Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Pizza Time


Margherita Pizza


Red Onion and Prosciutto Pizza


It’s safe to say I am a food snob.

Resulting from this characteristic is the need to make my own pizza, since takeout is not welcome here.

Honest to God, in the almost six years of marriage to Mark we have probably ordered pizza no more than five times. And that’s high-balling it.

Yeah. I know I live in the American town with the highest percentage of Italians, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And, there is an award-winning pizzeria called Bruni’s like five minutes from my house, in addition to about 10 more pizza shops.

But making it is so much fun. And when it’s pizza time, it’s usually party time.

Such was the case recently for my mother-in-law’s b’day.

We made four pizzas, and my amazing nephews – Paul and Dan – helped make the pies.

I know most people freak about making dough. But have no worries, you can just buy your dough from a bakery or a grocery store or a pizzeria. I bought mine from a bakery in my town.

The biggest challenge is rolling out/stretching the dough. You do need patience and a light touch as well as a well-floured surface. You’ll notice that my pizzas are in the shape of rectangles. That’s because I bake them on your basic cookie sheet. This is how my Mommom does it so, enough said. She also gave me another handy tip: Once the dough is fitted onto your cookie sheet, poke it all over with the tines of a fork. This prevents the dough from getting air and puffing up. Cover your stretched dough with a clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to make the pizza. I usually stretch the dough in the morning and let it rest covered until I make it for dinner.

I made homemade pizza sauce. Recipe is below. I topped two pizzas with the sauce. One was plain (for the kiddies) and one was pepperoni (the fav of the kiddies’ Dad, A.K.A. Randy.)

I also made two white pizzas: One a traditional margherita (the fav of my husband, AKA Mark.) and one experimental, which had sautéed red onions, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula going on. It was fab. My father-in-law Paul loved it!

My rule about pizza night is to have fun and patience. I made four pizzas, so it took about 45 minutes to get it all done. I served a Caesar salad as well.

There is work and planning involved, but it's so much better than calling for takeout. So give it a try!

Pizza Sauce
1 can Cento crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp.- ¾. tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (This is optional. I left them out this go-around because little children were eating the pizza)
15-20 fresh basil leaves chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Saute garlic over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add crushed red pepper, if using. Saute another minute. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer partially covered for 20 to 30 minutes. Add basil the last five minutes.

Note: Sauce may be made ahead. Be sure sauce is warm before topping pizza.

To make pizza using pizza sauce:
Stretch your dough and fit onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Poke holes throughout the dough and cover with a kitchen towel until you are ready to use. This can be done up to 8 hours in advance.

When you are ready to make the pizza:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove kitchen towel. Place tray with pizza dough in oven and bake for 6 to 10 minutes to lightly brown the bottom of the crust. (You can check to see if the bottom browned by gently lifting with a spatula). Remove browned crust from oven. Top with sauce, cheese or any topping you desire. Bake for another 12 to 14 minutes until crust is golden brown and crispy. Let the pizza sit for about 5 minutes before cutting it.

Here are the recipes for my famous no-sauce pizzas:

Margherita Pizza
Pizza dough
Fresh tomatoes, regular or plum, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, not in water, sliced
10 or more cloves of garlic, minced
12 to 20 basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove kitchen towel. Place tray with pizza dough in oven and bake for 6 to 10 minutes to lightly brown the bottom of the crust. (You can check to see if the bottom browned by gently lifting with a spatula). Remove browned crust from oven.

Scatter chopped garlic all over the crust. On top of the garlic, alternate tomatoes and mozzarella. (IMPORTANT: Do not overlap tomatoes and mozzarella. This will lead to soggy pizza). Be sure the tomatoes and mozzarella are side-by-side, not on top of one another.

Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Remove pan from oven and top pizza with whole basil leaves. After about five minutes, cut and serve.

Red Onion and Prosciutto Pizza
(This was an experiment that was a success and a keeper! Woo-hoo!)

Pizza dough
1 medium red onion sliced
Olive oil
Thinly cut prosciutto
2 cups fresh arugula
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh mozzarella, not in water, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sauté red onion until fragrant. About 10 minutes. Note: You can do this step ahead.

When you are ready to make the pizza:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove kitchen towel. Place tray with pizza dough in oven and bake for 6 to 10 minutes to lightly brown the bottom of the crust. (You can check to see if the bottom browned by gently lifting with a spatula).

Meanwhile, rinse and thoroughly dry arugula. Season with salt and pepper. Dress with lemon juice. Toss.

Remove browned crust from oven. Scatter sautéed red onion all over the crust. Top with fresh mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil on top of mozzarella. Bake for 12-14 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Remove pizza from oven. Top with prosciutto slices. Then top the prosciutto layer with dressed arugula. After about five minutes, cut and serve.

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