From Scratch: Homemade pizza

Until a few years ago, I didn't make any food from scratch. The most complex meal I made was adding cooked broccoli to macaroni and cheese made from a box. But eventually, I learned skills for making meals from scratch, gradually adding more and more whole foods into my diet, and eliminating most processed foods. Processed foods are pretty ubiquitous though, and it takes a lot of time and effort to eliminate them. (I don't think I'll ever have time to eliminate them completely...but it's a noble goal.) I've decided to start a little series on the blog called From Scratch. Each month I'll choose a food that I often buy premade, and attempt to make it from scratch!

This first recipe comes from a close friend of mine, who recently taught me to make pizza from scratch. It takes more time than frozen pizza, but the result is so much more delicious. Below is a recipe for homemade pizza crust and sauce. I also included some good topping combinations to put on top of your from-scratch pizza!

From Scratch Pizza Crust

Note: The key to perfect homemade pizza is a really hot oven (500+ degrees) and a nice big pizza stone. This recipe also calls for a pizza peel, which is the large wooden flat thing that chefs in fancy kitchens use to slide the pizza in the oven. Having one of these makes it easier, but it's not essential to make pizza crust. This dough recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes, but you can really use any dough recipe you like.

  •  1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour if necessary)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t sugar

Put warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for five minutes while it dissolves. If yeast isn't dissolved after five minutes, give it a stir. Add flour, olive oil, salt, and sugar. Stir to mix, then knead until it turns into a dough ball. Coat a large bowl lightly with olive oil. Place dough ball in bowl, and roll it around so it gets coated with olive oil. Put plastic wrap over bowl, and let rise in fridge overnight. This helps improve the flavor. If you don't have enough time, let it sit for at least 90 minutes.

When you are ready to make the pizza, take the dough out about fifteen minutes before and let sit on the counter at room temperature. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Shape dough into a ball, coat lightly with flour, and let rise on floured counter. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a flat, thin circle. (The thickness of the crust is up to you. Make it as thick or thin as you like!) If it doesn't stretch well, let it sit for a while longer.

Sprinkle a generous amount of cornmeal on the pizza peel. Then fold the pizza dough and place on the peel. Add the toppings on the pizza, and slide the entire pizza off the peel onto a pizza stone. Cook until the crust looks browned and the cheese is sufficiently melted, somewhere around ten minutes.

Dustin's From Scratch Pizza Sauce

  •  1 12 oz. jar whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 large cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 generous tablespoons tomato paste
  • a few pinches of salt, pepper, and oregano (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, or 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
  • Lots of black pepper
  • Tiny pinch of brown sugar

Add one tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until soft. Add tomato paste and taste to make sure it tastes thick and tomato-y. If not, add more tomato paste. Then sprinkle on salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and pepper. Add a tiny pinch of brown sugar and stir. Let sit until ready to spread on pizza.

Good pizza topping combinations

  • Portobello mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese (with pizza sauce as a base)
  • Roasted eggplant, spinach, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, plum tomatoes, caramelized onions, shredded mozzarella (with pesto as a base)
  • Tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella (with olive oil as a base)
  • Onions, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, shredded mozzarella (with pizza sauce as a base)
  • Artichoke hearts, garlic, spinach, red onion, black or kalamata olives, feta (with olive oil as a base)