February 8, 2011

Pizza Time

There are no right or wrong pizzas. The method is extremely lazy, but delicious.

Home cooked pizzas remind me of my wonderful friends back home, as pizza and beer nights were we-have-nothing-to-do-so-let’s-eat-drink traditions. We would have beer tastings, would watch bad TV, have badminton evenings, and combined our pizza nights with another music-sharing event that is unfortunately dead (is Music Parlour gone?). The best ones were where everyone brought something (pizza stone, toppings, dough, beer, and good gossip).  It is not ironic that our going away party was a pizza party!

They can be made quickly and can be so much healthier than ordering take out pizza.  Grocery stores sell ready made dough, but preparing dough from scratch can be pretty easy if you split up the tasks. Karl preps the dough, I prep the toppings and we work quickly to assemble everything. A pizza stone is essential because it absorbs heat and works to develop a crispy chewy crust, and it increases the oven temperature so your home oven can reach higher temps. You can top a pizza with whatever you desire. I prefer less cheese, and more vegetable toppings.  

Now, some ideas:
Mushroom, arugula, and goat cheese pizza
Garlic base, topped with portobello mushrooms, brown (cremini) mushrooms, truffle salt, red onions, mozzarella and goat cheese. Topped with arugula once out of oven.

Pizza with onions, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, and gouda
Onions, zucchini, red peppers, mushroom and gouda cheese.

Potato Leek Pizza
Potato, leeks and goat cheese.

Olive oil and garlic base, topped with cherry and yellow tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil, summer squash, Italian cheese blend and feta, with a little salt and pepper.

Garlic base, topped with cherry tomatoes, spinach, oyster mushrooms, red onions, young gouda, mozzarella, roquefort and basil
Garlic base, topped with cherry tomatoes, spinach, oyster mushrooms, red onions, young gouda (similar to a mild cheddar), mozzarella and roquefort cheeses, and basil. 

For the dough: you can buy dough (either from a pizzeria or a grocery store), estimate one dough per pizza; home-made dough can be ready in about an hour. You need all purpose flour, yeast, water, salt, and patience.

For cheese: I like to use any cheese that melts well and tastes delicious. I find a little goes a long way. Once it melts, you can hardly tell the difference (some would argue, but it’s healthier this way). Any Italian-style shredded cheese blends will do. I like fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, feta, Gorgonzola, gouda, ricotta, or really anything that melts and tastes good.

For toppings: I like fresh veggies, herbs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and peppery greens including arugula and basil. Lightly saute veggies like peppers, mushrooms, squash, or eggplant so they won’t give off too much water. This can cause you to have a wet crust.

For sauce/base: I like to omit this step because I’m lazy. Pesto and tomato sauce do make delicious bases (Sara, care to share your signature pizza?), but so does a light coating of chopped garlic.

Pizza Time!
Yield: For two roundish 8” pizzas; serves 4
Pizza dough:
¾ cup warm water
1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tsp yeast
½ tsp salt

Mix the water and yeast together. Add in salt and stir in flour. Knead together until smooth (about 10 minutes). Set in an a clean oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm location for 1 hour or until doubled in size. When ready to use, split dough evenly into two balls. Place dough balls on lightly floured surface (such as your counter) and cover with a damp towel until ready to use. If you leave them uncovered the tops dry out so make sure you cover them.
Roll out the dough lightly into an 8” circle. This gives a nice thin crust. You can also lightly push it out with your hands. This will leave more air pockets and give you a fuller crust (Nick, Sara, agree?)

Preheat oven and stone at the hottest setting in your oven.
2 cups mixed veggies (such as bell pepper strips, chopped onions, squash coins, halved cherry tomatoes, mushroom slices, small broccoli florets, spinach, etc)
1-2 cups cheese (we like mozzarella, gorgonzola, goat cheese, etc).
3 cloves garlic, chopped
herbs to top (chopped basil, etc)
tomato sauce or pesto if using
First, turn the heat down to 425ยบ F. Roll out the dough and place it on a hot pizza stone (pull out the stone when the dough is ready to be placed on it). Start adding your toppings to the dough. Start with your base, then toppings, then cheese.  Items like goat cheese can be added 4 minutes before the pizza is done. Fresh herbs or greens can be added as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven. Pizzas should take between 8-12 minutes, or until golden on top.


  1. You're wrong Nilam, there *are* wrong pizzas. It's called pizza with ham and pineapple. Also BBQ chicken deserves a spot up there.

    Great post! I've had great results (chewiness, flavor & crust) with Steingarten's recipe (http://journal.ngaloppo.org/2006/11/perfection-pizza/) and while it takes the effort of prep the night before, the extra flavor is worth it, and really overall it's only the same amount of effort. You just do it sooner.

    Agreed that less is better. Keep it simple, with great ingredients (for example, I have a hard time going back to shredded, dehydrated mozz when fresh, oozy balls are usually available!)

    Great post! And now I crave pizza. Ugh.

  2. Nico, in your dough recipe is conventional kneading out? I think it would be hard since it's such a wet dough. Sounds delicious for when you really want pizza perfection.
    Also your thoughts on a pizza peel? I think I am too lazy to invest in uni-taskers.

  3. Nilam, yeah, conventional kneading with this dough is going to be tough. I've never tried but I wouldn't recommend it. Also, after overnight resting, it is more manageable, but I still stretch the dough balls into pizzas "pizzaiolo" style, rather than rolling it out on the counter.

    Can't live without the pizza peel. I use it for bread too, so that's not technically a uni-tasker ;-) Seriously though, it's one of the best tools I have. Couldn't live without it.

  4. i saw this restaurant on no reservations and felt a kindred spirit: http://apizzascholls.com/aboutourpizza.htm

    my fave is pesto sauce, mozz and some variation on garlic, red onions, feta. spinach if i have it.

    also olive oil white pizza with a couple cheeses and fresh herbs is good. but i love the cheese the most, so we differ on that point. =)

  5. Sara, how did you know that we live in Portland, OR? Apizza Scholls is our absolute favorite place to go for pizza. On the entire West Coast! Maybe even in the world.

  6. This has convinced me that one day I want a pizza oven in my backyard.

  7. I didn't know you lived in Portland... that place looks amazing. I hope I'll get to try one someday.

  8. How was the potato, leek?!! I'm gonna have to give that one a shot! I miss pizza making parties!

  9. Melissa, potato and leek were my least fave, although fun to try. You can prep the leeks and potato (partially boil them) before putting them on. It's form the Jack Bishop A Year in the Vegetarian Kitchen Cookbook.

  10. Pizza night at our place tonight!