The authentic pizza that you get in Italy actually requires a slow rise process that takes 2-3 days just to make the pizza dough. However, there are many easy ways to make pizza; so get ready to try out these easy steps that will yield a delicious pizza to completely satisfy your palate.
1. Decide on the type of pizza dough
There are three types of pizza dough- store bought (the easiest way to make pizza) homemade (recipe discussed below) or frozen refrigerated dough which can again be homemade or store brought. Traditionally though, pizza dough is made using flour, but you can also use whole wheat, cornmeal or even polenta pizza dough. You can also assemble pizza toppings on bread, English Muffins, biscuits, tortillas etc.
2. Make basic pizza dough
Here is an easy recipe to make basic pizza dough:
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 1-1/4 cup of warm water
- 4 cups refined flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp sugar or honey
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 7-8 Crushed garlic cloves (or garlic powder) optional
- 1 tbsp oregano also optional
- In a cup, add the warm water and yeast. Water should not be boiling hot or the yeast won’t activate. Add sugar or honey and set the cup aside for the yeast to activate. Once foamy, it is ready for use.
- In a large bowl, take the flour and add salt, garlic cloves and oregano, if using. Make a well in these ingredients and add frothy and foamy activated yeast. Add olive oil and mix together.
- Knead the dough gently.
- Turn the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead gently.
- If the flour is sticky or loose, add some more dry flour. If the flour is too dry, add a little oil.
- Transfer dough back to the bowl. Cover with a moist cloth and keep in a warm place for 45 minutes.
- Take the risen dough and punch it down.
- You can keep it again for an hour to double in size-though you can also use the dough to make pizza at this point.
- Divide the dough into 2 balls- these will yield 2 pizzas of 12” diameter.
- Roll out the dough lightly on a wooden plate into a round, flat pizza base of desired thickness. At this point, ideally, you are to let the dough rise for 20 minutes. You can also skip this step and move on to making the pizza.
3. Decide on the crust
Before you rollout the dough, you will need to think about a few factors: the size, type and shape of the crust, the thickness of the dough and of course the toppings. The size of the crust and the choice of the toppings will both decide the temperature needed for baking the pizza.
- Thin crust- approximately 500 F stone temperature
- Homemade deep dish-350-425 F
- Frozen pizza- follow the instructions on the package
Restaurant style pizzas are stretched and tossed by hand. You might need to practice this a few times, so if you aren’t confident, it is best to roll out the pizza dough with hand or using a rolling pin. Stretched hand-tossed pizza dough gets cooked faster and such a pizza is usually baked at a higher temperature. If you are rolling out the homemade dough, take about the size of an orange. This should yield a pizza of 10 to 12 inches depending on thickness.
4. To make pizza sauce
Traditional pizza sauce is made with tomatoes
- Onions-2 medium, chopped
- 5 lb fresh tomatoes
- Garlic cloves- 4-5 crushed or you can use a couple of teaspoons of garlic powder
- 2 tbsp tomato paste-you can also use spicy, smoked or sun dried tomato paste
- Chopped basil- 2-3 tbsp
- Dry spices-1-2 tsp each oregano, thyme, Italian seasoning
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- Pepper -1/2 tsp
- Optional-Sugar 1 tsp
- In a large pot filled with water, add all tomatoes and bring to a boil. Boil until skins start to loosen up. Transfer to another bowl containing ice cold water. Peel the tomatoes.
- In a large pan, heat some olive oil and add garlic, onions and fry until brown. Add the tomatoes, basil, dry spices and seasonings. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.
- Remove from heat and cool a bit.
- Transfer contents to a food processor or blender and puree the mixture.
- Cover and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 4 months.
Tomato based red pizza sauce is just one type of sauce to add on the pizza. You can also make white sauce or alfredo sauce using milk, flour, garlic, herbs and butter.
5. Decide on the toppings
When it comes to pizza toppings, less is more and even a simple cheese pizza tastes delicious. Note that cooking times will need to be adjusted according to the toppings you add. Here are some delightful toppings:
- Vegetables- bell pepper, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos
- Hot dog
6. Prepare and assemble the pizza
Once the dough is ready and your toppings are prepared, you can assemble the pizza. In case of homemade pizza dough with recipe above, you must assemble the pizza on the sheet or pizza stone on which you will bake the pizza. Apply a layer of sauce. Distribute the toppings evenly over the sauce. Next, add cheese-preferably mozzarella-though you could use any cheese you like. Three cheese pizzas containing mozzarella, parmesan and goat cheese taste delicious. If you are vegan, you can use vegan cheeses or if you are counting calories, you can forego the cheese completely.
7. Cooking the pizza
Place the sheet with pizza dough in the center of the preheated oven (450-500 F). For fluffier crust, you can go up to 550 F with baking time of 7-10 minutes. In case of frozen or store brought pizza, you must follow instructions on the package.
8. Remove and enjoy
Once pizza is cooked (toppings will be cooked and cheese will have melted), remove from stove/oven and enjoy.
Take it to the next level! Do not be afraid to experiment. Change the topping combinations. You can also make focaccia bread, calzones and pizza sandwiches with the basic dough recipe. Go online to find out different recipes and delicious combinations and variations.