Weekend Cooking: how to make a pizza

We have some traditional meals around here.  I’m not talking about ham on Easter or turkey for Thanksgiving, but more run-of-the-mill weekly traditions – pasta on Wednesday (“Anthony!  It’s Prince spaghetti day!”), Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken when J is travelling, grilled burgers or chicken on the weekends.  And Friday?  That’s pizza night here at Casa SITFOB!

We used to get it from a local pizzeria; J would call home when he was leaving work, I’d call in the order, and he’d pick it up on his way home.  It was good, it was easy – add a tossed salad and a glass of wine (milk for the kids!), and we had a meal. 

It was also expensive.  Well, not expensive on a per meal basis, but it added up … $30 a week for take-out pizza?  Over $1500 a year?   That’s a lot of money for pizza!   And it wasn’t always piping hot by the time we sank our teeth into it; it did delay J’s return by 15-20 minutes; we had that waste from the pizza boxes, etc.  I decided there had to be a better way.

So, for the past six months, I’ve been using the method outlined below.  I’ve tweaked my technique, had fun experimenting with various combinations, and enjoyed sharing the prep with the kids; here’s what we do:

We start with store-bought pizza dough.  There you go, I’ll get the shortcut confession out of the way right away.  A pound of dough, refrigerated in our deli department, costs $1.69.  I pull it out of our fridge about 30 minutes before I want to start forming the pizzas, form it into a ball, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl to rest.  It puffs up a bit as the chill comes off it, and the dough regains some of its elasticity.

When I’m ready to form the pizzas, I preheat the oven to 500° F, with the stone on the center rack.  I now use a pizza stone for a nice crisp crust, but have used pans in the past.  My favorite pizza pan is a thick Calphalon with solid bottom; I’ve also had success with a thinner pan with a perforated bottom.  But, the stone is now my favorite “pan.”

When I first started baking bread, I was agonizing over semolina vs. corn meal vs. parchment paper.  Beth Fish suggested using cornmeal on the peel, saying “it acts like ball bearings, and the dough slides right off the peel onto the stone.”  Sage advice, and I use the same tip with pizza dough.

Grab one of those balls of dough and flatten it slightly between your palms, making a thick disk.  Then, using your fingertips under the disk, push gently toward the sides, stretching it wider and wider.  When the disk gets too wide for your fingertips, hold it by one edge and let gravity do the work as you “walk” your fingertips around the edge until it has been pulled into a circle about the size of the pizza peel (or pan).  Then, flop it down on the peel, and start the toppings!

This is where we really have fun!  One of our children will eat only cheese (yes, the eldest, this is what happens when you coddle them as babies!); two will eat either cheese or pepperoni, and one will eat anything you put in front of him.  J and I like to vary the toppings (and I’ll confess to reading some pizzeria menus to gather ideas.)

Here’s a basic cheese pizza:  sauce on the dough (oh, yes, that’s pasta sauce from a jar.  True confession #2), with shredded mozzarella on top. 

I put the tip of the peel toward the edge of the stone closest to the back of the oven and give a quick push forward and pull back, kind of like shooting a pool cue.  I was wimpy about the maneuver when I first started using the peel, and had a number of pizzas flip back on themselves – be bold!  (a good motto, in any case!)

After about 12 minutes I take a peek to see how it’s doing – there’s a fine line between melted/browning cheese and inedible (especially with a picky eater).  The peel goes under the front tip, I rock it slightly left and right as I push it all the way under the pizza, then pull it out and put in on a wire rack for a minute or so before cutting.  Yum!

Here’s our favorite combo:  pesto, mozzarella, caramelized onions, pine nuts, and spoonfuls of ricotta.  Let me know if you’re coming for dinner, and I’ll pick up and extra ball of dough!

What’s your favorite pizza topping?  Do you have a favorite pizza cookbook to recommend?

21 comments to Weekend Cooking: how to make a pizza

  • Just like making ricotta, making pizza gives me warm fuzzies inside. Thumbs up on the stone BTW. I would never make a pizza any other way. One trick…heat the stone at 500 degrees for 20 or 30 minutes before you but the dough and toppings on. Second trick…if you make your own dough, let it sit in the fridge for a day or two before you use it. (Mmmmm that ricotta looks good! Did you make it?)

  • That looks delicious! I’m not sure our deli sells dough like that, but I’ll be sure to check the next time I’m in there.

  • I love making homemade pizza–especially during the summer on the grill! But this post makes me want a stone and a peel! Looks so good and really eases up the process. But I can already see my husband rolling his eyes when I say I want to add something else to our already packed kitchen!

  • have you ever figured out the total cost vs. the bought pizzas? just curious…

    I must say that last one, with the pesto and the ricotta looks excellent.

  • What did you do? Now you’ve made me HUNGRY and it’s not dinner time yet (by far)! LOL

    It looks delicious — and amazing how you handle the dough! I’m not sure I could do that… *confession* I simply use a dough roller :\

    There’s no such thing as frozen pizza dough in Holland, but I like to use bread mix, swapping butter for olive oil.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh my – I remember those “Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day” commercials!

    I used to make homemade pizza nearly every Friday as well – when the kids were younger. My favorite topping, believe or not, is leftover meatloaf, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. Somehow the spices from the meatloaf is slightly different than meatballs, and the taste just lingers in my mouth.

  • When I was a little girl, our family made pizza almost every weekend. We usually made one big pizza on which we all got to decorate our own part. I absolutely loved it. Now that we’ve grown up, one big pizza for 4 family members clearly isn’t enough anymore and ever since moving out we haven’t made these home made pizzas except once a year perhaps. I have fond memories of it however and your post brought them all back to me. I should really try to make my own pizza’s more often!

  • We did Pizza Friday’s for years… and I always cheated with store-bought pizza dough, too! Now it’s an occasional treat, but your post has me wanting to revive the tradition.
    Checked Wegman’s yesterday, but no Barb-B-Blue to be found :-(

  • Hmm, those pizzas look yummy, especially the pesto one. I tend to use pizza dough from a packet (a dry mix) as I’m also from Holland, that place without the frozen dough :-)

    As toppings we also like brocolli (very finely cut), cut up sausages (veggie ones) or peppers (again cut in small pieces).

  • Your post brought back great memories for me too. Friday was our pizza night when all our kids were home. Our favorite toppings were Italian sausage, roasted garlic, onions, green peppers, and lots of different cheeses. Now my daughter keeps the tradition goin with her kids.

  • Oh, your pizzas look divine! I miss pizza SO MUCH! If anyone ever runs across a recipe for a great gluten-free dough, please let me know.

  • Nicole

    do you deliver? =)

  • The dough/crust looks fabulous. I’m too lazy to make it :)

  • yummy. Fav topping is crumbles of feta cheese.

  • This looks and sounds great, Dawn! Fridays are our pizza nights – even better than calling it in and picking it up, we order online and it shows up whenever we type in our delivery time. I do, on occasion, make my own … not nearly often enough, though.

  • Oh, yum! We do pizza night on Fridays a couple of times a month – and I do confess it’s takeout, but we get enough to last all weekend.

    I’m so glad I’m originally from the Northeast, or I would have no idea what “Anthony! It’s Prince spaghetti day!” even means :-) . Prince, Ronzoni, Buitoni (non-refrigerated) – I can’t get ANY of the pasta brands I grew up with here on the West Coast! (I may have to smuggle some back with me when we go to New York next month…)

  • Hey did someone say Pizza… we are pizza-holics in our house. :) Great post!

  • Friday is pizza night in our house too, though I haven’t yet made my own. I am going to have to consider doing this. It looks like it’s not too hard and it’s a bonus that I can add whatever toppings excite me! Great post, and thanks for sharing!!

  • [...] Make your own pizza! (See instructions on the blog She Is Too Fond of Books here or on Steph and Tony Investigate, here.) If you, like Dawn, are spending up to $30 a week on [...]

  • Awesome!!!!!!! I’ll be doing my grilled pizza post very soon now.

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