Weeknight Pizza

Life as a recent college grad is quite different than life as a student. I wake up, make some coffee, and start my laptop. I spend some time catching up on my favorite blogs, updating Facebook, and making plans with Donald. I head to work around noon, and don’t get home until late evening. When I was a student, I felt guilty about whatever time I took to myself, time I “wasted.” As an employed person, however, I am free to clock out, come home, and not worry about work  until the next time I clock in. This lifestyle change sure is nice, but cooking is no longer a procrastination tool for me, and has instead become something I don’t have time to do. Rather, it’s something I’ve chosen not to make the time to do, as I am exhausted and it’s just easier to pick up a frozen pizza or get take-out than to whip up something homemade. Homemade sounds so exhausting after spending all day on my feet.

I love recipes that I have memorized so I can complete them without opening a book or consulting the internet and know that they will come out absolutely perfect. I enjoy the rhythm, the expectation that things will turn out well, the predictability of a familiar recipe. Maybe that’s why I like to bake; if one measures properly and follows directions, the dish will come out well. It’s supposed to. I like “supposed to.”

Homemade pizza crust, I recently realized, is now one of those recipes that I can throw together without thinking. It has the added bonus of being something I can do when Handsome isn’t home, and that’s ready when he and I get home. I can whisk flour and salt in a bowl, sprinkle yeast onto warm water, and then mix the yeast water with the flour and some olive oil, cover it for a few hours, and know that I will have a thin, flavorful but subtle pizza crust. Actually, I will have two, which makes dinner decisions easier in a few days. This recipe only gets better with a few days in the fridge.

My pizza sauce recipe is not there yet. I don’t have a go-to pizza sauce recipe yet, and the one posted below is not “the one.” It was tasty, and a little spicy, but I’m not feeling it long-term. Still, that gives me another project: find The Pizza Sauce Recipe. Make it a zillion times. Make it in my sleep. I’m a goal person, a project person. This is a good, attainable goal.

Homemade pizza sounds like a time-consuming project for a weeknight, but trust me. It isn’t. If you have ten minutes the night before, make the dough, cover it, and put it in the fridge. The next night, all you have to do is take it out, make some sauce (or use some out of a jar), grate some cheese (or use some out of a bag, even though it isn’t as good), and top with whatever you have on hand. Or have cheese pizza, and maybe a salad. (I never have a salad. I should.) The crust recipe makes enough for two 13 x 9″ pizzas, but go ahead and make the full recipe; either plan to use the other half in a few days, or freeze it until you’re ready. This is so much better than the refrigerated stuff, trust me.

Homemade Pizza

Pizza Crust
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman via Tasty Kitchen
Makes two 13 x 9″ pizza crusts

1 1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil, plus 1-2 tbsp. for drizzling

Pour water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water; there is no need to mix. Let stand at least 5 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in a large bowl.

When 5 minutes has passed, drizzle olive oil into flour mixture and use a whisk to mix well, until all oil is absorbed. While mixing, drizzle in the water and yeast mixture. Mix well, until flour and water are homogeneous.

Place ball of dough into a clean bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Turn dough so it is coated in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, dry place at least 1 hour if using the same day, or in the fridge at least 24 hours if using the next day. Dough gets better with age.

Pizza Sauce
Adapted from Nick Stellino via RecipeZaar
Makes enough sauce for 1 pizza, with a little extra. Enough for two pizzas if you apply with a light hand.

1 c. tomato sauce (all of one 8 oz. can)
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
Dash red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients in a bowl; use a whisk if the tomato paste is not mixing easily. Set aside.

The Pizza
1/2 recipe Pizza Dough
1 recipe Pizza Sauce (you may have some left over)
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded or sliced
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
20 small slices pepperoni
Other toppings as desired

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Grease a 13 x 9 cookie sheet with cooking spray or with olive oil. Spread pizza dough with fingers until it reaches all sides.

Spread sauce, leaving a 1/2″ gap for crust. Top with grated cheeses, except parmesan. Top with pepperoni and other toppings. Finish with grated parmesan.

Bake 7-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let rest 3-5 minutes before slicing.

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3 thoughts on “Weeknight Pizza”

  1. was just browsing your blog and wanted to suggest what we use for pizza sauce (and it’s real simple!):

    crushed tomatoes (hopefully this link works)

    that’s it! seriously, they’re really good, and aren’t complicated and goes great with some fresh garlic, basil and whatever else you want to put on the pizza.

  2. I need to try this. I’ve come up with a nice pizza sauce (crushed tomatoes+garlic+salt and pepper+oregano), but it sometimes doesn’t work. I think less is more is the way to go. Thanks, Eric!

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