Homemade Pizza is Not a Big Deal — Seriously

Sometimes an evening calls for a rip-open-a-box kind of dinner (and for that I recommend Target’s frozen pizzas imported from Italy), but everyone is more happy when the house fills up with the sweet, tangy perfume of this handmade pizza.

I went 10 years married to an Italian before I even attempted to make pizza. Then our friend, Michelangelo, came to visit this winter and showed us how doable pizza really is. He was good at just eyeballing ingredients, but I needed more security, so I turned to my favorite food writer, Mark Bittman, for a no-nonsense recipe. He didn’t disappoint, and I’ve been making pizza almost every weekend since.

So here’s how to make best pizza you’ve ever tasted.

Basic Pizza Dough

adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Even though a food processor makes the fastest dough, you can easily make this dough by hand or with a standing mixer. I doubled the recipe, since we like to pig out on pizza and have left-overs, but you can cut the quantities in half.

Makes 2 large pizzas

  • 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 4 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant or rapid rise yeast (1 packet)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a food processor, then add the water and oil through the feeding tube. In less than a minute, the dough should form a sticky ball. If not, add a tiny bit of water until it does.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a ball on a floured surface. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and keep in a warm, draft-free place for 3-4 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

If you want to make it ahead of time, you can let it rise more slowly in the refrigerator (6-8 hours), or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw in a covered bowl.

To make by hand:
Combine half the flour with salt and yeast and stir to blend. Add the water (increase the quantity by 1/4 cup) and oil and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining flour a bit at a time. When mixture becomes too stiff to stir, begin kneading, adding as little flour as possible — just enough to keep the dough from becoming a sticky mess. Knead until smooth but still moist, about 10 minutes.

To make with a standing mixer:
The machine must be fairly powerful or it will stall. Combine half the flour with yeast, salt, water and oil. Blend with the machine’s paddle. Slowly add the rest of the flour until the mixture has become a sticky ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Switch to a dough hook if necessary.) Knead for a minute by hand.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Made with raw tomatoes, this saucepan-free sauce is both bright-tasting and easy.

Makes enough for 2 large pizzas

  • 1 large (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

After draining the tomatoes in a strainer, crush them in a food processor or by hand. (If crushing by hand, try squeezing the tomatoes inside a plastic bag held closed by the other hand to avoid squirting.) Stir in the salt and sugar and set aside.

Toppings

We love to use the moist Italian mozzarella for this pizza (Belgioioso is a good brand), but Mark Bittman uses regular American mozzarella (shredded) so I’m sure that would taste great too. You can put any toppings you desire, but it really tastes fantastic plain. We’ve tried fresh basil, and for my husband, I sometimes put on anchovies. (The things you do for love.)

Makes enough for 2 large pizzas

  • 1 log (16 oz.) fresh Italian mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Baked Pizza with Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella

After the dough has risen, here’s how to put it all together.

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. If you’ve made enough for 2 pizzas, divide the dough with your hands into two parts and form into balls.
  2. With a rolling pin (or wine bottle), roll each round into a flat rectangle, lightly flouring the surface and dough as necessary.
  3. Lift dough onto oiled baking sheets (mine are 11 x 17), and gently press out the dough to fill the entire sheet. If the dough is not stretching, let it rest a few minutes to relax it, then try again.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, then spoon on the sauce. Sprinkle with oregano and top with cheese.
  5. Bake until the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted, usually 20-30 minutes.

Here we are eating it last night. Luke, the baby, has figured out the smell by now and will screech until someone gives him a piece to gnaw on.

The main thing about homemade pizza is planning ahead so the dough has time to rise. But it’s a great kitchen activity for kids — kneading and rolling out the dough, spreading the sauce with the back of a spoon, sprinkling on the cheese — and a weekend treat everyone looks forward to.

I hope you try it and love it too!

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26 comments

  • Morgan Stuelke September 3, 2012, 6:27 pm

    The pizza was awesome!!!My dad suggests that we use a cotton towel to cover the dough.We added some lemon basil from our herb garden and onions.It was fun making it as a family.Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
    • Amy September 5, 2012, 11:47 am

      Hi Morgan,

      It’s so great to hear from you! I’m so glad you tried our pizza, and that you liked it. Thanks for the tip about the cotton towel. I will tell Virginia you liked it, and how you added your garden herbs. We miss seeing you!

      Amy

      Reply
  • Samantha @ Let's Get Digital August 25, 2011, 11:52 am

    This higher-end bread machine is not exactly frugal, but it’s the one I’d buy if I decide to get one. Zojirushi’s “Home Bakery Supreme”. It’s the one my cousin uses, and she is a baker married to a chef. ‘Nuff said. Especially for an appliance with moving parts, I prefer to pay more up front for quality and hopefully avoid repair issues.
    Samantha @ Let’s Get Digital´s last post ..Moving My Magazine Addiction Online with Pinterest

    Reply
  • Alison August 25, 2011, 7:57 am

    We make pizza at home and find our bread machine does a great job prepping the dough. We make BBQ chicken pizza, too. This is SO simple because you can just dump on the BBQ sauce out of the bottle and use any chicken left overs (or grill it up fast on the Foreman) and you’re set.

    Reply
    • Amy August 25, 2011, 11:28 am

      Hi Allison,

      I’m glad to hear a bread machine works too. I would love one of those! And your bbq chicken idea is great too!

      Thanks for writing in,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Anne-Marie June 21, 2011, 9:24 pm

    Reporting back: White pizza, using the Alfredo Sauce recipe (in Food & Drink), fresh broccoli, and just a light dusting of parmigiano/reggiano cheese on top was also a success, and something a “little different”. Watch your pizza towards the end of baking to make sure the broccoli doesn’t get too browned, but it does end up with a nice, nutty roasted flavor. The alfredo sauce makes it a bit rich; while we had this for dinner with a side salad, this would be great cut into small portions and served as an appetizer.

    Next: I’m going to try grilling our pizza the next time we cook out; I have a friend who does it with store-bought dough and says it’s fantastic. Disaster…fantastic…fine line…
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Amy June 21, 2011, 9:26 pm

      Hey Anne-Marie,

      So cool of you to report back, and offer your tips on a white pizza with alfredo and broccoli. You are so creative! And brave — know what you mean about the fine line between disaster and fantastic!

      Keep being adventurous!

      Amy

      Reply
  • Amy May 18, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Hi Anne-Marie,

    Wow, it was so great to hear such an enthusiastic report from you! I’m so glad you tried the recipe and that you agree with me on its deliciousness.

    And yes, I discovered later in life that one of the keys to Italian cooking is simple, fresh ingredients. I used to douse my sauces with spices, but the Italians cook with surprisingly few.

    I love that you used buffalo mozzarella. No wonder there were no leftovers!

    Let me know how you like the alfredo recipe (in Food & Drink). My kids’ all time favorite pasta dish! And the white pizza too. I’ve never tried this crust like that, but I bet it would be great as a focaccia.

    Take care, and thanks so much for writing in!
    Amy

    Reply
  • Anne-Marie May 9, 2011, 9:42 pm

    Hallelujah! Best. Pizza. Ever. EVER! I have tried (and failed…miserably) to make a satisfying home pizza for years, and this proves to me yet again what I am slowly but surely learning the more time I spend in the kitchen: the best meals are usually the ones that have the fewest ingredients and are ridiculously simple.

    The dough took me all of five minutes to make in the Kitchen-Aid mixer; it couldn’t have been simpler to roll out and fit to my baking sheet. Crushing whole tomatoes in a bag? Yes please. Fresh and bright, as if they were from the Farmer’s Market in August. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, allora, dinner was perfetto. Our 18-month old was in heaven, and my husband and I, ahem…well, there were no leftovers. Easy, and by far the best home pizza I have ever made.

    This week I’m going to take your alfredo sauce recipe and make a white pizza with broccoli. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Reply
  • Bernadette Noll May 9, 2011, 1:17 pm

    You can also make your dough in the bread machine if you have one. Super simple and you can set it up on a timer so it’s ready when you are.

    Reply
    • Amy May 9, 2011, 7:09 pm

      Hi Bernadette,

      Wow, a bread machine sounds like a luxury I might need to have some day! There are not many things than can beat the smell of baking bread.

      Thanks for writing in!
      Amy

      Reply
  • Jenny May 8, 2011, 10:37 am

    Thanks for the tip on the sauce as well. I am used to using the juice of the can in addition to the whole tomatoes. I bet this makes a much richer sauce….and I can’t believe I don’t even need to pre cook the sauce. That is a huge time saver! I am going to try this.

    Reply
  • Elizabds May 5, 2011, 1:24 am

    Ha, ha, pretty funny about being intimidated to make your own crust! I too was too timid to make homemade pizza dough when an old friend suggested I make it myself sixteen years ago. A year later, my husband’s friend taught my husband, and we’ve been making it ourselves ever since. That being said, my dough is hit or miss, and I’ve recently decided I need to discover the science of the perfect crust: chewy, but not doughy, *and* crispy, but not a cracker. I did some online research and it still wasn’t spot on…..so thanks for yet another recipe for the perfect crust. I’ll give it a whirl.

    Reply
    • Amy May 9, 2011, 7:05 pm

      Hi Eliza,
      I’m impressed with your courage! You are quite an experienced pizza chef. The key to making this pizza crisp is to cook it longer than you think it needs. Every oven is different, but our cheese even gets brown by the time the crust is done. We have to check it often by lifting it up with a knife and looking underneath. Sometimes the outer parts are done and the inner not. It takes some practice to get it the way you want it.
      Thanks for writing in!
      Amy

      Reply
  • mom May 4, 2011, 10:32 pm

    This is seriously good pizza. In fact it’s probably the best I’ve ever had, and my travels have taken me to Italy several times. Amy made it for us last weekend and I am proud to say that she’s a far better cook than I .

    The Frugal Mama’s mama.

    Reply
  • Samantha May 4, 2011, 10:24 pm

    Thanks for the recipe, I will try it! I love to cook and have tried homemade bread, but for pizza I usually cheat and use store bought dough. This is motivation to change it up. Also thanks for the Target frozen pizza tip!

    Reply
    • Amy May 9, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Hi Samantha,
      I know, I used to use the store-bought kind too sometimes, but I found it to be to rubbery and it wouldn’t stretch all the way. I hope you try the recipe, and let me know how it goes!
      Amy

      Reply
      • Reid May 12, 2011, 5:01 pm

        This looks pretty great, Amy. I use pizza dough I buy from a local bakery (Lyncourt Bakery on Teall Ave. in Syracuse). It’s fresh and if I make sure to bake it the same day (or within 24 hours of buying it), AND let it come to room temperature before attempting the shape it, I get great results.
        Reid´s last post ..Eating Plants

        Reply
        • Amy May 18, 2011, 3:31 pm

          Hi Reid,
          So THAT’s why the store bought dough didn’t work for me! I was cold, and definitely not fresh.
          Thanks for the tip!
          Amy

          Reply
  • Jen @ Jen Spends May 3, 2011, 10:35 pm

    I am going to have to try this now! Homemade pizza dough eludes me, but you’ve made it look easy. We love pizza in our house!
    Jen @ Jen Spends´s last post ..Sponsored Review and Giveaway- Oxy Clinical Acne Solutions Pack

    Reply
    • Amy May 9, 2011, 3:10 pm

      Hi Jen,
      I know you’ll love it. Let me know how it goes!
      Amy

      Reply

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