The Easiest and Best Homemade Pizza

The Easiest and Best Homemade Pizza

Among the many uncertain things in the world, one remains steady: pizza is good. Frozen, Pizza Hut, homemade, it’s hard to beat. It can be thick and gooey a la Chicago deep dish, thin, floppy and greasy in NYC or topped with a whole salad in LA, but no matter what, pizza is a time-tested crowd pleaser. The perfect party food, you can incorporate virtually any flavor into pizza!

I’ve been baking for years but I never made pizza until recently and I’m hooked! Each time I make pizza the crust gets a little better; eventually I’ll have an Italy-approved crust! I love messing around with the toppings and putting things on pizza that I never would have considered before. The best breads are often the simplest so I applied that theory to pizza crust as well and found a super simple recipe from Pro Home Cooks

 

Pizza Crust

Yes, you can make your own pizza crust! It's not difficult and you just can't beat having homemade pizza crust. The key is to keep it simple and give the dough time to breathe. This lets the yeast ferment and the gluten absorb all the moisture for airy, stretchy dough. This recipe is as basic as it gets: yeast, water, flour, salt and oil. It makes four small pizzas or two normal sized pizzas.  

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • ~ 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Corn meal 

Instructions

Heat water to ~100 degrees F, mix with yeast and honey. Cover with a towel and let sit for 15-30 minutes. The yeast should form bubbles and have a nice bread smell; if it doesn't, START OVER. Yeast is a live culture and sometimes you'll get a dead yeast packet. If the yeast is dead your pizza crust will be flat and hard!

Mix in salt, olive oil and 4 cups of flour. This will leave the dough pretty sticky so add a little more flour if it's too sticky to work with. I like to leave it sticker so that I can add more flour as I knead without making the dough too dry. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 10 minutes before kneading. This lets the gluten absorb the water for nice stretchy dough. After resting, knead the dough on a floured surface for a couple minutes, let it sit for another 10, then knead it for a couple more minutes. 

Place the dough in a bowl and let it rise for 2-3 hours. I often turn the oven on to the lowest temperature then turn it off after a couple minutes to make a nice warm spot for the dough to rise. Once it's about doubled in size, cut it either in half or in quarters and shape those pieces into balls. Either use them right away or keep them in the refrigerator to proof overnight. 

To roll out your dough, don't! Spread some corn meal on your pan, then turn the dough lightly and evenly in your hands, letting it spread itself out. Once it's spread out, lay it down and use your fingers to even it out if necessary. 

To cook your pizza, turn your oven to its hottest setting, usually 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and cook the pizza for about 10-15 minutes. Your pizza is done when the crust is golden brown and your toppings are just getting crispy. If you use a pizza stone, heat that in the oven for at least an hour prior to cooking.

Pizza Sauces 

Your pizza sauce is just as important, if not more so than your toppings! Making a classic tomato sauce from scratch is so simple yet it takes a pizza from good to amazing. A fresh sauce holds so much more flavor than a canned sauce, you really can't skip it! The fresher the herbs the better as well. Instead of using dried herbs or even fresh pre-picked herbs, I went to the nursery section of my grocery store and bought a whole basil plant. Doesn't get much fresher than that! 

For these pizzas, I made two different sauces: a spicy tomato and a creamy pesto. The tomato sauce is cooked on the stove but the green sauce is made in the blender; no cooking required! Both sauces are pretty spicy so adjust the amount of spice and the number of jalapeños at your discretion. If you like a more mellow flavor, start with fewer spices. You can always add more! 

Spicy Tomato Sauce

This is a classic tomato sauce with a serious kick! It perfectly ties together the simplest margarita pizza and creates an excellent base for any supreme pizza with spicy toppings. For a milder pizza sauce, skip the chili flakes and jalapeños! 

Ingredients

  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Few cloves of garlic
  • Chili flakes
  • Onions
  • Jalapeños

Drizzle olive oil in sauce pan set to medium heat. Add diced onions, garlic, jalapeños and a healthy dash of chili flakes, cook for a few minutes. Add can of crushed tomatoes and half a can of water. Simmer on low, stirring frequently, until sauce has cooked down to pizza sauce thickness, about 30 minutes to an hour.

 

Creamy Pesto Sauce

This creamy pesto sauce is a delicious surprise on any pizza! Its spicy freshness compliments rich spices and unique flavors, really letting you get creative with your 'za! This delightful sauce is vegan already and can easily be made gluten free by substituting cornstarch or tapioca starch in place of flour. Season it to your own taste! 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews - soak for min 1 hour
  • 1 ¼ cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsps flour (I used cornstarch for a gluten free version)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • Several handfuls fresh basil
  • 3-5 jalapeños

Blend cashews in blender. Add remainder of ingredients and blend until smooth. 

 

Pizza Toppings

Now that you’ve got an excellent base, toppings are where you can really give each pizza a unique flavor. I love putting my favorite cooking flavors onto pizza - curry, rich herbs and fresh spices. The topping combinations are literally endless, but the key to success is to cook the toppings a little before putting them on the pizza! Tossing plain, unseasoned veggies on pizza and putting it in the oven should be a crime right next to considering salt and pepper spices. Sorry if that offends my Irish/Norweigan heritage, but bell peppers are the bare minimum! For most of these, I tossed onions, garlic and olive oil in a pan on medium heat then added whatever veggies and spices I was using, cooking until the veggies were soft. I know this adds an extra pan to clean but cooking your toppings brings out so much more flavor that it’s definitely worth it! 

Spicy Pineapple Pizza 

I know pineapple is controversial but its sweetness so perfectly compliments the spicy peppers, making each bite a spicy tropical heaven. This is the only pizza where I don't cook anything ahead of time, I just toss it all on! I used spicy Italian sausage from Beyond Meat and Daiya cheese for an entirely vegan pizza. I made this for a friend of mine without telling him it was vegan until afterwards and he had no clue. He was actually almost mad, which was pretty funny. 

  • Red sauce
  • Sausage
  • Pineapple
  • Jalapeños
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Cheese
  • Chili flakes

 

Beets and Curry Pizza

To be honest I had to be convinced to try beets on pizza but here we are, so I was! A friend of made this with just beets, broccoli and cauliflower which was good, but I wanted to make it better. I cooked the veggies on the stove for a little while with a healthy dose of curry powder. Slice the beets super thin, then top with the curried veggies and any meat or cheese you'd like! This version doesn't have cauliflower or cheese but does have vegan sausage. Top with a spritz of lime to balance out the curry and you've got a rich and tangy pizza! 

  • Green sauce
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Bell peppers
  • Cheese
  • Curry powder
  • Lime

 

 Mushrooms and Spinach Pizza

For you classic pizza lovers, this is yours! Definitely take the time to cook the mushrooms a little to bring out the flavor. Toss them in a pan with olive oil, onions and garlic until they're soft, then add the spinach, cooking just until it's wilted. I didn't put cheese on mine, but you definitely can! Season with salt, pepper, chili flakes, paprika, oregano and fresh basil.

  • Red sauce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sausage
  • Spinach
  • Oregano

 

Rosemary Sweet Potato Pizza

This pizza is a divine mix of herbs with the richness of roasted sweet potato. I absolutely love cooking with rosemary and it really adds a surprising flavor to this pizza. It isn't as spicy as the others but that's easy to fix if you want! Make sure you cook the sweet potatoes long enough before putting them on the pizza; they should be soft all the way through. Season with rosemary while cooking and use it as a garnish as well!

  • Green sauce
  • Sweet potato
  • Onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Cumin/paprika/oregano

 Of course, these are just a few of the endless topping possibilities! Take a look in your cupboard, see what you've got and start cooking! 

- xx Laura

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