Pizza is like soup. You can just about clean out the fridge and find a good use for most of that stuff on top of a good, crisp pizza crust. Get creative here – look at it far beyond the traditional, and just see it for the simple, light bread dough that it is. Have fun with this idea. We do, and tend to “experiment” about every other week with making a couple of surprise pizzas for dinner with whatever we have around. I know folks who have even made some nice breakfast meals with this dough, but I can’t say I’ve tried that yet. An added bonus is that the pizza leftovers freeze well in individual slices, and are quick meals to reheat as needed.
Recipe for Pizza Crust:
This recipe makes enough for two pizzas, either two 14” round, or two 11” x 16” rectangle on separate cookie sheets.
Start your dough in the morning, then let is sit out covered tightly with plastic wrap all day.
In a large bowl, mix with your fingers or big fork to make a smooth mash:
1 package (or just over 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 cups warm (not hot) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups flour (you can experiment here with different kinds, from rice flour to whole wheat, but I usually stick with just plain old all purpose white)
Then slowly mix in with hand an additional 2 cups of flour.
Put this out on table and knead the dough for about 4-5 minutes until it feels really smooth and a little bit elastic. During this process, you may need to add a little more flour – up to another ½ cup. Careful not to add too much flour or you’ll never get that smooth feel – it will be too dry.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit all day long. You can even make the dough the day before, cover it with plastic and put it in the fridge over night, then give it the next full day to sit out on the counter.
When you are ready to bake:
I usually prepare the dough about ½ hour or an hour before I bake – it gives the dough a little bit of time to rise. If I forget, I end up with a thinner, crispier crust, which isn’t too bad either.
Preheat your oven well ahead of time – at least 15 minutes ahead. You want it HOT and even. If I use the gas oven, I set the temperature to 500 degrees.
Divide the dough into two sections. If you are adept, you can do that fancy pizza dough toss in the air. I can’t without making a big mess, so I stick with rolling out each section on the counter with an old wooden rolling pin.
If you use a pizza stone (this would be in the oven already, they take a very long time to preheat), place your rounds on your pizza board that has been sprinkled generously with corn meal (helps the dough slide off), and get ready to spread on the fixings.
If you use a cookie sheet, which I do more often than not, prepare your cookie sheet first with a quick spray of Pam or similar, then a generous sprinkling of cornmeal. Shape your dough on the counter, fold in half, and spread it back out on your cookie sheet.
Then get ready to choose your fixings (we usually do different fixings for each pizza), careful not to go too heavy on sauces or your pizza may be mushy. Pile on your fixings, usually starting with a sauce, then meats or veggies or fillers, then topping with cheese.
Cook each pizza for about 12-15 minutes. You probably don’t want to open the oven door too often or it won’t remain hot enough in there, but keep an eye on your pizza so that your toppings and cheese are bubbling and just starting to get some golden brown spots, and the dough along the edges is getting nicely light brown.
Remove your pizza (those pizza boards work super here), let it cool on the board for a 5 minutes, then cut into individual servings. I have a pizza wheel that makes light work of this. If you wait until it is cooler, a sharp knife or even scissors work well.
My favorite toppings or stuffings:
- Hands down my favorite pizza starts with my mom’s fresh pesto, made from the basil she grows by the cart full in her city community garden, and freezes to share with us all winter long. Begin by spreading a whole container of that wonderful green stuff on the pizza, then cover with sliced fresh tomatoes, or even drained canned diced tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt on the tomatoes, and top with mozzarella cheese.
- Margherita: drizzle on a little olive oil, spread with your fingers, then cover with thinly sliced fresh tomatoes, a sprinkling of dried basil and garlic salt, a pinch of sugar, and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Sausage: spread on traditional pizza sauce, then sprinkle on cooked and browned bulk breakfast sausage, then sprinkle on mozzarella cheese.
- Hawaiian: spread on a light coat of traditional pizza sauce, then sprinkle on chopped ham and chopped canned pineapple, and sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese.
- Taco pizza: spread on a little salsa or a mix of salsa and sour cream, then sprinkle with cooked taco meat, and sprinkle the top with cheddar cheese or a mix of cheddar and Monterey jack.
- What else do you have in your fridge: leftover meats, sauces, cheeses, veggies. And what else is in your pantry: canned veggies, fish, meats, sauces…
- Don’t forget this dough make good calzones too. Just create pockets with the dough by folding it back over itself once you have the fixings laid out, and then making another small fold all around the edge, and pinching the edges well to seal them.
Recipe for an easy and tasty traditional pizza sauce:
I don’t keep canned pizza sauce on hand, but I do usually have all these ingredients in my pantry. Mix up a sauce with all these ingredients at least an hour before using the sauce so that the flavors blend well. This makes more than enough for two pizzas. I put any extra in a zip lock bag and freeze it.
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (with the juices)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped up.
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
½ teaspoon chopped garlic or garlic powder