Pizza is one of those foods at the top of every kid’s (and adult’s) list. But, it’s also deceptively simple. Crust, tomato sauce and cheese. What could be easier? A lot, it turns out. I’ve always found making pizza at home to be frustrating, particularly when it comes to the crust. The truth is, most home ovens aren’t hot enough to rival the woodfired pizzas at Italian restaurants. But now, with this recipe and a pizza-tossing lesson from Joe Vitale, of Joe’s Pizza in LA, I think I’ve hit on a surefire way to make a pretty fantastic pizza at home.
The recipe comes from my brother-in-law, who’s spent years perfecting his pizza crust method. This crust is chewy in the center, crispy on the outside, and full of flavor, thanks to generous amounts of salt and olive oil. Just remember to crank up the oven as high as it will go, and most importantly, don’t be shy tossing the pizza dough. A perfectly round crust is so not essential. Dive in and don’t be afraid to get a little flour on your jeans! Buon Appetito!
Crust: Start the crust night before you intend to make the pizzas, Makes 3, 12-inch pizzas
267 grams (1 1/8 cups) room temperature water
1/4 (heaping) tsp instant yeast or ¾ tsp active dry yeast
1 tbl olive oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1 tsp salt
392 grams (3 1/2 cups) bread flour
Simple Pizza Sauce:
1 15 oz can peeled tomatoes, unsalted
1 tsp sugar (more, to taste)
1 tsp salt (more, to taste)
Assembling & Baking:
Pizza dough rounds
Low moisture mozzarella, cut into thin slices
Fresh garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
Fresh basil leaves
The night before: Combine water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Follow with olive oil and salt. Add in bread flour and mix until combined into a loose ball shape. Coat all over with a light coating of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise overnight in a cupboard or pantry.
The day of: Knead dough on a floured surface until firm and elastic. Form dough into 3 balls and allow to rest on your work surface, covered with a clean kitchen towel or under a large bowl, for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
Stretch individual balls into pizza shapes, beginning by using fingers to poke down the center of the crust, leaving a slightly thicker edge for the outside crust of the pizza. Once you’ve formed the basic shape, toss pizza back and forth from one fist to the other, until dough has stretched slightly. Finish by forming one hand into a fist, draping pizza dough over it and keeping it stationary, using the other hand, also in a fist, to rotate the dough in a circular pattern along the first fist. This process is better explained visually, so be sure to use the video for reference!
Place your pizza stone in the oven to preheat. Preheat your oven to 500F or as high as it will go. You need to get the oven super hot! Meanwhile, make the sauce and get your toppings ready.
Simple Pizza Sauce: Break up tomatoes in a bowl using a wooden spoon or potato masher
Add in salt and sugar, adjusting amounts to your taste.
Assembly & Baking: Brush outside perimeter of dough rounds with olive oil, in order to get a crispy brown crust.
Top pizza dough rounds with enough sauce to lightly coat (Be careful not to oversauce), extending sauce just up until the outside edge. Add mozzarella and garlic cloves, if desired.
If you have a pizza stone, use a pizza peel or nonrimmed baking sheet dusted with semolina flour to transfer pizza into preheated oven onto the stone. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
Finish by topping pizza with basil leaves and extra salt, if desired.