Homemade Pizza

January 29th, 2009 by megan · 16 Comments

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I know that there are some strong opinions out there about pizza – so pizza fanatics (you know who you are), don’t give me too much grief. I’m happy to hear what you have to say: just be gentle with me. I’m sensitive. As a preemptive defense I say, c’mon, give me a break – I live in Brooklyn! The world U.S. capital of good pizza (Italians: don’t kill me! I love your pizza!).  My husband is actually in charge of most of the pizza forming and baking and has recently taken over dough-making, as well, to my delight. In our togetherness we have formulated a few tips for pizza-making:

1) It helps to have a large baking stone in your oven. We keep our stone on the bottom of the oven at all times The stone helps to regulate the temperature of the oven, even when not cooking pizza. It’s also pretty, pretty good to cook bread and pita on.

2) Preheat your oven for at least an hour. We usually preheat the oven for 2 hours (if you can stand the extreme heat in your kitchen!) to ensure a super hot oven. Our oven will reach temperatures of about 600°F or slightly higher, which I think is pretty hot for a very basic, unfancy gas oven.

3) If you want to get serious about pizza making, invest in a pizza peel.  A peel is the wooden paddle-like thing that pizza makers use to transfer the pizza to the oven. We have a comically large pizza peel that we got at a restaurant supply store, but I’ve seen smaller versions designed for the home kitchen. (Note: You only really need a pizza peel if you’re going to invest in a baking stone. The two go hand-in-hand.)

4) Let your dough rest in the refrigerator at least overnight, and for up to three days. If you must have pizza immediately, you can leave it out on the counter and let it rise for an hour or two, but the flavor of the dough really develops nicely if you let it sit for longer in the fridge. Also make sure that your dough isn’t cold when you start to form the pizzas. Take it out of the fridge at least an hour before pizza making commences. Our dough recipe is adapted from one found in Food & Wine.

5) Finally, don’t put too much topping/sauce in the center of the pizza. It tends to get a little soggy and floppy.

Homemade Pizza with Fresh Basil

Homemade Pizza with Fresh Basil

The dough and sauce recipes will make 4-5 medium-sized pizzas, 10-12 inches in diameter.


For the dough:
One 1/4-ounce (7 gram) package instant yeast
2 cups warm water (divided)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the counter and peel, and potentially more to add to the dough)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well with your hands
Red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Topping suggestions:
Fresh mozzarella
Fresh ricotta
Asiago cheese
Green chilies (such as Serrano)
Truffle oil
Garlic or Garlic scapes (in the spring)
Fresh basil
Whatever your little heart desires


For the Dough:

  1. Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water (about 110ºF) and the sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, throw it all away and start again. Sorry!)
  2. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 4 1/2 cups flour, and salt and stir until dough forms.
  3. Knead in a stand mixer (using the dough hook) for 7-8 minutes on medium-low speed, or until the dough pulls away from the bowl and doesn’t feel terribly sticky to the touch. You may need to add more flour halfway through mixing – this is a pretty forgiving dough, so don’t stress. (Essentially, you want to be able to stick your finger on the surface of the dough and not have a ton of it stick to you.) Add a tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want.  Alternatively, knead by hand for 10 minutes (or more) on a lightly floured board.
  4. Grease a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil. Be fairly generous with your greasing. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to ensure that all sides of the dough are coated in the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
  5. Let the dough rise for at least an hour, or preferably stick the covered bowl in the fridge overnight, or for as long as 3 days.

For the Sauce:

  1. Put the garlic and olive oil in a medium pot and heat to medium-high. Cook and stir the garlic for a minute or two, or until it has turned a nice gold color (but hasn’t, under any circumstances, turned brown).
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, a generous pinch of salt, a few grindings of pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes.
  3. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to medium low.
  4. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the sauce is fairly thick.
  5. Using a potato masher, a hand (stick) blender, or the back of a wooden spoon, mash any large chunks of tomatoes – you should have a thick, just-barely chunky mixture. Taste and correct for salt.

To Assemble and Bake the Pizzas:

  1. Remove the lower rack of the oven if you are using a pizza stone. This will make it easier to get the pizza from the pizza peel to the pizza stone, if you’re using them. An hour or two before you want to make your pizza, preheat the oven (with the pizza stone in it, if you’re using) at its very highest temperature – I put it on broil.  Remove the dough from the fridge and let it come to room-ish temperature. (You don’t want it too cold when you start to form the pizzas.)
  2. Punch down the dough. That’s right, show the dough who’s boss by giving it a good punch or two. This will deflate any really large air bubbles. Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a softball and roll into a loose ball shape between your palms.
  3. If you’re using a pizza peel: Very lightly flour the peel. The key here is to have just enough flour on peel to facilitate the easy slide into the oven but not too much that you get flour all over your pizza stone, because it will burn. You can shape your pizza in several different ways: a) by rolling it out with a rolling pin; b) by stretching it on the pizza peel until you have a rough round-ish shape; c) with practice, you can do what professional pizza makers do and use your fists (rotating in a circular, punch-y motion) to form the dough into a round shape. Keep in mind that the dough will rise quite a bit in the oven, so you don’t want the formed raw pizza to be too thick. If you’re using a pizza peel: Shape the pizza directly on a large cookie sheet or a baking pan using your hands (shaping it with a rolling pin and then transferring it to the cookie sheet is just a huge pain: the only way this might work is if you have one of those huge dough scrapers meant to transfer pie dough).
  4. Moving quickly so the dough doesn’t stick to the peel (if you’re using one), top the pizza round with your toppings of choice, leaving about an inch border all the way around so you have a crust to hold on to when you’re eating your pizza. Brush the edges with extra virgin olive oil. If you’re using a pizza peel: Give the peel a shake to see if the pizza is stuck to the bottom of the peel. If it is, add just a tiny bit more flour underneath the pizza so that it will easily release onto the pizza stone. If you’re not using a pizza peel: don’t worry about this business with the flour under your pizza.
  5. If you’re using a pizza peel: quickly transfer the pizza from the peel directly to the pizza stone – it’s a flick of the wrist that does the trick. If you’ve got your pizza on a cookie sheet: stick the cookie sheet directly on top of the pizza stone, or on the lowest rack of the oven.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. What we really like is an almost burnt-y crust on the bottom (patches of black), but a golden brown crust on the top.
Everything pizza with mushrooms, basil, prosciutto, ricotta, and mozzarella

Everything pizza with mushrooms, basil, prosciutto, ricotta, and mozzarella

Pizza ideas:
White pizza with a kick: One clove garlic, sliced thinly. Fresh mozzarella, sliced. Fresh ricotta. Asiago cheese, grated. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated. One Serrano chile, sliced thinly. Top formed dough with all ingredients (dollop the ricotta evenly around the pie), a pinch of salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Brush crust with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Mushroom and truffle oil: Tomato sauce. Fresh mozzarella, sliced. Fresh mushrooms (I like cremini), sliced. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated. A tiny drizzle of truffle oil. Top formed dough with all ingredients, a pinch of salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Brush crust with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Pork & cheese: Tomato sauce. 2-3 slices prosciutto, shredded with your fingers. Fresh mozzarella, sliced. Parmegiano-Reggiano, grated. Top formed dough with all ingredients, a tiny pinch of salt (don’t forget: prosciutto is salty), and a grinding of black pepper. Brush crust with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Top with leaves of fresh basil (or arugula would be nice, for a tricolore).


Mmmmm....prosciutto on a pizza


gastroanthropologist Jan 29, 2009 at 2:03 pm

That’s the most yummiest pizza I’ve seen in a long time. That crust looks amazing – thanks to your husband (mine needs help making toast!).
I love mushroom and prosciutto on pizza (I also love fresh mascarpone). If you haven’t tried this maybe next time you can – when the pizza comes out of the screaming hot oven crack an egg over top. The heat of the pizza will cook the egg a bit and as you pull the pizza apart it makes a wonderful goo to dip in.

Allen Taylor Jan 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

Allen Taylor

Jesse Jan 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Mmmmm. Looks good. I should try this some time…hee hee.

Jessica Jan 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I have both a pizza peel and a baking stone for making bread. I have done very little in the way of pizza on them, but will have to give it a try!

Do you know the brand of your peel? I find that mine does not work very well even when sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. My bread is always sticking!

katie Jan 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Wow. I made pizza the other day too! THis looks great.

I used Jim Lahey’s no-knead method which only toke a day… I made mozzarella and my friend brined pork, so it was a bianca. A bit-too-slow food method for the everyday cook. I have leftover dough, so I will try your sauce!

I also really need a the pizza stone.

MsGourmet Jan 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

you just can’t beat San Marzano tomatoes!

Marc @ NoRecipes Jan 29, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Your pizza looks great! Coming from California, pizza purists look at me like I’m Bbealzebob. I’ve been known to put stuff like sea urchin and truffles on my pizza. I’ve been using Jim Lahey’s no-knead recipe for the dough, but I just got a copy of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day so I’m going to be giving that one a try (for the next 2 weeks, since it makes several pounds of dough).

Joan Nova Jan 30, 2009 at 9:06 am

These look so good…I can actually smell them.

megan Feb 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I love the idea of an egg on the pizza! Sounds delicious. I will have to try next time!

My pizza peel is by AdCraft, and it’s about 3ft. tall! It’s seriously comically large.

Everyone seems to love the no-knead recipe – I will have to try! I’m a little skeptical because kneading is such a good thing, but I will keep my mind open! :)

megan Feb 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

oh – and Marc – OMG not so sure about sea urchin on pizza – truffles, most def.! I would say I probably am closer to a purist when it comes to pizza, but I am always willing to expand my culinary horizons.

katie Feb 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

funny about the urchin. I have been looking for ways to use this urchin I got freshly shucked form the farmer’s market. uni pasta, uni chosder, uni on steamed egg… UNI ON PIZZA!

I think it could work. If caviar can sit atop pizza, why not another sea-breather’s roe? :)

Hillary Feb 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Best pizza I’ve seen in awhile!! Love all of these ingredients…seriously…mushrooms, basil, I think you know my ideal pizza!

andy Jul 31, 2009 at 2:13 pm

what restaurant supply store did you get the peel @?

megan Jul 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm

The one on Lafayette and Houston in Manhattan – I think it’s called Win Restaurant Supply?

andy Aug 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

thanks! great blog & recipes btw

anne Apr 7, 2011 at 7:56 am

I did this last night. I must say – the taste of the dough was amazing! The sauce was great too. Only problem I had was while my crust was golden brown, my cheese burnt and the underside of the pizza was only cooked. I was using an electric oven set at broil (I turned it down to 500 for the next pizza hoping that would stop the burning, but to no avail),and I was using a a cookie sheet. Haven’t invested in the stone or pizza peel yet. I would like to try it again – any suggestions for what I did wrong? Was my dough too thick?

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