Nine out of ten people say that they love pizza. The tenth person is almost certainly lying!
Photo via Craftsy member Janeandken
Joking aside, it’s true that just about everyone loves pizza.
Although it is Italian in origin, it has been adopted by and proliferated in a big way in the United States. The classic American pizza pie consists of a flat, open-faced round of bread-type dough topped with tomato sauce and cheese and any number of different toppings. Classic toppings include sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms; however, in recent years experimental chefs have tried unusual toppings such as Thai peanut sauce, avocado, or even banana slices.
Most people consider pizza a takeaway food–to many, the idea of making pizza at home is intimidating. But it ought not be.
To make you more comfortable with the art of the pizza, here’s a primer that breaks down the three elements of pizza: crust, sauce, and topping.
This primer will address considerations for making pizza at home, and and includes a recipe for a classic and very simple version inspired by Peter Reinhart, from his FREE Craftsy mini-course Perfect Pizza at Home.
The list of tools can be intimidating for making pizza: a stone, a pizza cutter, pizza peel (like a big pizza spatula), et cetera. If you don’t have these tools, you may find some pizza recipes discouraging.
Well, while it is true that these tools will improve your finished product, there is no reason why you can’t get started making pizza at home without them. For instance, a pizza will bake just fine on a cookie sheet. While a pizza cutter is helpful, it is possible to slice your pizza with a sharp knife. So please, don’t let a lack of expensive equipment deter you from trying it out.
There are many different types of pizza crust, so when embarking on a pizza-making adventure, consider the type you favor. Is it a thin, Neapolitan-style crust that is almost cracker-like on the bottom? Or is it a softer crust that makes for a “floppy”, New York City-style slice that can be folded in half? Or do you prefer a very thick, spongey, foccaccia style crust? Or maybe, just maybe, crust seems like too much work and you just want to make a pizza bagel?
Making your own pizza crust is rewarding, and you also have the freedom to shape it as you wish–who says you can’t shape it like a heart?
Photo via Craftsy member BoluZelaya
The most classic pizza sauce is certainly tomato. But there are other types of sauce, too! Some people favor a “white” pizza with a spiced olive oil instead of tomato sauce, or perhaps a pungent and delicious pesto sauce. Creative pizzas can even feature mushroom or clam sauces.
The recipe below is for a very simple tomato sauce. After you’ve made it a few times, you may find that you’re craving more or less spice, or that you’d like to add a new flavor. You’re encouraged to adapt–that’s how you’ll make it your own recipe.
Usually, it goes without saying that a pizza will be topped with cheese. But most people don’t stop there.
In a recent Zagat survey, the most popular pizza toppings in America were revealed. The most popular was pepperoni, and other popular toppings included mushrooms, sausage, onions, ham, and olives. Not surprisingly, anchovies (a famously detested topping) ranked low on the list. However, a very interesting fact is that while pepperoni ranked number one overall, when this number was broken down between men and women, women actually preferred mushroom.
Of course, while this list gives an idea of some popular toppings, the sky’s the limit. You can personalize your pie by combining popular toppings (sausage-mushroom-olive, anyone?) or by doing half and half (half pepperoni, half plain) depending on the palates of the pizza eaters in question.
Or perhaps you’ll instead opt to try something unusual, such as Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple slices) or ziti pizza (pizza topped with the makings of baked ziti–ricotta, ziti, and mozzarella on top), buffalo chicken strips, or even fried plantains!
Or maybe you’ll just keep it simple, as in the recipe below, which goes with a fairly tame fresh mozzarella and fresh basil topping.
Simple Pizza at Home
For the crust
- Pizza dough for one crust, either homemade or store-bought (suggested recipe: Neapoletana pizza crust from Perfect Pizza at Home)
- Olive oil
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
For the sauce
- 1 cup tomato puree (not paste)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt, to taste
To top the pizza
- 10 to 12 ounces mozzarella cheese (either fresh, or shredded)
- Dried or fresh herbs such as basil or oregano
- Toppings of your choice: mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, etc
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Now, toss the dough. While you might be tempted to start tossing and twirling the dough like a well-seasoned dude at a pizzeria, start out slow. Gently toss the dough between your two hands to warm it up. Then, hold it on two separate ends and turn it in a circular motion. The weight of the dough as it turns will help it spread. Go slow, because you don’t want it to break in the middle.
Once the dough seems as if it is getting fragile and might break if you continue this process, transfer it to a work surface coated with cornmeal. Using your hands, gently spread the dough until it stretches to the size you’d like.
Transfer the dough to your baking surface–either an oiled cookie sheet or a pizza stone.
Brush a small amount of olive oil on top of the crust. It makes it taste heavenly.
Prepare your sauce by combining the tomato puree with spices over low heat in a saucepan. Once it is warm and the spices are combined, spoon as much as you’d like on top of your crust. You don’t have to use all of it; you can retain the extra sauce and use to dip your crust, if you like. Spread it to cover most of the crust with the back of a spoon, leaving 1/2 inch or so uncovered (more, if you like a generous crust).
Top with cheese, trying to ensure even coverage. If you are using fresh mozzarella, be sure to drain it first. You may not use all of the cheese–keep in mind that if you use balls of mozzarella, it will spread in the oven, so leave some space around each ball.
Top with any herbs or spices you’d like, and add any toppings you’d like to add at this point. If desired, add a small amount of additional cheese on top or drizzle with olive oil.
Place the pan in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, or until you can easily slice the pizza without the cheese turning to goo. Serve while still warm, although leftovers taste great too.