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Friday, April 1, 2016

Pizza night...You CAN make pizza at home that is better than any pizza you'd buy.

Pizza. 
Who does not love pizza? It is the perfect food. Life is too short to eat bad pizza. If you are going to indulge, make sure it is worth it.
I had tried making pizza at home before. It never ever came out like pizza that you'd buy.
I'd end up with soggy, doughy crust, which wasn't crispy at all.
Enter in to the picture my aunt Gini. Gini is the most cultured, elegant person that I have ever known. Gini is also the best damn cook, I've ever encountered. I'm not talking about someone who can make a good casserole. I'm talking about a woman who trained for years in Europe and who's cooking can rival any chef, celebrity or other. 
When Chad and I were married a year ago this month, as a wedding gift Gini put together a special cookbook that she made just for us. Her pizza recipe was in there. It made me want to try my hand at making pizza again. I lamented to my aunt about how my attempts at pizza always fell short.
Turns out, my technique was 100% incorrect.
In the past, I'd assemble the pizza then place it in a 450 degree oven until the cheese was melted .
Nope. That is NOT how you do it.
Below is a fool proof step by step that will get you a finished product that will beat out your neighborhood pizza place.
A few thoughts before we start...the crust and the sauce. This sauce could not be more simple. Take one 28 oz can of the highest quality San Marzano tomatoes and put them through the blender with 1/4-1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt. This is all you need. However, if you are using regular, old , plain tomatoes from the 59 cent rack...you will NOT get the same results.
As for the crust, its made at home two nights before making the pizza.  My aunt told me that sometimes she'll "cheat" and buy her dough at a local pizza restaurant. She did caution me to NOT buy supermarket pizza dough, as that is typically sitting around for who knows how long.

Now, on to making the pizza!
The first thing that you'll need to do , is position one of your oven's racks in the top 1/3 of the oven. Put your pizza stone in and set your oven to 550. (Some oven's only go to 500, that's okay too.)
Once you have your oven at 550 degrees, leave it for one hour (this step scared me at first) The idea is to get that pizza stone screaming hot.
While this is going on..its time to get to work on your pizza.
I cannot recommend strongly enough, getting a pizza peal. I tried numerous ways to avoid buying a pizza peal. Don't be a fool like I was. You can get a decent one for under $25.00. It makes all the difference. 
Take your pizza peal and cover it with corn meal. This is key. Once your oven and pizza are ready, you will need the pizza to slide right of the peal and into your oven. The corn meal will make that happen.
Start working with your dough. You'll want your dough to be in a ball when your first begin. Working from the center out, start to knead the dough. As you get going, let the weigh of the dough work for you in regards to stretching it to the desired shape and thickness. (This recipe works best with a thin dough.)

Once you have the dough shaped to your liking, the fun begins...assembling the pizza! I'm a pizza purest, I like a nice cheesy margarita pizza. However, feel free to get creative with the toppings.
Start always with the sauce. Here is where many home cooks go wrong. They will put on FAR too much sauce. It doesn't look like a lot at the time, but they sadly find the pizza is drowning as soon as they bite into it. Depending on the size of your pizza, you will want no more than 5 or 6 tablespoons of sauce.
This is the right amount of sauce.
If you'd even consider topping this with mozzarella that is shredded up in a bag, slap yourself now. ;) 
For this, we are using fresh, wet mozzarella from the deli. Roughly 6 ounces,which we will drain and peel into 1 inch pieces.
Along with the mozzarella , we'll also add fresh basil leaves.

Once you have put the mozzarella and basil on, you'll want to grade fresh some Parmigiano-Reggiano directly onto the pizza. 
At this point, my dear friend, Lisa said me "Can we just eat this now?" The scent of freshly picked basil is very hard to resist!
Now, here is a step that I had never known about , yet it is crucial . Once you have all of your toppings on take one tablespoon of best quality olive oil and drizzle it over the entire pie. This step is what will get you an artisan pizza in your own oven.

Once that oven has been at 550 for a full hour, open the oven door and slide this gem right on to your pizza stone with one, quick motion.
You'll leave this in with the oven on for only 3-4 minutes.
After the 3-4 minutes, turn the oven off and turn your broiler on high. This step should last another 3-4 minutes. You'll know when its done when the cheese is golden and bubbling.
Remove from your oven and immediately transfer off of your pizza stone. Ideally, you'll have a vented pizza pan to transfer onto.
The vented pizza pan is ideal, because the bottom of the pizza will be steamy when it first comes out of the oven. You do not want to let that steam make your crust soggy.
If you do not have a vented pan, transfer it off of the pizza stone to a regular pan. Using a spatula , lift the pizza an inch or two off the pan. Do this twice on alternating sides of the pizza.

Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then serve! Its SO SO SO Good. If you are anything like me, you'll have a hard time believing that you made this at home.
My beverage recommendation for this, is to keep it in Italy with a nice, chilled Santa Margarita Pinot Gregio! 




Okay, here is a quick shopping list for you.

* 8 -10 oz homemade pizza dough
*6 Tablespoons of homemade pizza sauce (see above)
* 6 ounces for fresh Mozzarella
*On the block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I've always just eyeballed this step. Maybe 2 ounces?)
*1 Tablespoon top quality olive oil
*Corn meal for your pizza peal
* 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves.

Thats it! You are those few, simple ingredients away from this!
ENJOY!







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