Everyone loves pizza night. Truth be told, this is probably in large part because it means you don’t have to cook and have almost no dishes to wash (if you do it right). Well, for those of us who see cooking as a hobby and a fun stress release pizza night can open up all sorts of creative options. Between different sauces, toppings and cheeses you can really let the creative juices flow as you put together some amazing pizza combinations.
My wife and I did just that this summer when we wanted a different spin on our usual cheese and pepperoni pizzas. I admit that our pizza choices weren’t extremely different or creative. We didn’t break out any shredded duck, fontina cheese, or truffle oil (though I am thinking of some new ideas while I am typing), but we were extremely happy with the pizzas we created. We made a bruschetta pizza and a white pizza with broccoli.
Tools (and Alternatives)
Baking stone (Cookie Sheet)
Pizza slicer (Large Knife)
Large Cutting Board (This is kind of a must…)
Pizza Peel (Two Oven Mitts and Gravity)
Dough Prep Steps
First, you want to put the cookie sheet in the oven and pump that oven up to about 500 degrees.
You are going to want one ball of pizza dough per pizza. You can get this at your local pizzeria for about $3 a ball. For those of you who are not fortunate enough to live near non-chain pizzerias, I am told there are some decent frozen pizza dough options.
Once you have your dough, sprinkle some flour on your countertop (hopefully after cleaning it). You then want to stretch your dough. This is done by holding it on the end and then rotating it so gravity will stretch it out evenly. Once it is a little bit stretched you can make unclenched fists and sit the dough on your knuckles about halfway between the center and the outside perimeter. If you rotate it that way (not throwing it like you might see on a tv show or movie) that will finish stretching the dough to the right thickness. Lay it flat and push it out to make a “rustic” shape.
When I am done stretching the dough, I turn the oven down to 350 degrees. The idea is to have the stone piping hot, but keep the oven from being so hot that the top of the pizza cooks faster than the bottom crust.
Once the dough is all shaped and stretched, put a little bit of flour on your pizza peel, then place the dough on the peel. Add your toppings.
Bruschetta Pizza Ingredients
5 Plum Tomatoes
5 Cloves Fresh Garlic
Chopped Fresh Parsley
Chopped Fresh Basil
16 oz. Shredded Mozzarella
Dice the tomatoes and garlic, toss with parsley, basil and mozzarella. Add a bit of olive oil, but be wary not to add too much—the tomatoes are going to release some natural juices and you don’t want the pizza to be soggy or runny. Salt and pepper to taste.
White Pizza Ingredients
12 oz. Ricotta
2 Large Heads of Broccoli, chopped
16 oz. Mozzarella
Chopped Fresh Basil
If your toppings are the bruschetta, I like to glaze the dough lightly with some olive oil first. I then spread the bruschetta mixture evenly across. Do not pile it on too thickly, lest you make the pizza to heavy and it tears when you put it in the oven.
If you are making a white pizza, spread the ricotta first. Then add the broccoli and finish it off with some mozzarella. Add spices like basil, or garlic salt if you want it.
The most difficult part of the whole process is getting the uncooked pizza off the peel and onto the hot baking stone. This is done by, first, making sure that the pizza is not too heavy with toppings. Second, make sure there is some flour between the dough and the peel (but not too much because you don’t want the crust too floury). Third, have confidence! You want to hover the peel over the stone at an angle and then quickly lurch the peel forward and then backwards, pushing the dough off of the peel and onto the stone. If this doesn’t go well the first time, do not worry. I still mess this up about 1 in every 10 attempts!
Finally, cook the pie in the oven and on the stone until the crust browns. Take it out of the oven, place it on the cutting board and let it sit for 5 minutes—this helps the cheese to set so it doesn’t slide around. Then, slice that sucker up and enjoy!
Francis Tucker is a practicing attorney in New York City. He enjoys traveling, experimenting in the kitchen, and a good Scotch.