The old saying “There’s no such thing as a bad pizza” may be true, but I’ve had a lot of mediocre pizzas in my lifetime, usually delivered to my door. It’s always disappointing to open up the box, only to find a flabby pizza with unremarkable toppings that’s just spent 20 minutes or more in a cardboard sauna.
Yes, I still order pizza from time to time, but only as a convenience, not because I’m craving good pizza.
For me, a good pizza has a crispy, chewy crust and fresh, flavorful toppings, and the only way to be sure I’m going to get a pizza made just the way I like it is to make it myself.
Luckily, pizza making is a lot easier than most people think. It takes just a few minutes to mix together a crust. Flour, yeast, salt, water and a little olive oil is all you’ll need, and while you could make it a day or two ahead of time and let it rise slowly in your refrigerator to develop maximum flavor, it’s possible to produce a formidable crust in a fraction of the time.
I use a food processor for my crust, which makes it incredibly quick to pull together, but a large bowl, a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease work just as well. Once the crust has been mixed and kneaded, it only takes an hour or so of rising before it’s ready to go, and that time is spent wisely by getting my oven preheated and my toppings ready.
A good pizza is made in a hot oven, preferably with a pizza stone or steel on the bottom rack. Pizza stones or steels concentrate the heat on the bottom of the pizza, making the crust crisp with just the right amount of deeply browned spots, without overcooking the toppings. If you don’t have a pizza stone or steel, the next best option is a preheated baking sheet.
How thick or thin your crust is rolled out will make a difference in its final texture. I like a sturdy, crispy crust with a bit of chew, so I roll it out to about a quarter-inch thick in the middle with thicker edges. If you like your pizza with an ultrathin crust that has a more crackerlike crispiness, that’s easily done, as well.
Of course, the ingredients that top the pizza are just as important as the crust, so choose wisely. Keep in mind that high-quality toppings will make the best pie. The sauce is another critical decision. If you like red sauce on your pizza, a good one is quick and easy to make. Personally, I’m a fan of sauceless pizzas.
Red sauce can dominate a pizza and overwhelm or fight with other toppings. In this Spicy Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta Pizza, the other toppings, from the hot Italian sausage to the creamy, garlicky ricotta, provide plenty of flavor on their own. There is so much going on with this pizza, you won’t miss the sauce.
If sauce is your preference, though, go ahead and slather it on. After all, this is your pizza, and when you make it yourself, you can have it just the way you like it.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.