For this week's blog, I decided to make a valiant attempt at homemade pizza! I invited over my fabulous designer friends Jessica (not my roommate) and Sarah (you may recognize her from previous blogs). We had a relaxing Saturday night in - with the boys away, we watched an array of femme-friendly programming, including, but not limited to: figure skating, the Latin Dancing Championship, America's Next Top Model, an unidentified Josh Hartnett movie, and some grotesquely funny Lisa Lampinelli stand-up.
FEARLESS FACTOR: I'd say 9 out of 10. I know pizza doesn't sound all that hard to make (pile some stuff on some bread, right?), but I was worried that it would stick to the pan (since I forgot to buy cornmeal), that it would be too mushy or too burnt, or that I would desecrate my homemade sauce. Pizza is one of those foods that you just always order from somewhere else, so making it myself was a small culinary victory.
THE COOLEST THING EVER: Since I was going 85% homemade, I decided I'd give myself a break and NOT attempt my own dough (I think we all know how I feel about measuring dry ingredients - BOOOOOOO). So I stopped into trusty Bojono's and asked if they would sell me a couple dough balls. They not only graciously sold me two medium balls of raw dough, they only charged me A DOLLAR each for them!!! If that's not a deal, I don't know what is. (Although I began to really question the profit margin of a pizzeria.)
Read on to see how it came together....
[Note that this ingredient list makes two pizzas, with sauce leftover, most likely. I decided to make a Margherita pizza, a traditional Italian pizza with fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes, and a "Supreme" pizza, with sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, and mushrooms.]
2 medium pizza dough balls
1 can plum tomatoes with basil
1 can marinara sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/2 container grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. hot Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
about 16 pepperoni slices
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, sliced
To make the pizza sauce, place the whole can of plum tomatoes with basil in the food processor and blend vey quickly, until mostly smooth. Add in the can of tomato paste and the can of marinara sauce. Sprinkle in the dried oregano, dried basil, and dried parsley, red pepper flakes (to taste) and salt and pepper (to taste). Blend again until mostly mixed. Transfer the mixture into a large cooking pot and add the wine. Cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly. You can also add some chopped fresh basil to the pot.
Let your dough come to room temperature. DO NOT do what I did and leave it out, uncovered. Put it in some plastic wrap. Mine got a creepy skin along the part that was exposed to the air - it turned out fine, but it would have been easier to shape if that hadn't been there. Preheat the oven to 375. On a cookie sheet, rub a little olive oil all over the bottom to keep it from sticking.
[I mentioned the cornmeal earlier - the point of the cornmeal is to make the bottom of the pizza crisp, and prevent it from sticking to the pan - the oil actualy worked out OK, but in the future I would use cornmeal since it doesn't really add any significant fat or calories.]
Work with the pizza dough, stretching it out with your hands, sort of pulling it and turning it in a circle, until it begins to thin out.
[I actually attempted to throw it up in the air like they do in the pizzerias, which - to my utter shock - worked. It's a little dangerous when you don't have back-up dough, but if your hand-eye coordination isn't terrible, give it a whirl. It's the most fun you can have in the kitchen with your clothes on.]
When it's thinner, spread it out on the pan, flattening it out to the desired thickness and shape. Mine ended up being sort of freeform, which I really like - it seems so natural and rustic.
Spread a little olive oil on the surface of the dough, and rub it all the way to the edges (not too much - it should be about 1-2 T. at the most for the whole pizza). Spread a couple ladlefuls of sauce on the dough - how much you put is really up to you, depending on how saucy you like your pies. I used about 2 ladles per pizza.
For the Pizza Margherita, I made the dough freeform, but for the Supreme pizza, I shaped it into a 9 X 13" glass baking dish, which made for a slightly thicker, more doughy crust.
For the Pizza Margherita, place the fresh basil leaves, slices of the fresh mozzarella (about 1/2 thick), and the sliced tomatoes on top.
For the Supreme Pizza, brown the sausage. If it's in big chunks, like mine was, you can stick it in the food processor to cut it up into really small crubles. Spread the sausage on the sauce. Top it with the bell peppers and mushrooms.
NOTE: I chose to saute the veggies before I put them on the pizza. I just sauteed them in about a teaspoon of olive oil, and added just a dash or salt and pepper, for about 7-8 minutes, so they got a little tender. There's nothing I hate more than biting into a veggie pizza and feeling like the veggies are totally raw. After I sauteed them, I just drained them so they weren't soggy.
Add about a cup to a cup and a half of the shredded mozzarella on top, then arrange the pepperoni slices on top of that.
The two pizzas both baked for about 20 minutes, but I think the baking time will depend on the thickness of the crust, the nature of the toppings, and how brown you prefer the finished product. So I'd say start with baking any pizza for a minimum of about 15-20 minutes, and just watch it closely after that point.
In my haste to dig in, I forgot to take a picture of the finished Supreme pizza, but just imagine the most luscious, yummy pizza you can - it pretty much looked like that. I was even so bold as to take the pizza out about 5 minutes before it was done and sprinkle a little more cheese on top of the pepperoni, just for kicks.
Slice it and enjoy! Sarah was kind enough to bring over a pizza slicer, which made getting at the finished product that much simpler.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID:
SARAH: [About the Pizza Margherita] This is so good. I'm so glad you're doing a blog, because I want the recipe. This is way better than Bojono's. [About the Supreme] This one is good too, but I like the other one better. I like the thinner, crisper dough. It just seems more homemade. The Supreme sort of seems like regular pizzeria pizza.
JESSICA: These are pretty good. You didn't f**k it up!
[Truer words were never spoken, J-Cam.]
MY VOTE ON MY DISH: I have to give myself 9 out 10 stars. I was nervous about the whole thing, but in the end, the pizza came out great. I don't know which one I liked more - I guess I'd have to say the Pizza Margherita, since it was less guilt-inducing, although I felt pretty good about all of it, since I knew exactly what went into everything (except, of course, the dough, but I trust Bojono's not to put anything crazy in it, like lard). Next time, like I said, I'd use the cornmeal as a base on the underside of the pizza, but other than that I think there has never been a more perfect Saturday night meal.
It was one of those nights where kicking it on the sofa with your pals is the only place you want to be. Chicago nightlife will always be there next weekend!
Thanks to Sarah and Jessica for being such great judges, and thanks to everyone for reading!
See you next time....