It’s Friday, and in my family that often means it’s pizza day. Although we usually go out for pizza, there’s nothing quite like the occasional home made pizza. I’m not talking about the sort of “home made” pizza that comes from dumping a jar of pasta sauce on a pre-made crust (although there’s a time and a place for those, too). I’m talking about a pizza with made-from-scratch dough and sauce. I have a recipe for pizza sauce that I’ve been using for years, and I really think it makes the difference between a good pizza and a delicious pizza. I’ve converted a few friends who would say the same. By request, I am also including my recipe for pizza dough.
Tomato Sauce for Pizza
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
5 cups (2 28 oz. cans) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
6 oz (small can) tomato paste
Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are transparent. Add the tomatoes, chopping them up with your spoon in the pan. Rub the dried herbs between your hands and let them drop into the sauce. Add the salt, sugar, tomato paste and a few grindings of black pepper. Stir all of the ingredients together and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Don’t let the sauce reach a boil.
This recipe will make about 6 cups of sauce. If you like a smooth sauce, you can run it through the blender after it’s cooled. I personally like it a little chunky, so I just leave it as is. Just break up the tomatoes with your spoon to the size you want. Keep leftover sauce in the refrigerator. You can use it in all sorts of things (although I tend to like it as a topping for pasta), or you can save it for another pizza.
Basic Pizza Dough
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) olive oil
2 packages dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp light brown sugar
Measure 1/2 cup warm water (about 100?F) in a measuring cup and stir in 2 tsp of light brown sugar. Be sure the water is only warm — not hot, or it will kill the yeast and dough won’t rise. The warm water and the sugar help the yeast to become active. Dissolve the 2 packages of yeast in the water and set it aside for at least 5 minutes. The yeast will become frothy.
Meanwhile, sift 4 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Make a depression in the middle of the flour and add 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 cup of warm water. When the yeast mixture has risen for 5 minutes, add it to the flour.
Dust the surface on which you will be kneading the dough with flour. Now mix all of the ingredients in the bowl with your hands and gather them together and place them on the floured board. Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes.
Knead the dough by pushing part of it away from you with the heel of one hand and then folding it back towards you. Repeat with the heel of the other hand. Then rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Add more flour to the board (it will become incorporated into the dough) if the mixture is too wet or too sticky. Eventually the dough will become elastic and will stay together in a cohesive ball.
Rub a clean bowl with olive oil and place the kneaded dough in it. Moisten the top of the dough with oil as well. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise. The oven is usually a good place.
When the dough has risen for 1 1/2 hours, remove it and place it again on the floured board. You are now ready to roll out the dough. You have enough dough to make:
- 2 thin crust pizzas at 12″ each (preheat oven at 500?F)
Divide dough into equal balls and roll out into a circle (if you are using a rectangular baking sheet, roll out your dough in a rectangle instead). Sprinkle a little cornmeal on your baking stone or pizza pan and carefully slide the dough onto the stone or pan. Roll up the edges of the dough to form a rim. Brush the dough with olive oil, then add sauce, cheese, and any other toppings you like. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp looking.
- 1 thick crust pizza at 14″ (preheat oven to 350?F)
After the dough has risen for an hour, punch it down and let it stand for another hour. Roll out the dough and place it on your pan or stone and make a rim around the edge of the dough. Allow the dough to rise in the pan for 15 minutes and then place it in the oven for 10 minutes unfilled. Remove partially baked crust from the oven and add sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Bake for another 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Personally, I like to use a pizza stone to make pizza. It gives you a nice, even, tasty crust. If you don’t already have one, you may want to pick one up. You can get a nice one from Sassafras for about $20 on Amazon. You may also want to invest in a pizza peel, to transfer your freshly assembled pizza onto and off your pizza stone. It’s not a necessity, but it’s definitely nice to have one.
Enjoy! If you make pizza, I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.