My mom makes pizza every Friday or Saturday night, and she's been doing it for as long as I can remember. When we were little, she used to make it in a long baking sheet, so the slices would be rectangular in shape. She's made many changes in the years since, but I always remember fondly those thin, cheesy slices, which were so thin you could eat 8 of them at least. She'd have to make three pies because my father would eat almost a whole pie himself.
For a while my mother used a pizza stone, which she liked, but one day she cracked it in half. While looking for a new one, she came across a pan in Williams Sonoma, part of their Goldtouch line, and she's been using it ever since. I use it as well and think it's just great -- it allows the crust to crisp nicely and the pizza slides right off when done.
But onto the ingredients...where do you begin? Plenty of people buy their dough from their local pizza shop, which is fine. I've done it in a pinch. But making dough is really easy, especially if you have a bread machine (I use a Zojirushi machine; it's brilliant) . If so, this is my aunt's recipe for dough, and it's a great one.
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted (this is an important step!)
1/2 cup semolina (if you can't find semolina, use 2 cups of flour instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Add the ingredients in this order to the bread machine. When adding the yeast, make a little well in the center of the mixture and add it, making sure the yeast doesn't touch the wet ingredients. Use the dough setting on the bread machine.
Now onto the sauce. Let me make a bold statement here: there's no reason to buy sauce from a jar! I'm sure I'm biased, as I grew up eating homemade sauce, but it's so easy to do, especially for pizza, and it's so much better than sauce from a jar that everyone should give it a go. Here's my recipe for pizza sauce:
1 can whole, peeled plumb tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
peperoncino (hot pepper flakes)
lots of fresh basil
handful of Parmesan cheese (optional)
pinch of dry oregano
salt and pepper to taste
~Saute the onion, garlic and peperoncino in good olive oil until golden. Start the onion a minute or so before the garlic, as the onions take longer to cook and you don't want the garlic to burn.
~Using a hand mixer or blender, blend the tomatoes without their juice until smooth.
~When the onion and garlic are golden, add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
You'll now have a bit of time for a glass of wine or a quick read, because your dough is still rising in the bread machine. When it's done, remove and put it on a floured surface. It will look like this:
If you leave it out for a while it will continue to rise. I roll mine out right away, making sure the surface and the rolling pin are well floured (but not too much). To get it to stay in a circle, roll it a bit and turn it to the right, roll it some more and turn, and continue this until it's rolled out to the size of your pan.
~Preheat your oven to 475 degrees
~If you're using the pizza pan I mentioned above, brush a bit of olive oil on it before putting the dough on it.
~Top the dough with the sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese (Use fresh mozzarella! It's wonderful and you can find it almost anywhere these days; if you can't, Bel Gioioso is a good cheese to use) and then any topping you like. I often saute and onion and top it with that, or a red pepper and sausage. Delish!
~Bake on the lower rack (so the dough gets crisp) for about 12-15 minutes
My history geek moment: The first version of pizza came in the form of baked pieces of bread that were topped with a variety of toppings. It is believed that people have been making this kind of dish since the Stone Age.