Let me be upfront with you. I’m a pizza fanatic but I’m hardly a pizza expert. I’ve never worked at a pizzeria. My mother made pizza at home maybe twice. I didn’t grow up in New York City or Chicago. We ate Pizza Hut pizza growing up.
But for what it’s worth, I am from Findlay, Ohio, home of the Domino Parmesan Bread Bites. So making great pizza must be in my blood.
I make pizza for dinner almost every week. I’ve had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but for the past year, I’ve had consistent success in the art of homemade pizzas.
Today I will share with you what I’ve learned and my tricks to easily making a good tasting pizza in your kitchen.
1. Do it. Use fresh dough. Either make it yourself (I’ve had success with Annie’s recipe), or do what I normally do and if you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s near by, always have a bag of their pizza dough in the fridge or freezer. If you aren’t, most major supermarkets have a ball of frozen dough in the freezer section. This is also good. I’ve tried the pre-baked dough from grocery stores, like Boboli brand, and while they’re fine, they just aren’t the same as fresh baked dough when it comes to taste and texture. If you make your dough from scratch, try and let it sit in your fridge or freezer for a day or two. Mature dough has better taste and a chewier texture.
2. Don’t even try to work with cold dough. Pull your dough out of the fridge at least 2-3 hours hours before you plan on working with it. I understand why most busy people don’t like to work with fresh dough. It can be high maintenance. Finicky. Frustrating. But the key is to leave it warm up to the idea of being your supper. Letting it rest at room temperature for a while is the only way it will cooperate. There surely is science behind this. I don’t know exactly what it is, though. I just have circumstantial evidence.
3. Use your hands. There’s a reason why those guys in pizzerias throw the dough. It’s not just to show off. The dough needs thrown. I haven’t actually thrown dough, but I won’t rule it out in the future. Now I just use my knuckles to gently stretch the dough ball out to roughly the size I want it to be. Don’t stretch too far, unless you want holes. I don’t recommend holes. Once you’ve stretched your dough out with your hands, I plop it on a floured large sheet of parchment paper. Flour the top of the dough, flour a rolling pin and roll it out to a more uniform thickness. I never achieve a uniform shape. My finished pizzas are always wonky ovals or rectangles, but I don’t care about this. It makes me feel like Jamie Oliver. If while you’re rolling your dough out you find that it is still stubborn and shrinks right back to the original size. Don’t keep trying. You can’t force it. You just have to walk away for a short while and let the dough rest before trying again.
4. Oil it up. Once your dough is rolled out, liberally brush olive oil around the outer rim of the pie. This will result in a nice golden crispy wonderful crust. I also recommend lightly sprinkling the crust with kosher salt and, my specialty, a little bit of grated cheese (Asiago, Romano or Parmesan). I also will lightly salt all over the pie before I add the sauce and toppings.
5. Two words. Cheese blend. Just regular old mozzarella is okay, but if you want your pizza to taste like it does from a fancy pizzeria, then you gotta use a mix of several cheeses. Trader Joe’s makes this easy for me. I only use their bag of Quattro Formaggio which is a blend of shredded Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone. It melts wonderfully and is the perfect combination of salty, sharp and creamy. If you don’t have a TJ’s at your disposal, and you don’t feel like buying four different kinds of cheeses (don’t blame you!), I recommend using shredded mozzarella but also adding grated Asiago and shredded Fontina or shredded Provolone.
6. Throw on some fresh herbs. I don’t always have fresh herbs when I make a pizza, but when I do it really makes a difference. A generous topping of chiffonade basil on top of a basic olive oil, tomato and garlic pizza can be really impressive looking and tasting. I also frequently incorporate fresh thyme and rosemary in my pizza toppings. It makes me feel fancy. It makes the taste more memorable.
7. What pizza stone? There isn’t one in my kitchen. I achieve wonderfully thin and crispy crust with parchement paper. Just roll out the dough on top of the paper. When you’re done topping the pizza, slide the paper and pizza on to a baking sheet and then slide the paper and pizza off the baking sheet directly on the oven rack in preheated oven.. Remove from the oven in a similar fashion. Voila!