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
  • Print


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


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.


Salisbury Steak Smothered In A Mushroom Onion Sauce…

Want a meal that is a step up from just a regular hamburger? Try making salisbury steak. The key to the flavor in this recipe is the ingredients mixed in with the ground beef and the wonderfully decadent sauce. This recipe doesn’t take much longer to make than just a plain old hamburger and it adds a little flair to serving ground beef. So jazz it up next time. I’m sure your family will love it.

I first saw the Pioneer Woman make Salisbury Steak on her television program and she has a recipe for it in one of her books. I looked at her recipe and changed a few things up and both my husband and I said this was the most flavorful ground beef we’ve had in a long time.

So let’s talk making Salisbury Steak.

Lesson Learned 1: I found two secret weapon flavor enhancers – in her recipe, the Pioneer woman uses beef bouillon cubes in her ground meat and Kitchen Bouquet in her sauce to add depth of flavor. I found this stuff called “Better Than Bouillon” which is a roasted beef sauce made with seasoned roasted beef. It has a gel-like consistency. I used it instead of bouillon and I really believe it boosted the flavor – tons! I now use it even when I make hamburgers to kick the flavor up a notch. I think it’s great stuff. You should try it.

Flavor Enchancers

I used Country Bob’s original all purpose sauce to enhance the flavor of the sauce and the sauce was divine. I guess what I’m trying to say here is try different substitutions in recipes you make. You might find that you like the recipe with the substitutions even better than the original.

Lesson Learned 2: Try using seasoned panko bread crumbs instead of just regular seasoned bread crumbs: I think the panko gives the meat a nice texture as well as flavor and I found I could use a slightly lesser amount than regular bread crumbs.

IMG_9180You want to be careful not to overload your ground beef with bread crumbs. You’ll dry it out. After making hamburgers and meatloaf for years and now salisbury steak, I know how the beef should feel so that it will not be overly dry. It should feel moist but not overly sticky. This is something you’ll get a feel for over time. Don’t worry about it.  I always add about half the amount of bread crumbs the recipe calls for to begin with and add more from there. You can always add more and you don’t want to wind up with too much bread crumbs in the mix.

Elongated PattiesLesson Learned 3: Make sure you sufficiently elongate the patties:  Just like a hamburger, these patties will shrink and rise in the center if you don’t elongate them sufficiently and then put an indentation in the center to prevent them puffing up. You can see by my pictures that I didn’t quite nail that process. It doesn’t matter from a flavor perspective, just from a visual perspective. And visually you want to create a different look than that of just a plain old hamburger.

Lesson Learned 4: Used a cast iron skillet for this recipe if you have one: Cast iron provides you with the most even heat which I think is important when you’re cooking everything on the stove but especially ground beef patties. Invest in a basic no frills cast iron skillet. Depending on the size you choose, it could cost you between $15-$25 and will probably be one of the best cooking investments you’ll ever make that you will hand down to your grandchildren.

Patties cooked in a cast iron skillet

This recipe is a nice way to dress up ground beef. Try it and let me know what you think.

Salisbury Steak Smothered In A Mushroom Onion Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print



1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (I used parmesan herb)

2 Tbs. heavy cream

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 Tbs. Better Than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbs ketchup

Salt and pepper

1 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. garlic infused olive oil (you can substitute plain olive oil)


1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 – 8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 1/4 cups beef broth (save 1/4 cup to mix with the corn starch)

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbs. ketchup

1 Tbs. Country Bob’s all purpose sauce (or you can substitute a different steak sauce)

2 Tbs. corn starch

Salt and Pepper


Make the patties by combining all of the ingredients for the patties except the butter and olive oil. Make sure to sufficiently flatten the patties into an oblong shape and make an indentation in the center so they keep their shape.  Add the butter and olive oil to a cast iron skillet. Cook the patties on both sides. about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the patties to a plate and cover them with foil to keep them warm. In the same skillet (you can add a little more butter or oil if you feel you need it) sauté the onions and mushrooms until the onions start to brown slightly. Add the garlic and sauté another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Whisk together the two cups beef broth, worcestershire sauce, ketchup and all purpose sauce and add it to the onions and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Whisk together the remaining beef broth and corn starch until there are no lumps. Add to the sauce. Cook on higher heat until the sauce bubbles and starts to thicken.

Put the patties back in the pan and cover them with the sauce. Let them simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve immediately.

Salisbury Steak Patties Smothered In Sauce

Salisbury Steak Patties Smothered In Sauce

Salisbury Steak

Serving Suggestion: With Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Peas and Carrots

Serving Suggestion: With Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Peas and Carrots