Welcome to part two of my pizza dough experiment. This week: Actually making some pizzas! I decided that to start out the week of pizza, I’d make a couple classics before doing some more inventive recipes later in the week. I think you can boil a classic pizza down to three things: the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings. Let’s take a sec and talk about those three things before we get into the actual recipe.
- Sauce: This is probably enough to get me banned from New York for life, but I honestly think the sauce is the least important ingredient in pizza. You can get fancy and make it yourself from scratch, but the jarred stuff from the grocery store is fine for me. If you are making it yourself, shoot for something a little less watery and chunky than your typical pasta sauce. Either way, we are going to ladle it on thinly – no more than a couple small spoonfuls per pie. Any more than that and you risk soaking the crust and ruining the texture we’re aiming for.
- Cheese: Here is where I get a little more snobby. I don’t think there is a place for pre-shredded cheese on a pizza. Most pre-shredded cheeses you find in the store are covered in an anti-caking agent, which prevents perfect melting and leaves a somewhat powdering taste. The pizzas in this post use four types of cheese: Low-moisture, full-fat mozzarella (which I grate by hand), fresh buffalo mozzarella (which I slice about a 1/4 inch thick), ricotta, and romano. The low moisture mozzarella is the traditional pizza cheese, providing good melty coverage to hold your toppings in place. The fresh mozzarella has a good chew and distinctive flavor to it, but can add a lot of moisture to a pizza (again threatening our crust texture) and should be used somewhat sparingly. Ricotta will stay in its little globs while the pizza bakes, and add a little cherry bomb of creaminess to the final pizza. And romano (or any hard parmesean-esque cheese) is really just there for flavor, and should be finely grated over the pie just before it goes into the oven.
- Toppings: The toppings you choose need to accomplish a couple things. First and foremost, they need to bring flavor. This is why cured meats like soppressata and pepperoni – packed with spices – are such classic toppings. You should be thinking about what flavors or textures the rest of your pizza isn’t bringing. This is why I opted to bring basil (good herby flavors), mushrooms (meaty flavor and good chew), and sliced garlic (because garlic makes everything taste better). The important thing is just to not put too much on top of the pizza. You want one or two toppings in each bite, not completely covering the whole slice. This will keep the pizza from getting too greasy and help the cheese melt.
And lastly before we get into the recipe, let’s talk about setup in your oven. If you have a pizza stone, you will want to use that. If not, do what I do and turn over your heaviest oven-safe pan and leave it in the oven while it heats up. This will keep more heat in your oven when you open it, and help cook the pizza from the bottom to cook the crust.
So without further ado, here are my first two pizza recipes. They turned out incredibly, even with just one day of dough resting.
Meat and Mushroom Pizza & Next-Level Margherita Pizza
2 portions Cold Rise Pizza Dough (about one tennis ball each)
For Meat and Mushroom Pizza:
2 tsp tomato sauce
2/3 cup Shredded Low-Moisture Mozzarella
1/3 cup whole milk Ricotta
3 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sliced Shiitake Mushrooms
12 slices Spicy Soppressata
12 slices Pepperoni
Finely shredded Romano cheese
For Next-Level Margherita Pizza:
2 tsp tomato sauce
6 slices Fresh Mozzarella
6 leaves Basil
10 slices Spicy Soppressata
1/3 cup whole milk Ricotta
Finely Shredded Romano cheese
- Roll portions of cold fermented dough into balls and place into bowls covered with non-stick spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1.5-2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to highest setting, with pizza stone or heavy pan inside.
- When dough is risen, punch it down and stretch/roll it out to desired size (about 8-10 inches in diameter).
- Place dough on pizza sheet, peel, or cookie tray and top with tomato sauce, using back of spoon to push sauce almost to the edges of the dough.
- For Meat and Mushroom Pizza, top first with even layer of shredded mozzarella, then garlic, spoonfuls of ricotta, and meats/mushrooms.
- For Margherita, top with fresh mozzarella, then basil, ricotta, and soppressata.
- Just before putting pizza in oven, top with thin layer of finely grated romano or parmesean cheese.
- Place in oven for 3-5 minutes. Rotate 180 degrees and leave for 3-5 minutes more. If crust is browning before cheese is melting, turn on broiler unit for 1-2 minutes.