Everyone likes pizza, but despite being relatively easy to make, it is rarely made at home, perhaps because there are so many pizza places who will not only cook it for you, but deliver it right to your door. There is nothing wrong with takeout pizza, but making your own pizza allows you to customize it exactly the way you like it and you don’t have to worry about the personal hygiene habits of the 17 year old who topped your pizza for you. For me, making your own pizza is not just about the right combination and amounts of ingredients, but also about the dough. It is very difficult to get an authentic Italian style thin, chewy crust at a takeout, which too frequently offer an inch thick, bready crust. If you want an Italian style pizza, make sure you get yourself a pizza stone or, better yet, a cast iron pizza pan. Using 00 flour works best but if you only have regular all-purpose it will still turn out fine. The sauce is the easiest part of a pizza recipe and it is even easier if you have an immersion blender puree everything right in the pot.
One final note on pizza. If like me, you’ve done some research online about the best way to make pizza, you will probably have noticed that celebrity chefs almost universally caution home cooks to not to use too much cheese on their pizza. This is nonsense. If you like cheese, then use it generously; the more the better. Unless you are having a celebrity chefs over for dinner, your guests will never complain about too much cheese on their pizza. Celebrity chefs tell you not to use too much cheese for the same reason that they tell you to always serve meat rare, tuna uncooked in the middle, and to use a whole head of garlic instead of a clove; they are doing it to differentiate themselves from unsophisticated home cooks. Do yourself a favour, be unsophisticated and go crazy with the cheese and while you’re at it, go easy on the garlic.
- Heavy cast iron pizza pan
- Small to medium sized pot
- Immersion blender
For the sauce:
- 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons of oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 small diced onion (or 1 tsp onion powder if you are in a hurry)
- 2 cloves crushed garlic (or half teaspoon garlic powder if you are in a hurry)
- Small can of tomato paste
For the dough:
- 1 and ¼ cup 00 flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 electric mixer
- Lots of whatever you like on pizza
Stir the yeast into one cup of warm water and set aside for 10 minutes while the yeast proofs. Mix together the salt and 1 cup of each flour. When the yeast and water mixture starts to foam, pour it and a tablespoon of olive oil into the flour and salt mixture and mix with the dough hook attachment for about three minutes. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and then mix again for a couple of minutes. Add the quarter cup of 00 flour onto a work surface and then knead the dough by hand until all of the flour has been absorbed. Then form into a ball and place in a bowl that has been coated with olive oil. Turn the dough ball around until it has been coated in the oil. Cover with a moist cup towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 3 or 4 hours in a warm location. If you are doing this on a weeknight, allow to rise in the fridge overnight.
About a half hour before you are ready to make the pizza, place the cast iron pizza pan in the oven and set it to 500 degrees or has high as your oven will go. Dump all of the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot and simmer. After 10 or 15 minutes when everything has softened, blend with the immersion blender and then simmer on low until ready.
When the dough is finished rising, sprinkle some flour on your work surface and dump the dough on it. Cut it and half and make two dough balls, then form them into thick discs with your hand. You can use a roller to stretch out the dough but it actually works best if you spin the dough in the air just like you see it done on TV. The dough will be strong enough that it shouldn’t tear. Once it is strong enough, place it back on the work surface and use your fingers to raise up the edges. Take the cast iron pan out of the oven and give it a generous sprinkle of olive oil (be very careful with the pan as it will be extremely hot). In order not to stretch the pizza out of shape, fold it in half, then fold it in half again by folding one corner over the other (see picture), then lay it on the tray and unfold it (again, careful with the pan). Use a BBQ brush to give the dough a light coating of olive oil to prevent the sauce from making the dough soggy, then place the sauce, pepperoni, cheese, and whatever else you want on it and place it in the oven for about 9 or 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to form nice golden brown patches. You can make the crust a little crispier by letting the pizza rest on the hot pan outside the oven for a few minutes.