How to Get Pizzeria-style Pizza at Home

You don’t need a fancy pizza oven to make gourmet pizzas at home – all you need is a pizza stone (a grill is useful, too).

All of these pizzas were cooked on a pizza stone on the grill in our very own backyard. Don’t feel like making dough? No biggie, your local grocery store probably sells it pre-made. We find ours at Trader Joe’s, or if we run up to our local AJ’s and ask very nicely they will give us a big hunk of pizza dough from behind the deli (where they sell their pre-made pizzas by the slice – I imagine if your Kroger/Fry’s/etc sells by-the-slice pizza as well, you may be able to coax a ball of dough from them as well).

There are a few tricks…

1.  Keep your stone LOW : Put the stone on the floor of your oven (or the lowest rack, if there is a heating element on the floor) and turn the oven up to as high as it will go (mine is about 600 degrees). You want to let it run for a long time… about an hour to make sure your stone is thoroughly heated.

2.  Heat it SLOW. In the oven, this isn’t such a big deal, because it will heat slowly anyway.  If you’re on the grill, though, you want to start out low, with all burners on, then turn up the outside burners at about 20 minute intervals, to avoid shocking your stone and causing it to crack. Do this until the outsides are at medium to high – and your grill is about 600 degrees.

3.  Prep your dough: Divide the dough into the number of pizzas you want. Depending on where you get your dough and how big you want your pizzas, usually 1 package of dough will make 2 – 4 pizzas. Dive the dough accordingly and roll each piece into a ball. Let rest, covered with a kitchen towel or flour sack, on a floured surface for 30 minutes until it reaches room temperature. This will make it easier to work worth once you get started.

4.  DON’T ROLL ( I know, I was bummed about killing my rhyming streak, too) : My boyfriend and I disagree on this subject. He is a roller (notice his pizza does not have the same edge as the two round ones. What you want to do is lift your ball of dough (which should be nice and soft now that it’s room temperature) and pinch it about 1/4-inch in from the edges while rotating, letting gravity help you to spread it out. As it begins to spread, you will be able to pull the dough, you want to put your hands under the dough, knuckles up ,and gently pull outward to stretch the dough. Hard to explain, easy to do. Hopefully my crude drawing can be of some assistance.

Once you have it to your desired thinness, choose your toppings. Anything you want. The world is your oyster…

Put your freshly stretched dough on a piece of parchment, or the pizza peel itself, covered with semolina flour (that will protect the bottom from burning, but I’m a cheapy, I just stick with my parchment tyvm.  If you use the semolina, or corn meal, whatever, make sure you give it a little shake once you put it on the peel to make sure you will be able to get it onto the stone when it’s ready.

BF's pizza with pepperoncini and salame


We made a simple sauce by just crushing some whole tomatoes (with my very own pizza-making hands), and adding some grated garlic and a little salt. Spoon on a thin layer. (Boyfriend oils his dough first, THEN adds the sauce).

If you want a “white” pizza, skip the tomatoes and just drizzle some olive oil on top.. maybe rub some garlic around if you’re feeling adventurous.

Make sure you leave a border around the edge… say, half an inch?

If you want to add anything prone to burning, do it BEFORE you add any cheese. These items would include things like: fresh garlic, fresh basil, red pepper flakes, prosciutto… Alternatively, you can save things like this to the end.


Fresh mozzarella is the best topping in the world (according to the sane ones). If you want to get your pre-shredded Italian cheese, that’s ok too. I won’t tell anyone. If you’re using fresh mozza, just rip or slice, or slice then rip, into small chunks and sprinkle around your pizza. You don’t need to completely cover it. It’s ok.

Fresh hard cheeses (like Parmigiano Reggiano) will give your cheese that nice burny look. Some people are into that. I’m into that. Don’t judge.


You want to do this as quickly as possible. If you’ve used parchment, make sure you cut around your pizza as closely as possible… because that excess stuff hanging over the edge will toast if you don’t.

As quickly as possible, open the oven (or grill) and slide your pizza onto the stone, and close it again. If you’re using the grill, RESIST THE URGE TO PEEK. If you must peek (sometimes I have to), I look through the little grates on the side with a flashlight… like a creeper. Pizza creeper, that’s me.

It will take 7 – 10 minutes for your pizza to cook. If the bottom starts to burn and you get anxious and just CAN’T TAKE IT, just switch it to the top rack for a bit to let the top finish cooking. If you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t have this problem. Just have faith that it will be OK. Breathe.


Just because your pizza is cooked, doesn’t mean it’s done. It can still be dressed up. For our prosciutto pizza we did a tiny bit of sauce (though you could leave it without sauce), and some cheese, then layered on slices of prosciutto, fresh arugula, and grated parmigiano reggiano after it was out of the oven.

Margherita we layered the sauce, the cheese, and the snipped fresh basil over the top when it came out.

Be creative, have fun, make what you like. 🙂 Some flavor combinations are…

Tomato sauce (+ maybe some garlic) + Mozzarella + Finished with fresh basil

Fig jam + Mozzarella (or fontina) + Finished with prosciutto and arugula

Tomato sauce + Mozzarella (or cheese blend) + Roasted red peppers + Salami

Pesto + Mozzarella (or cheese blend + Cooked chicken breast

The standbys: Cheese blend, Pepperoni, Onions, Sausage, Mushrooms, Bell peppers, etc…

Fancys: Pesto, Prosciutto, Arugula, Ricotta (whole milk), Roasted red peppers…


How to Infuse Your Own Liquor

Want an easy way to impress your friends at your next party? Try infusing your own liquor with different flavors – mix and match to create your perfect cocktail invention! Due to some awesome sales at my local grocery store, I decided on strawberry and blueberry infused vodkas. The great thing about berry vodkas is that you can mix them with just about anything – various sodas, juices, even other liquors.

While they recommend to let your infusion sit for several weeks, once the berries have lost their color, they’ve lost most of their flavor as well. So even though I might leave them in there for a couple weeks, after the first few days my vodka is already rich with the color and flavor of whatever berries I happen to be infusing. Mix a bit with some lemonade and you’ve got yourself a berry lemonade cocktail, add a splash of something fizzy if you’re feelin’ sparkly.

How to Infuse Your Own Vodka (or other liquor):

What you will need:

  • Berries, washed and diced
  • Vodka (or other liquor – make sure it’s relatively neutral in flavor)
  • Nonreactive container, like a glass mason jar or bottle.


1. Fill your container about 1/3 with washed berries of your choice

2. Fill it the rest of the way with liquor

3. Set in a cool place (I use our fridge, because “room temp” at our house is like 78 degrees).

4. Shake it around once in a while

Some things to know…

* The smaller you chop your fruit (like strawberries, pineapple, or melon), the faster your liquor will infuse. Blueberries don’t need to be chopped, but you will probably want to score them with a knife (or just muddle them a bit). Blackberries and things of that nature are OK to stay whole. With citrus, it’s best to just use the rind, but make sure you don’t get any of the pith (white stuff) with it!

* Shake your container every day or couple days to mix it up a bit.

* Once your liquor has infused, strain out your fruit for permanent storage.

* If you want to make a “liquer” instead of “liquor” – after you remove your berries add some simple syrup (anywhere from 1/4 – 1/2 of your mixture, depending on how sweet you want it to be).

* Since I like to re-use things, I re-use washed grapefruit jars. This caused my BF to make fun of me for making “moonshine”… just be forewarned that if you use a jar someone may make fun of you and call it “moonshine”. If this happens, tell them to “shut it” and promptly make yourself a cocktail. 🙂

* I usually try to let them infuse for about a week or two, but I’ve been known to make a drink after just a day or so of infusion at the end of an especially rough day. So long as there is a good amount of color in the vodka, you should be ok

* DO NOT try to eat the fruit, all of its flavor is now in the liquor. This isn’t sangria, people.