Easy Homemade Pizza…

If you’re anything like me, pizza is something you either eat at a restaurant or order for delivery. I never really thought about making homemade pizza until recently. I was wandering around Trader Joes, saw some pizza dough in a bag and thought I should give this a try. So I bought some. After leaving it in the refrigerator for a few days I decided to use it before it went bad. And the rest was just pure joy.

Pizza is pretty elementary. It consists of the dough for your crust, your sauce, your toppings and cheese – yep, that’s pretty much it. But not really. How thinly do you roll out the dough? How much sauce and toppings do you put on? At what temperature do you bake it so the bottom crust gets done before the sides get too brown? What I found is there are some basic things to keep in mind when making pizza so your results will be perfect. So let’s talk making homemade pizza…

Lesson Learned 1 – Tips for working with pizza dough: Pizza dough, like most other types of dough, likes to rest before you roll it out. One common mistake with using store bought pizza dough is to take it out of the refrigerator and immediately start working with it. Doing that will result in a tough crust. Let the dough rest on your counter for about 20 minutes before you begin rolling it out. That way the glutens in your dough won’t get overworked and you won’t have a tough crust.

The dough that I bought made a 12 inch round pizza about 1/8 inch thick. That’s probably the thinnest you want to go with the crust. I rolled it out on a silpat non stick silicone mat. My mat gives me circular as well as linear dimensions that helps when I’m working with dough that needs to be rolled out to certain specifications. If I have a cookie recipe that says I need to create a 9 inch roll, I can measure that on this mat. I was also able to roll out my pizza dough to a perfect 12 inch round. And even though the mat is considered non-stick, you still need to use flour when working with bread/pizza dough. Most of the time you don’t need it for cookie dough.

Pizza Crisper

Lesson Learned 2 – If at all possible, use a pizza stone or crisper: Pizza stones are designed to bake pizzas in commercial brick ovens although they also can be used at home. Pizza crispers are designed for “regular” ovens. They are perforated to let air circulate under the crust to cook the bottom of the pizza more evenly. Being that I don’t make homemade pizza on a regular basis I just bought an aluminum pizza crisper at the grocery store. It worked beautifully. Plus I can reuse it a few times before having to get another one. Use either a pizza stone or crisper if you want to ensure that the bottom of your crust is not soggy when the rest of your pizza is fully cooked.

Also when using an aluminum pizza crisper (as shown in the picture) you should lightly oil it  before putting the dough on it. I recommend using canola oil because it has a very high smoke point. I also recommend that after you brush on the oil to take a paper towel and go over the crisper and remove any excess. I am very serious about only lightly oiling the bottom. I’d start with about an 1/8 of a teaspoon and go from there. That amount of oil and a paper towel to spread it and soak up any excess should be more than sufficient. You don’t want the bottom of your pizza to be greasy. You just don’t want the dough to stick to the crisper.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t drench the pizza with sauce: I used the smallest jar of marinara I could find, 14 ounces, and I still didn’t use all of it. Now you may ask should I use pizza sauce or pasta sauce. I don’t think it really matters. Some make pizzas with alfredo sauce. I don’t think there is a hard fast rule. It’s really all up to you. What’s more important is to make sure you don’t drown your dough in sauce. Just spread it on to lightly and evenly cover it. You don’t want to create soggy dough.

Lesson Learned 4 – Should toppings be put on cooked or raw: That depends. If you want to have Italian sausage on your pizza definitely cook it beforehand. I cooked mine about 75% done (just a little pink – see below) knowing that the time the pizza cooked in the oven would cover the rest. I did not cook my green peppers ahead of time, but I did cut them into smaller diced pieces. Same thing with my mushrooms. They went on raw but I sliced them thin and they were cooked perfectly in the time allotted. I also put on some pepperoni slices, as is, since they can be eaten right out of the package.

Partially Cooked Italian Sausage

Another mistake common in making homemade pizza putting the toppings on too thick. Now don’t get me wrong, I like lots of toppings on my pizza. Just be careful not to create a huge mound. What happens when putting too much toppings on is the crust will get done before your toppings are cooked or even warmed through. You don’t want that.

Lesson Learned 5 – Cook your pizza at a high heat: I looked over many different pizza recipes and saw a wide variety of recommended cooking temperatures. One recipe even called for the pizza to be cooked at 350 degrees. With the research I did I found the prevailing thought to be that pizza should be baked at higher temperatures. I baked mine at 450 degrees. It was done in 15 minutes and the crust was perfect. Our local take-and-bake pizza store recommends you bake their pizzas at 425 degrees. You could probably do that as well but it will take a little longer for your pizza to cook. If you pile on your toppings it might be better to bake your pizza at 425 to give more time for the toppings to bake. I would guess baking at 425 might add on an additional 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven. The choice is yours, but I would not go under 425 degrees.

It sounds like a lot but it’s actually pretty simple. If you keep these tips in mind you should have a perfect pizza the very first time. This was my first time making it and it turned out perfectly. And how often can you say that about a recipe you’ve tried only once? I really like the fact that I can control what goes on my pizza and so I will definitely make a homemade pizza again. Try this and let me know what you think…

Easy Homemade Pizza...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 bag of pizza dough (I got mine from Trader Joes – Whole Foods also has them)

1 14 ounce jar of pasta or pizza sauce (there will be some leftover)

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage cooked almost through and crumbled

pepperoni slices, as desired

1/3 cup green pepper, diced small

2-3 medium sized cremini mushrooms, sliced thin

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (you can add more if you like)

1/8 tsp. canola oil

Flour for dough preparation

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 450. Take a large pizza crisper and lightly oil the bottom. Remove any excess with a paper towel.

Flour your surface for working the dough.  Roll the dough to a 12 inch circle. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin and transfer it to the crisper. Cover the surface of the dough with pizza sauce leaving about a half inch around the edges uncovered. Arrange the pepperoni slices on the dough. Arrange the Italian sausage crumbles on the dough.

Sprinkle the meats with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Arrange the mushroom slices and green pepper pieces on the dough. Top them with more mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust cooked and the cheese is gold brown and bubbly. Slice and serve.

 

Garlic Roasted Summer Squash And Tomatoes…

Get ready for the onslaught of summer squash. If your garden has been anything like mine in recent years you will soon be inundated with more summer squash than you can handle. It often gets to the point where you can’t even give the squash away. So think about different ways you can use of all of that squash.

Over the years I’ve posted a wide variety of recipes using summer squash and you can find those recipes in my recipe index. Today’s recipe is very basic. It is quick and easy and a great way to use your squash to accompany just about any meal.

So let’s talk about garlic roasted summer squash and tomatoes…

garlic roasted summer squash and tomatoesLesson Learned 1 – For the best results, let the olive oil, garlic and seasoning rest: A great way to infuse your olive oil with the flavors of the garlic and Italian seasoning is to combine them all together and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before coating the squash and tomatoes. That way you will get a great infused olive and those flavors will permeate the squash and tomatoes during the roasting process.

Lesson Learned 2 – once again it is important to cut the squash rounds into evenly thick pieces: I cannot sing the praises of a mandolin slicer enough. It is truly the best way to cut veggies into rounds that are uniformly thick in size. The reason you do this is so the squash cooks evenly and you don’t wind up with some pieces overcooked, some undercooked and some just right. Eliminate what I call the Goldilocks And The Three Bears dilemma and use a mandolin slicer. And once again, I cannot stress enough to use the finger guard whenever using the mandolin slicer. Accidents can happen very easily if you don’t.

Roasted summer squash and tomatoes

Lesson Learned 3 – Use firm tomatoes in this recipe: I would not use overly ripe soft tomatoes in this recipe. A firmer, slightly less juicy tomato holds up best during the 30 minute roasting time. I used firm cherry tomatoes in this recipe but you can also cut up roma tomatoes or use firm campari tomatoes.

The prep on this recipe is quick and the result is fabulous. And with squash season upon us, this is a great recipe to have in your hip pocket. Try it and let me know what you think…

GARLIC ROASTED SUMMER SQUASH AND TOMATOES...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 large or 2 small zucchini squash

1 large or 2 small yellow squash

1/2 cup firm cherry tomatoes, halved

3 Tbs. olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Salt and Pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a lipped baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil lightly with cooking spray.

Mix together the olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning. If you can, let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to infuse the olive oil with the garlic and seasoning.

Slice the squash into 1/8 slices (using a mandolin slicer is preferred). Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Put the squash and tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil mixture over the vegetables and stir to evenly combine.

Spread the vegetables out evenly onto the prepared baking sheet. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the vegetables. Roast for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the parmesan is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Garlic Roasted Summer Squash And Tomatoes

Garlic Roasted Summer Squash and Tomatoes

Garlic Roasted Summer Squash And Tomatoes