I’m a pizza monster (my original confession here), and I know I’m not alone. We featured this green pepper and mushroom pizza as part of our meal plan service the week of September 30th, and not surprisingly I found a lot of pizza monsters in our community.
Homemade pizza – even if you don’t have a crazy hot oven or a pizza stone – can be just as good as a restaurant’s. It’s taken me many years of practice and a lot of so-so pizzas but I’ve finally gotten my pizza making routine down. Today I’m pumped to share with you the pizza lessons I’ve learned:
- Outsource the dough. I’ve tried a lot of homemade doughs, but I’m not good with flour and I’m as far from a baker as one gets. They were just so-so, and I never enjoyed the dough making part that much anyways. Now I leave the dough making to Trader Joe’s. If mastering pizza dough is a cooking goal of yours go for it. The bakers of the world all swear by Peter Reinhart’s pizza dough, and the recipe is here. However, I’m much happier paying $1.19 to Trader Joe’s.
- Let the dough rest outside of the fridge. I used to just come home from work, take the dough out of the fridge, and try to roll it out immediately. It was difficult to work with; it wouldn’t stretch; and I would just get frustrated. I learned that resting the dough outside of the fridge for about 30 minutes with some flour made the glutens loosen up, which made the dough so much more pliable. I could now stretch my dough to cover an entire sheet pan without a problem.
- Make your own sauce. While I suck at dough making, sauce making is something I can do and love to do. It’s also one area where I’ve never found a store bought option that I would prefer over my from-scratch option. My homemade pizza sauce is quick and simple and you should definitely make more than you need. It freezes well and can also be purposed into a pasta sauce.
- Bake your pizza on the highest rack. I know a lot of people assume that your oven is hottest closest to the heat source but it’s actually hottest on top because heat rises. If you’re looking for the strongest heat, situate your rack as high as possible. The heat will actually reflect off the roof of the oven and have a broiling effect on your crust to make it golden and crispy.
- Bake the dough sans toppings for a few minutes first. Something that really ruins a pizza for me is when the sauce or toppings make the crust soggy. To prevent this, I now bake the dough without anything on it first. I brush it with some olive oil, give it a sprinkle of salt, and then it goes into the oven on its own for some crisping action. I then sauce it, cheese it, and top it.
Learning these five lessons have resulted in absolutely delicious homemade pizza every single time. I hope these lessons up the quality of your homemade pizza too!
- Pizza dough – 1 lb. (I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s)
- Garlic cloves – 2 cloves, crushed
- Red pepper flakes – ¼ tsp.
- Sweetener of choice – 1 tsp.
- Crushed tomatoes – 1 28 oz. can
- Green peppers – 1, diced
- Brown mushrooms – ¼ lb., sliced
- Olive oil – for brushing pizza dough
- Mozzarella – 6 oz., grated
- Parmesan – 3 tbs., grated
- Pizza dough – Cover in flour and let rest for at least 30 minutes outside of fridge before rolling out. This is tip #1 to good pizza – resting dough gives gluten time to chill out, which makes the dough much more pliable.
- Sauce – Mix together crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, sweetener, and crushed tomatoes with a dash of salt and black pepper. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
- Green peppers / Mushrooms – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Situate rack so it’s as high as possible for the most golden and crispy crust.
- Spray sheet pan with cooking oil. Using hands, stretch out pizza dough to cover a sheet pan – it should be pretty easy to do if you let the dough rest. Brush the border with a bit of olive oil and then bake on top rack for 3 minutes without toppings.
- Brush on ½ cup to ¾ cup of sauce and then sprinkle on mozzarella and then toppings. You can pile the toppings on, they will shrink while cooking. Now bake for another 10 minutes on the top rack. Add parmesan and broil pizza for 1 to 2 more minutes before taking out of the oven. You should have melted cheese and a beautiful golden crust! Save the rest of the sauce for next time (it freezes well) or use it for a pasta sauce later on in the week.