“Pizza in the morning,
pizza in the evening,
pizza at suppertime,
when pizza’s on a bagel,
you can eat pizza anytime!”
That right there is a jingle from a commercial that played on TV when I was a kid. It was for Bagel Bites, those small frozen bagel pizzas. Every now and then those words pop into my mind. (I have a feeling I’m not the only one.) But Bagel Bites never did appeal much to me. When it comes to this Italian-bred food, I’m choosy. Blame my upbringing: I grew up not far from Boston. There’s a lot of good pizza there. I’m also half Italian which, you could say, makes me a relative of pizza. Well, not quite, but I have a profound appreciation for the combination of cheese and tomato sauce on bread. It’s total comfort food.
I often make it at home, on movie nights with my husband or when I happen to have mozzarella cheese and tomatoes to use up. Not having a wood-fired oven to work with is really the biggest obstacle to making homemade pizza taste like the stuff from a NYC pizzeria. But you can crank up just about any electric oven to 500°F or more–the hotter it is, the better. Aside from that, I’ve learned that a homemade pizza can be tasty and easy to make!
For the dough/crust:
There are tons of pizza crust recipes out there (pretty amazing to see so many variations on just a few ingredients), and I’ve tried plenty but the one that I keep returning to is Bobby Flay’s recipe. Its 5-star rating is definitely valid! Once the dough is ready you can divide it up into two or three pieces, refrigerating or freezing the portions. If you freeze any, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store it in a freezer bag.
To make it margherita-style:
Margherita pizza is my absolute favorite. There’s the crust, which isn’t very thick, and the unfussy tomato sauce topped by creamy mozzarella and fresh basil. Delizioso!
I make a version of Deb Perelman’s sauce recipe from the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Combine pureed canned or fresh tomatoes (and their juices) with a pinch of red pepper flakes, a dash of salt (or to taste), fresh minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. You can also add a little granulated sugar to make all the flavors pop.
Roll out the dough onto a pizza stone or sheet pan with some cornmeal underneath to prevent sticking. Top with sauce and fresh or whole-milk mozzarella. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Immediately after removing it from the oven, sprinkle with torn basil leaves–a must. I then add shredded parmesan to the finished pie for a touch of sharp flavor.