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.
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…