Friday, November 13, 2009


Ah, pizza. Kid-friendly, cheap, quick, and available in infinite varieties. And, like Refrigerator Soup, a great way to use up all those random bits of things hanging out in your refrigerator.

Now, do not wuss out on me and use store-bought pre-frozen pizza crusts. Gross. Here is a fail-proof homemade pizza crust, which can be made ahead and frozen for when you feel lazy.

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water
Around 3 cups of flour (all-purpose white or bread flour work best)

Add the yeast to the warm water, and add a pinch of sugar. Wait for the yeast to get foamy (around 5 minutes). Add a couple teaspoons of salt and 1 cup of the flour, stirring to loosely incorporate. Add another cup of flour and stir until you can't stir any more and an obviously dough-like substance has emerged. Dump this out onto some more flour on the counter, and knead it for a couple of minutes, incorporating as much additional flour as you can.

A couple of notes on this process: technically, you should knead the dough for much longer (say, 10 minutes), until the glutens in the flour start to break down and the dough becomes shiny and pliable. However, I've done this and never noticed a taste or texture difference between a properly kneaded pizza crust and a quickly kneaded pizza crust. So I don't bother. All you really need to do here is get a lot of flour in there until it forms a ball of dough. Don't worry about getting in exactly three cups. Stop once the dough ball is no longer sticky to the touch, and, you know, it looks like a dough ball.

Once you have a recognizable dough ball, stop. Put a towel over it and let it rise in a room-temperature-to-warm place for 45 minutes or an hour. Go have a glass of wine and watch some TV. Take the risen ball of dough and mash it out until it fits your pizza receptacle. I use a pizza stone, but a baking sheet will do fine. Put a little flour or cornmeal in the bottom of the pizza receptacle first. This recipe makes one pizza stone's worth of crust, so feel free to double or triple if you want a big batch. (Also, I like a thick chewy crust, so this recipe will go a little further if you like a thin crust.)

Once the crust is in place, preheat your oven to 475 and begin assembling the toppings.

Now, wasn't that easy? About three minutes of actual work and maybe an hour's worth of waiting. I usually start the crust as soon as I get home from work, then run around cleaning or whatever until it's time to assemble.

Pizza toppings are infinite in their variety. I usually start one of two ways: traditional, meaning I lay down a layer of spaghetti/tomato sauce first; or white, meaning I skip the sauce and just lay down some olive oil. Or pesto, if I have any. Once you have one of these bases, open your fridge and see what presents itself. Most commonly I'll do a white/cheese pizza (ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan) because I always have those cheeses on hand, and only occasionally have tomato sauce already made. But I've also used pretty much every imaginable combination of the following, either on a tomato sauce base or an olive oil or pesto base:
fresh tomatoes
sundried tomatoes
fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, etc.)
onions, peppers, garlic (fresh and roasted)
roasted peppers
artichoke hearts
spinach (fresh or frozen)
sausage, bacon, pepperoni, ground beef, ground pork, ham, chicken, turkey, tofu
roasted pine nuts
barbecue sauce
clams (fresh or canned)
other cheeses (goat cheese, blue cheese, leftover stinky cheese, etc.)
fresh or roasted veggies (zucchini, broccoli, winter squash, golden beets, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, etc.)
already cooked winter greens (kale, chard, collard green, beet greens)

It's basically whatever you've already got. Don't be trapped into standard cheese/pepperoni combos (unless you're feeding kids, of course). Once you've assembled, top with grated mozzarella and parmesan and a sprinkling of Italian seasonings. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is really good and brown.

Make sure you let it sit for a few minutes before digging in, or you'll burn all the skin off the roof of your mouth. Nobody likes that.

Cost: if you buy flour and yeast in bulk, like I do, the crust costs literally pennies. The toppings are whatever you have you're trying to use up, plus the cheese. I buy ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan in bulk as well, so let's be very generous and assume the average cost of one of my pizzas is 75 cents, which yields four very big slices. Meaning one will feed two adults as the main course. Not bad for 75 cents. And let's be honest: by the time I locate the appropriate pizza take-out menu, call them, place an order, and then wait for them to show up, I could have had all of the above already done. For 75 cents.


  1. I would like this with whole wheat. What four would you recommend?

  2. Can you freeze the dough if you are making one pizza at a time and the pizza crust recipe makes enough for two?