Friday night is homemade pizza night! There is nothing like getting cozy with homemade pizza and a really good movie or family game night. When you can’t do dinner and a movie out, preheat the oven, choose your toppings, finger through the list of favorite movies, or pull out your favorite game, and set back for an enJOYable night in with your favorite peeps!
Pizza, Pop, & a Movie Night (PPM)
When Troy and I first started ministry at our church in New Jersey, we made it known that nobody was allowed to disturb us on date night. We called our date nights our PPM nights: Pizza, Pop, & a Movie night. Not that eating pizza and watching a movie was our only date, it was just that the name stuck. Over time, it became a joke at church that Troy and Rebecca were having their “PMS” nights and needed to be left alone.
What Do You Do When Your Favorite Pizza Lives Across Country?
Pizza is true comfort food. It is what you order for takeout when you are out of time and need a quick meal, as well as the perfect food for a large crowd. We all have our favorites. The hard part is moving away from those favorites and beginning the search all over again for the perfect pizza. The worst part is craving your perfect pizza when you are pregnant.
To say that being pregnant with food cravings in New Jersey when my favorite pizzas lived in California was difficult, is an understatement. I grew up on both Old Chicago and Round Table Pizza.
Round Table Pizza
Now let me just say that when I think of pizza, it is synonymous with a pizza parlor, in my experience. Round Table Pizza, with the slogan, “One of the last honest pizzas,” had a jukebox in the corner, arcade games off to the side, and root beer by the pitcher. It’s where you hung out with family and friends and celebrated your birthday. The sauce on the King Arthur was more of a tomato paste base rather than the tomato sauce base you find on your typical NY-style pizza. It was also divided up into sixteen slices on an extra-large pizza versus only eight on a NY.
Yes, I am aware that I am comparing here as well as stepping on some New Yorker toes. New Yorkers LOVE their pizza. May I remind you that I am a California girl at heart? Finding a good California pizza on the East Coast was as hard as finding good Mexican food. Taco Bell doesn’t count Y’all! All this to say, I was homesick for my favorite pizza. It’s what I ate practically once a week growing up. My mom would probably laugh at my exaggeration right now.
Old Chicago Pizza
For a more formal experience, I went to downtown Petaluma, California. With my nose leading the way, I wandered up the rod iron staircase, down the carpeted corridor of the historical brick building, and into my favorite pizza of all time…Old Chicago Pizza. It had atmosphere. We are talking brick walls, historical pictures, deep-dish pan pizza served over a burning candle, and tons of oozing, dripping mozzarella cheese stretching from the pan to the plate. This is where I take my kids whenever we go back to my old stomping grounds.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Thankfully, my mom would bring me a pizza every time she flew to our home. But being pregnant six times, with nothing but greasy, New York-style pizza, the only option was to learn to make my own. Actually to be totally honest, I once considered having a pizza shipped overnight to me, but couldn’t justify the $75 shipping fee. Just being real.
So, why am I going into all these pregnancy cravings and favorite pizza parlors that I can’t go to anymore on this post? Well, as The Rolling Stones so eloquently put it, “You can’t always get what you want.” I don’t give up easily. When I can’t have something I want, I learn to make it myself. Although I haven’t actually replicated my Round Table or Old Chicago style deep dish pizza with its yeasty crust, I have landed on a favorite pizza dough and two sauce recipes that are better than eating out at any pizza parlor around here. I am still working on mastering Mexican food.
- 4 cups pizza flour (I use Healthy Traditions 00 Pizza Flour or King Arthur 00 Pizza Flour). You can also use bread flour for a crispier crust or regular all-purpose flour for a chewier crust. I find that the pizza flour is the best of both worlds.
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110° F)
- 2 T olive oil
- For use in a bread machine:
- Add flour to the bread machine set on the basic dough setting.
- In a small bowl, stir together warm water, honey, and salt then sprinkle the top with the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes to activate, then stir in olive oil. Start the bread machine. This process takes about an hour and a half on my machine.
- Once the dough is ready, divide into two equal pieces using a dough scraper.
- Now using floured hands, fold each piece of dough in half 8 times, while gently pulling the sides over the center like you are closing a book. Turn the dough and repeat for 8 folds. You can also do this on the counter by gently cupping the dough while moving it toward you and then rotating it and repeating. This pulls the dough taught and forms into a tight ball.
- Once the dough is formed into a tight ball, place in an oiled small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight to ferment and activate the gluten. This will allow for the big bubbles you see in restaurant pizza crusts to develop.
- The following day, remove the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before using to let it relax and come to room temperature.
- Preheat a pizza stone in the oven at 500° F.
- Transfer your dough to a floured parchment paper sheet and evenly dust with flour. Begin to work each piece of dough with your fingertips by gently pressing in the center of the dough being careful not to pop any of those glorious bubbles.
- Lift the dough carefully over both knuckles and roll the dough around your knuckles, creating a well. You are working the dough outward to develop a thinner crust in the center and a thicker crust around the edge.
- Continue working your dough out until you have a 10-12" pizza crust. Keep in mind, it will shrink back a bit so make it a little larger to begin with.
- At this point, you may prebake your crusts for 10 minutes on your prepared parchment sheet by slipping the pizza peel under the parchement and placing directly on the pizza stone to bake. This allows for a crisper bottom if you plan on loading your pizza with toppings that could make the pizza soggy. If you are doing a plain cheese or pepperoni pizza, feel free to bake it all together for 8-10 minutes until crust is golden brown and slighlty scorched around the bubbles.
- If you are using your prebaked crust, spread on desired sauce, place toppings that could dry out under the cheese, and toppings like pepperoni that taste better crispy, on top. Bake until cheese is nice and melted and golden brown (about another 10 minutes).
- Preparing Pizza Dough By Hand:
- In a small bowl, stir together warm water, honey, and salt then sprinkle the top with the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes to activate, then stir in olive oil.
- Measure out your flour in a large mixing bowl and create a well in the center.
- Pour your yeast mixture into the center and stir using a firm spatula or wooden spoon to incorporate.
- Knead by hand inside the bowl for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be sticky.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to double in size for about 5-6 hours. If I am not using my bread machine, I usually place mine in the laundry room on a table by the dryer because my laundry room is always in use and is usually warm.
- After the dough has doubled in size, follow the steps above starting at #4.
Saucing the Pizza
There are as many ways to sauce your pizza as there are toppings, but the most familiar are your red tomato sauce, white Alfredo sauce, Pesto, BBQ sauce, as well as plain garlic and olive oil. Below I have included the recipes for red and white sauce, but you can click over to my Summer Pesto Sauce post for that recipe as well. My mom makes her own BBQ sauce and sends it to us, but I don’t use it on pizza. I save my BBQ sauce for chicken and hamburgers.
We typically stick to the red and white sauce at our home, but my mother swears by her favorite pesto with clams pizza and my bestie loves her BBQ chicken pizza with caramelized red onion, fresh mozzarella, cilantro, and BBQ sauce. Oh, the many flavor combinations you can come up with…
The Red Sauce:
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 T Ghee (if dairy free, just add an additional tablespoon of olive oil)
- 1/2 onion finely chopped
- 2 stalks of celery chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 heaping T chopped fresh garlic (about 4 cloves minced)
- 1 jar crushed tomatoes (I use Jovial Foods 18.3 oz jar of crushed tomatoes)
- 1- 7oz jar tomato paste (I use Bionaturae Tomato paste)
- 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
- 1 tsp. sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. I use Sucanant, a natural, unprocessed sugar.
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. fennel seed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt (if using Jovial and Bionaturae because they are both salt free). Otherwise, salt to preference. Remember that cheese will add saltiness so don't get too liberal with the salt.
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- Melt ghee and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion, celery, and garlic and saute until soft.
- Add wine, if using, and cook down until the liquid has almost evaporated (about 7 minutes).
- Add in the tomato paste and incorporate.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes and spices and allow to simmer for 45 minutes on low heat, uncovered.
- After the sauce has simmered, remove the bay leaf and process until smooth in a blender or with a hand wand to desired consistency.
- Slather on your prebaked pizza crusts or use on English Muffins or Naan Bread to make personal pizzas.
The White Sauce
- 2 T butter or ghee
- 2 T all-purpose flour (I use all-purpose Einkorn flour)
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsps freshly chopped garlic (about 2-4 garlic cloves depending on your garlic preference)
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, finely shredded
I recommend having all the ingredients out and measured before you begin.
You are going to start by making a rue with the butter and flour. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in your flour, continuing to stir for about 1-2 minutes to prevent flour from burning. This process mellows the flour taste and prepares it to receive the milk.
When the flour is slighly bubbling, slowly wisk in the milk, continuing to wisk constantly until smooth, thickened, and bubbly.
Add in your salt, pepper, and fresh garlic.
Add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and wisk for an additional 30 seconds until cheese is melted.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool before using on your pizza. Keeps for at least 5 days.
Putting it All Together
So now you have your pizza sauces and two perfect pizza doughs. What next? Well, let’s get the oven preheating with your pizza stone to 500° F. Shred or slice your cheese, sauté the Italian sausage (if using), and start chopping and preparing all those toppings.
I place my crusts on a parchment sheet for easy transfer to the pizza stone using a pizza peel. Pre-baking ensures that the bottoms are crispy and don’t sag when I lift my piece of pizza. I tend to pile on the toppings, which can cause the pizza to get soggy if I don’t pre-bake. If you are just making cheese or pepperoni pizzas, no need to pre-bake. You are good to go.
After baking for about 10 minutes or until slightly golden, remove and add your preferred sauce and toppings of choice. There is an art to layering your toppings. For example, any toppings that I don’t want to dry out or overcook, I place under the cheese like a blanket. If you are one who likes the crispy edges of the pepperoni, then you will want to place the roni’s on top. I tend to keep all the veggies underneath so they get melted together and preserve their flavor. There is actually some serious discussion going on about the proper placement of toppings. I am not going there. We have a movie to watch.
Favorite Pizza Toppings:
- Italian Sausage
- Shredded Chicken
- Red Onion
- Caramelize red onion
- Green Onion
- Red and Green Peppers
- Jalapeño Peppers
- Banana Peppers
- Mozzarella Cheese (fresh or shredded)
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Roasted Fennel
- Marinated artichoke Hearts
- Fresh Garlic
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Roasted Eggplant
- Fresh basil and Tomato
- The Sky’s the limit…
Best Pizza Combinations
- Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, & Basil with garlic and olive oil
- Prosciutto and Pineapple with red sauce
- Fig, roasted fennel, prosciutto, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with white sauce
- Whole canned clams, fresh minced garlic, mozzarella/Jack cheese sprinkled with oregano and pesto sauce.
- BBQ chicken, fresh mozzarella, caramelized red onion, cilantro, and BBQ sauce
- Pepperoni & cheese with red sauce
- My favorite – Italian sausage, mushroom, olive, onion, pepper, pineapple, mozzarella cheese with red sauce and lots of red pepper flakes (I am a spicy girl)
Consider having a pizza party and inviting all your friends over. Build-your-own pizza nights with friends are a way to make an ordinary dinner, extraordinary…while making memories in the process. Have everyone in charge of bringing a few toppings each and have a fun game or movie night decorating your own personal pizzas. You supply the dough and sauce, whip up a nice salad, provide the cozy, fun space, and let them bring all the toppings. We also do this for either a soup & salad bar or baked potato bar night as well. It’s a great time that everyone can participate in.