From Italy to your oven: how to make easy homemade pizzas

Elizabeth Duncan

Everyday, one in eight adults eats pizza, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Twenty two percent of teens eat pizza daily.

Many people may think that making the perfect pizza is a daunting task reserved for Italian restaurants. This is not the case! Anyone can make pizza by following a few simple instructions.

This crispy crust is slathered with tomato sauce and covered in fresh mozzarella, savory pancetta, hearty mushrooms, and crunchy peppers to make a simple and delicious dinner.
This crispy crust is slathered with tomato sauce and covered in fresh mozzarella, savory pancetta, hearty mushrooms, and crunchy peppers to make a simple and delicious dinner.

The first step is the dough. Although making pizza dough is pretty simple, it requires about an hour or two to let the yeast rise. For the best taste however, let it rise overnight.  If you have the time, homemade dough tastes great. However, most days I do not have time to start the dough in advance, so I purchase pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, which works just as well.

Some people find pizza dough intimidating and hard to work with. First off, do not try working with the dough directly out of the fridge. Let it set at room temperature for 20 minutes first to allow the yeast to relax.

When rolling out pizza dough, sometimes you may feel like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill. Each time you think you have made your dough flat, it quickly retracts back into a ball. Do not get frustrated. Stretch the dough lengthwise with your hands, allowing the small bubbles to pop, but be gentle because you do not want to tear the dough.

Alternate between rolling the dough with a pin and stretching it with your hands until it is your desired size. Do not beat the dough with a rolling pin because this will make your crust dense and unflavorful. If you are having trouble, old-fashioned kneading with your hands works just as well.

Once you are satisfied with your dough, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle cornmeal onto a regular cookie sheet. Place your dough on the sheet, and spread it out with your fingers. Then, take the olive oil and lightly drizzle it around the edge of your pizza to help create a crunchy golden brown crust.

The first necessary ingredient on a pizza is the tomato sauce. Store-bought sauce is simple and easy, but if you are feeling adventurous you can quickly pop tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper into the blender to make a very basic fresh sauce. Spread the sauce evenly around the center of the pizza, but make sure you leave an inch around the edge for the crust.

Next comes the cheese. Shredded mozzarella is a must for most pizzas, but I also love to add parmesan, ricotta, or fresh mozzarella balls. You can experiment with whatever type of cheese you like.

White pizza: skip the sauce and add potatoes, rosemary, and goat cheese.
White pizza: skip the sauce and add potatoes, rosemary, and goat cheese.

Then add your toppings. I love vegetable pizzas, so I typically add as many veggies as possible. Slightly sautéing mushrooms and peppers or caramelizing onions can add a lot of flavor to your pizza. Toss on some raw spinach or arugula, too.

If you want to add meat to your pizza, I recommend Italian pancetta. This cubed bacon can be pre-cooked quickly and scattered on top of almost any type of pizza. I also enjoy prosciutto or salami for quick and easy meats.

When you have no tomato sauce available, white pizzas are the way to go. Similar to a flatbread, these white pizzas are very delicious and have a unique flavor. Skip the sauce and layer on tons of cheese. I have found potatoes, an unusual topping on normal pizzas, can taste great on white pizzas. You can also add pesto, which is really tasty.

Use whatever you have in your kitchen to make a tasty pizza. Here are some of my favorite combinations: caramelized onions, mushrooms, and pancetta; ricotta, arugula, sun dried tomato, and prosciutto; and yellow potato, rosemary, and goat cheese.

Once you have your toppings set, place your pizza in the oven (which is preheated to about 500 degrees). Depending on your oven, the pizza will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook––you will know your pizza is ready once the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

After you eat your savory pizzas, use your remaining dough to make a sweet dessert. You can use a little bit of cinnamon, sugar, butter, and sliced apple to quickly whip up an apple pizza pie. Or, if you are more of a chocolate person, spread nutella, sprinkle on some chocolate chips, and then top it off with marshmallows.