When and where did you discover pizza? I found it in a rectangular box on the grocery store shelf when I was about 10 years old … a long, long time ago. It was a do-it-yourself kit, by Kraft, if I remember correctly – a pouch of flour mixture for the dough, a can of tomato sauce and a packet of Parmesan cheese.
I recall watching my teenage brothers make it for a snack, mixing the flour with water, letting it sit for a few minutes, then pressing it into a square on a greased cookie sheet. Swirling the tomato sauce onto the dough’s fingerprinted surface, and then sprinkling the cheese like the dusting of a first snowfall. Then, twenty minutes in the oven with that strange and lovely smell floating through the kitchen, our mouths watering. I can taste it now – flowery, somehow; the tomato sauce, tinny, the Parmesan, chalky, the dough a bit sweet. I am sure if I tasted it today it would be perfectly awful. But, back then we had discovered a whole new world.
I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen when I was a kid. My mom was a lone cook, just like my grandmother was … just like I am. But I took on pizza making with gusto. And the toppings didn’t stop at the Parmesan cheese. I added canned mushrooms (we didn’t do fresh ones in those days), olives and lots of cheddar cheese. My best friend Sylvia and I would cook one up almost every Saturday night as part of our sleepover ritual.
I loved pizza so much I chose “pizza making” as my demonstrative speech for the eighth grade Toastmasters Club. I think it was generally agreed by my classmates that I had the “neatest” speech that day.
By the time I was a teen, pizza parlors had found their way to our farm town. Sylvia and I would get all dressed up in our Pea Jackets and Beatle boots, and take the bus downtown to Gondola Pizza for an exciting evening of sharing a small cheese pizza, drinking Root Beer, and talking about the monster crushes we had on certain boys. A Gondola Pizza restaurant is hard to find now, but they still put out the best, cheesy-greasy thin-crust pizza I know – side bacon, mushrooms, onions and green olives – pure heaven.
A few years later we moved on to the Pizza Place, more topping, more cheese, more boys and often several glasses of beer. Ground beef, mushrooms and extra cheese – my favorite. And, the boys, well that’s another story. Ah … those were the days.
After I was married with children, pizza was our “eat out” treat when my sons were little, the go-to food for birthday parties, and the first “I’m too tired to cook anything” dinner I thought of as a working mom. These days it’s just my husband Michael and me, as our sons are off making their way in the world, but Friday night is the designated “pizza night” at our house. Often we pick up a thin-crust pepperoni, mushroom and onion from Barrow’s, down the street. But I like to make my own, too. Here are the basics:
Crust: I like easy so, sorry, but I don’t make crust from scratch – I use Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain tortillas to hold our favorite toppings. My sister-in-law uses flatbread for hers. Naan is good, too. Flour tortillas can work, but you need to fry them in a pan to crisp them up a bit and go light on any sauce or they get soggy. Also, many grocery stores sell fresh dough now, so there are lots of options.
Sauce: I use jarred marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, or just olive oil – often, of course, it is whatever I happen to have open and available in the fridge.
Vegetables: Onions (red or spring, both yummy), mushrooms, peppers, artichokes, sautéed garlic, olives of any sort, veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, etc. should be partially cooked before adding to the pizza. Often, I check my fridge to see what needs to be used. Pizzas are a great way to use up a bit of this and a little of that.
Meats: If you have luncheon meats, like ham, turkey or chicken, slice thinly and scatter on the pizza, or use pepperoni or sausage, of course. Bacon is terrific on a pizza (fry and drain before you put it on); and you don’t need much to get that lovely smoky flavor.
Cheese: If I have mozzarella, I use it. But many times I combine cheeses – nubs of whatever … cheddar, smoked Gouda and Swiss. Goat cheese or feta works really well with chicken or veggies.
Quick Homemade Pizza
Note: I only make one pizza at a time. It means that each one is fresh and hot, and it is fun to chat about the topping choices for next one. With a nice glass or two of red wine, we make it an all-evening affair at our house.
Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas
Garlic and onion powders
Italian seasoning (optional)
Toppings, from the endless list … or what’s in your fridge
Cheese … how much and how many is up to you!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
On an ungreased baking sheet, lightly brush tortilla with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic and onion powders. Put the tortilla in the oven for approximately 3 minutes to slightly crisp it.
Remove from oven, coat tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of sauce, sprinkle on some Italian seasoning, and add a light layer of cheese.
Add toppings evenly. (If you use more than 2 -3 toppings, add 2, then sprinkle with a little cheese, add the rest and top with cheese.)
Always finish the pizza building with a layer of cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes. Change oven setting to broil and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer (on center rack), watching to make sure the cheese doesn’t over-brown.
Cut into slices and serve. (I always serve a platter of fresh veggies with pizza, homemade or brought in. Good, fresh, finger food to balance out the rich cheesiness of pizza.)
Second Note: “Vongole” pizza made with clams is one of my favorites (and could easily be served as a scrumptious appetizer for dinner guests). Use Alfredo sauce, sautéed sliced garlic, a can of chopped clams (very well drained), thinly sliced spring onions (optional) and lots of mozzarella cheese.
Enough notes – go make some great pizza. Please share your favorite topping combinations with me!
Eat well. Be happy.