. barbecue sauce, 2 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese, 1/8 c. finely chopped scallions and 1/8 c. pickled jalapeno slices. Amp up with buffalo sauce.

Combo 4: 1/2 c. pizza sauce, 2 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 c. diced fresh pineapple, sliced ham or Canadian bacon, 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes.

Combo 5: 1/2 c. crushed Italian plum tomatoes (drained), 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper; bake until golden. Layer with 1/2 lb. diced mozzarella. Bake until the cheese melts, then drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil. Scatter 1 tsp. chopped fresh basil leaves on top.

Combo 6: 1 small tub ricotta cheese, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 minced garlic clove. Spread over shell. Dot with mounds of thawed, drained chopped spinach. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes.


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