Since this school year started, we decided to institute a family pizza night on Friday nights. We enjoy pizza and watch a movie together, and it is loads of fun. But pizza for four once a week can add up, especially for a family with a very tight budget. In a past life, I used to make basic pizza, but I wasn’t sure how homemade pizza would go over with the kiddos. As anyone with kids typically knows, they like what they like, down to the exact flavor and exact brand, no substitutions.
I’m happy to report that our first homemade pizza experience was a complete success in every way. Here’s why it was so great:
- Easy - Our 7 year old was able to do about 80% by himself
- Fast – it took about 10-15 minutes prep time, and 10-15 minutes in the oven
- Tidy – we dirtied exact 5 items in preparing the pizza, including the pan it was baked on
- Cost effective – we calculated out the cost of the ingredients that went into the pizza, and compared it with the price of a large pizza at some local pizzerias, and our pizza came out at little less than half the price.
- Fun – the kids LOVED the idea of doing it ourselves, and really enjoyed putting on the toppings
- Healthy – pizza can be loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives, and other things you want to limit and/or avoid. In making our own pizza, you can control all these things. We used limitedly-processed ingredients, and this is also a great way to sneak veggies into your kid’s diet!
- Delicious – homemade pizza is just SO GOOD. It isn’t heavy or greasy or spicy or fatty tasting, as store bought can sometimes be.
Here’s what you need:
Frozen or refrigerated pizza dough – Find it in the deli or frozen bread area of your grocery store. Cost seems to range between $3-5 on average. You can also use the pre-made Boboli crust – you won’t have to fuss with rolling it out, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good, plus the ingredient list isn’t as ideal. Frozen dough needs about 4 hours to thaw, or you can thaw overnight in the fridge. In the near future, I plan to try out making my own dough to make this process even more cost effective, but we didn’t have time today.
Tomatoes – this will be your sauce. Choose plum tomatoes, or another “paste” variety, as these have less liquid in them. I use 2 medium tomatoes per one large pizza. In the past, I made pizza using prepared pizza sauce on one and my tomato method on the other, as the crowd I was serving was not thrilled with the thought of anything other than the familiar jarred pizza sauce. In the end, everyone unanimously agreed that the tomato method tasted so much better, and we haven’t bought pizza sauce since.
Cheese - we use mozzarella and some parmesan. You can buy whatever kind you like, pre-shredded or block-style. I was tempted to buy pre-shredded mozzarella to save time, but it was twice the price per pound as block mozzarella. I also timed it - Including the time it took to find the grater, and find/open the new block of cheese, it took less than 2 minutes to shred what we needed for 1 pizza. That is worth saving half the price to me! If you don’t think you’ll use the rest of the block before it goes bad, you can pre-shred and freeze it.
Olive oil & garlic – I usually cook up about ¼ cup of oil and put it in a little glass jar in the fridge to use over time. Plan on using about 1 garlic clove per 1 Tb oil.
Toppings – the sky is the limit: pepperoni, prosciutto, mushrooms, onion, olives, peppers, garlic, spinach, sausage, the kitchen sink, whatever sounds good to you! With each item, you won’t need very much per pizza. If you want green pepper, for example, just ¼ or ½ of a pepper will be plenty. Slice your veggies VERY thinly. Otherwise, in my opinion, they end up tasting a tad dry and undercooked. Another option would be to sauté them a little beforehand. This will release the juices that might make your pizza soggy, and insure they’re fully cooked. Pre-cook any raw meat too, like sausage. You can pre-prep your meat and veggies and store them in the freezer for quick pizza prep!
Here’s what you do:
- Slice tomatoes as thinly as possible (a serrated blade like a bread knife makes this a snap). Place on a clean tea towel (or paper towels). Sprinkle with a little salt, and set aside. This will draw moisture out so they don’t make the pizza soggy.
- Roll or pat the pizza dough into a 14-16 inch circle. You can roll with a pin, or just channel your inner Italian mama, pinching and stretching the dough in your hands until it is the right size. You don’t have to treat it gingerly; I beat the heck out of my dough. I often have to set it down to rest halfway through, which helps it stretch out a little better. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the dough if it is too sticky to work with. When you’re done, sprinkle a little on the pizza pan, then lay on the dough circle. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, and add the garlic (mince or press it). 1 large garlic clove in 1 Tb olive oil will make a enough for several pizzas (or you can use the extra oil for sautéing veggies, using in a salad dressing, etc). Cook for about 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly. Do NOT let it brown (otherwise, start over). Remove from heat.
- Use a pastry brush to brush some of the garlic oil all over the crust, including the edges. If you like a garlicky flavor, include some of the garlic from the oil. For the kiddos, I strained out the cooked garlic, as I wasn’t sure how much they’d like it, and the result was a much more mild garlic flavor.
- Place tomato slices in a single layer over crust, leaving about ½ inch border.
- Evenly spread shredded cheese next. It doesn’t take as much as you might think, remember it melts. We used about 5 oz worth of mozzarella and parmesan, and it was very cheesy.
- Place your chosen toppings next. Start with a little of each chosen topping. Just take care to not weight the pizza down so much it gets soggy. My kids just like olives and pineapple (gross), and we used about half a can of whole olives that we sliced, and only about ¼ can of pineapple. Cheese alone is delicious, but I also love Italian sausage, mushrooms, and onions shaved SUPER thin.
- Bake pizza in a pre-heated 450 degree oven, and check it in about 10 minutes. The pizza dough package says it takes 8-12 minutes to cook, but our olive/pineapple pizza took 17 minutes before it was done to my liking: bubbling evenly over the entire surface, the cheese had several browned spots, and the crust lifted easily from the pan. Pay attention to the center of the crust, as you want to make sure that it cooks all the way to the center and isn’t soggy there.
That’s it! I know, that’s a lot of text for something that is supposedly so easy, but I am an overly-detailed person by nature, and I tend to over-instruct. Hopefully you find it helpful, and decide to give it a try! I seriously don’t know why I’d ever plunk down $20 for a store bought pizza again. This was just SO GOOD, cost a ton less, and wasn’t as time consuming as I ever thought. If you try it, let us know how it turns out, and what toppings you used!