Disclaimer #1: According to my friend in Italy, Anna, what I am about to describe to you isn’t pizza….it’s focaccia…..because to make AUTHENTIC pizza, you need a wood fired oven and the pizza should be in the oven for only two or three minutes. Considering that I’m an average person without a wood fired oven at my disposal, I just use a regular oven and crank up the heat.
Photo: Seafood pizza I had in Naples…..
……..by the way, in case you don’t know, Naples is where pizza was “invented”….and boy oh boy, do they ever make delicious pizzas! If you’re a pizza aficionado you HAVE to go to Naples (Italy, not Florida haha).
Disclaimer #2: I’m not being braggadocios when I say “the best homemade pizza”….”the best” is what everyone who’s eaten my pizzas has said to me.
My first attempt at making pizza happened more than 40 years ago. I was about 11 or 12 years old, and I had somehow convinced my Mom to buy a box of pizza-making ingredients.
My Mom was (and still is) an excellent home cook. She came from very modest roots and learned from my Grandma how to make something out of nothing. I grew up on home-made, often home-grown, food, so to have Mom agree to buying this box of pizza-making-ingredients was a miracle, but now that I think about it, that small concession on her part led me to making the “best homemade pizzas”. You see how one small, seemingly insignificant decision, can impact your life?
I can’t remember the brand, but I remember the box of pizza mix was yellow and it had a packet of flour in it (which, I’m guessing had yeast premixed into it), it had a small can of tomato paste, it had a small packet of Parmesan cheese (well, what they CLAIMED was Parmesan cheese but of course it wasn’t), and it had a small packet of herbs (oregano for sure, and possibly others too).
After making those boxed pizzas a few times, I realized that we could easily buy all those ingredients separately (and at much lower cost) and I could make real homemade pizza, from scratch.
Before you start thinking, “I can’t do this”, you CAN. It’s very, very easy! Once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll see that it’s also faster than take-out, you can customise it any way you like, it’s healthier than store-bought AND it’s better for the planet as you have much less waste!
Ok, so here are the five steps to making the best home-made pizza:
1. This is the most important step: Get out of your head that you can’t do it. Self-doubt will defeat you in any undertaking, big or small, because what you THINK is going to determine your success in life. You CAN do this!
2. You’ll need a good, solid, stainless steel baking sheet. An aluminium one is good too, but stainless steel is heavier and more durable and will last you longer. I use one that’s 16″ X 12″ when I’m making pizza for two or three people. Coat the bottom of the pan and the sides too, with oil (I use olive oil, but you can use vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil).
3. Now, I’m one of those people who doesn’t measure when I’m cooking; I go by eye and by feel. If I’m baking a cake, or making cookies or muffins, or cupcakes, then sure, I measure, as that’s more precise, but for pizza, I don’t measure. With that said, to make it simple for you, I’ll estimate roughly the quantity.
In a stainless steel or glass bowl (not plastic or wood), I put in about four cups of “00” flour. Until 2017, when I went to Italy (and had the BEST pizza of my LIFE!!!), I used to use all-purpose flour, and it made just fine pizzas, no complaints from anyone. But then I learned about “00” flour in Italy and it really does make for a nicer pizza. If you can’t find “00” flour, don’t stress over it, all-purpose will do.
To the flour, I add one packet of quick rise instant yeast and mix that through using a fork. Once the yeast is fully incorporated into the flour, I add about a quarter teaspoon of honey and then I slowly start adding warm (not hot!) water to the mixture….I pour it a little at a time and mix with the fork at the same time. I mix it with the fork until it starts forming a ball, and then I use my hands to knead it into a more solid ball (you can do this in the bowl, you don’t have to mess up another surface).
You know it’s a good solid ball of dough when it’s no longer sticky. If it’s too sticky, simply sprinkle a little more flour on the ball and knead it some more.
Once the ball is formed, rub some oil all over it, cover it with a cloth and place in the warmest area of your home (away from any draft, and from pets too). I find that on top of the fridge is a good spot.
4. There are many brands of mozzarella cheese but my favourite is from Costco, the Kirkland brand. This cheese is nice and firm and is easy to grate, it has a nice texture to it, it melts perfectly and it’s delicious. So step four is to grate the cheese.
Of course, if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you would need to use a non-dairy version of mozzarella cheese….as I did when I was vegan (I also used vegan pepperoni).
Photo: first vegan pizza I ever made
I like a very cheesy pizza, so I always grate a lot of it. For toppings, well, that’s to your taste. I’m perfectly happy with JUST cheese, but I use what I have in the house. Sometimes I have smoked sausage on hand. Sometimes I have pepperoni on hand. Sometimes I have leftover chicken breast in the fridge. Sometimes I like to put bell peppers, onions and sliced tomatoes on my pizza. Really, you can customise this to YOUR preference and what you have on hand.
My personal favourite is a Margherita Pizza, which is simply fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Feel free to Comment below what your favourite pizza toppings are.
The sauce I make is never the same, because I just use whatever I have in the fridge, but the base of it is always the same…and that’s ketchup. I know, I know, I know, no self-respecting Italian would likely ever put ketchup on pizza, but this is how I make it and as I said, everyone’s always said it’s the best they’ve had.
To the ketchup, sometimes I add BBQ sauce, or tomato paste, or salsa, or Sriracha, or maybe all of those together, it really just depends on what I’m in the mood for. I also add oregano, salt and pepper. Give it all a good mix.
5. Once the dough has doubled in size, I turn it out onto the cookie sheet, pat it down with my hands, and then using the palms of my hands I squish it and squish it and squish it, until it’s nice and flat. I personally like a thin crust pizza, so I give it a good stretch until it’s as thin as I like it.
Spread the sauce all over the pizza, spread the toppings all over the pizza, pop it in an oven pre-heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and then let your nose tell you when it’s done. Ok, maybe that isn’t the best advice…but I really have never timed it….it also depends on your oven….450 on my previous oven was HOT, 450 on the current oven I use is not very hot. I would estimate it takes about 5-10 minutes for the pizza to be done.
And that’s it! It’s likely taken you about fiveish minutes to read this, so you may be thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this!” but then go back to Step 1 my Friend, because you CAN.
Thanks for giving me fiveish minutes of your time today!
I hope you found some value in this?!
Feel free to share your thoughts with me; I’m always grateful for learning new things, especially if they make my life a bit better, as I hope this does for you!