When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!!
Ah pizza. Italy’s invention, America’s obsession. Pizza is such a personal thing. Everyone has an opinion on their favorite pizzas. I certainly have a lot of opinions on pizza as well as suggestions and a recipe!
Could there be any more perfect food? I mean come on it’s got all your major food groups. Bread, Fruits(tomato), Vegetables(mushrooms), Dairy, and Meat. Of course that’s my pizza. Thin crust, thick crust, New York style, Chicago style, stuffed crust, you name it and there’s 3 million ways to make a pizza.
I have a favorite pizza place virtually everywhere I go. When I was a kid we probably ate it once a week. There was Shakey’s, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Numero Uno, & ah yes Little Ceasars Pizza Pizza. All pretty horrible now by my standards but I’d still eat them if put in front of my face. My Mom used to get us Little Ceasars when I was a kid. She’d order extra bread sticks. They were brushed with butter and slathered in processed parmesan. She’d get an extra bag of breadsticks and we’d eat it on the way home. Good times. Well, I’ve grown up and have developed a little more of a discriminating taste for pizza that’s for sure.
I had never made a pizza until two weeks ago, unless you count the english muffin pizzas I make. It’s hard to make a good pizza at home without the proper oven. I would kill for a pizza oven. Something to aspire toward. I did buy a nifty little nonstick perforated pizza pan that does the trick fairly well. I had a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma (which is virtually useless to me under $200 because I know I can get everything else cheaper somewhere else) so I bought one. That’s it to the left.
A little sidebar, did you know you can use a Williams-Sonoma gift cert at Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids? Well now ya do!
Trying to find a good recipe for a pizza is like looking for a needle in a haystack. EVERYONE has an opinion. I’m still convinced even after making one with my new pan that you must have a pizza oven. Nonetheless it turned out pretty well and I thought was better than a frozen pizza and cheaper than delivery. Speaking of frozen pizzas, one of my favorites is made by Freschetta. I don’t know if you get them where you are. They’re sometimes even hard to find in L.A. Don’t get the precut pan one. I tried that one and it’s horrible. The best one is the small regular one. I put it right on my oven rack at 400 for 20 minutes. My market doesn’t carry it anymore though. I’ve asked them several times to get it to no avail. The crust is great and it doesn’t get watered down like California Pizza Kitchen. Although I do like the CPK Chrispy Thin Crust Sicilian. Again baked right on the oven rack. It’s like pizza on a cracker. Yum.
I consider myself pretty lucky to live in a city that has absolutely THE best pizza place in the U.S. called Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock. I don’t care what anyone says THIS is the best pizza I’ve ever tasted EVER. It’s a little mom and pop joint near Pasadena in a charming part of L.A. called Eagle Rock. The extra large sausage and pepperoni pizza is so lip smacking good you will jump on the table and sing the praises of the messiah cometh. When with a couple people we order an antipasta salad, extra large sausage & pepperoni and a regular of the same so we can take some home. I can’t exaggerate enough how good this pizza is and it’s cheap! Ya gotta get there early and prepare to wait. No worries though, they have $2 glasses of wine while you wait! Check it out here http://www.casabiancapizza.com You don’t want to order take out though, trust me. Pizza usually doesn’t have a chance in a box. The box builds up condensation and basically ruins the original form of the crust. If you HAVE to order take out I suggest putting it in the oven when you get home directly on the rack at 420F for a few minutes.
I also can’t deny my love for the classic historic L.A. staple Miceli’s. This old school Italian eatery is a landmark in Los Angeles. While the food is pretty standard Americanized Italian, I love it just the same. The waiters get up and sing and there’s always music playing live on the piano. You feel like you’re in Lady & The Tramp. The rolls they serve are addicting! It’s where Lucille Ball learned about pizza throwing for the famous pizza episode. I prefer the original on Las Palmas in Hollywood, but there’s also one in Studio City on Cahuenga by Universal Studios. http://www.micelisrestaurant.com
When I’m in New York city I always go back to my college hangout called Big Nicks! This joint is way cool and my opinion on Nicks might be biased because I have such fond memories of college hanging out there. I’ve been back several times and it never disappoints me. The first time I ever had white cheese pizza was here and they make an AWESOME one! The last time I was in NY my friend Jennifer and her husband Dave met me there and our same waitress from college was still there! Her name’s Suzi and if you’re ever lucky enough to go make sure you ask for Suzi’s section. She’s a spit fire and the woman is on her game! I think she’s pretty famous there. I found a picture of her on Google.
I don’t know who the guy is, but isn’t she cute?!! They don’t allow laptops in Big Nicks, but not to worry there’s plenty to read on the walls and the menu. The menu is 4 years long and I don’t know how it’s possible to keep that much food fresh. Matter of fact I know it’s not. That’s why I usually stick to pizza, garlic bread and anything fried. They have pretty good diner salads too.
Big Nicks is at 77th & Broadway on the Upper West side.
So onto making your own Pizza. Like I said, this is very personal. Make it YOUR way. YOU are in control remember?!! But here is a basic dough recipe that works well
This made me one large and one medium pizza. I under cooked the medium pizza wrapped it in foil and a ziplock and froze it. We ate it last night. I just put it in t he oven at 400 for about 20 minutes and it was as good as the fresh one!
For fresh pizza I like to let it settle for about 15-30 minutes before I put it in the oven. It gives the dough crust a chance to rise again. The oven for a fresh pizza on the pan should be set at 450F for about 20 minutes depending on how well you like it cooked.
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3/4 c warm water
1 c cake flour
1 c & 3 tbl. all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl whisk yeast, water & sugar. Let stand till foamed about 5 min.
In food processor or kitchen aid with dough hook or by hand if necessary blend flours & salt well.
whisk 1 tbl of olive oil into yeast. with motor running slowly add yeast mix incorporating little by little. Mix until dough comes off the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky.
Coat the inside of the bowl with remaining olive oil. dust your hands with flour and work the dough into a ball. Place in oiled bowl and let rise in warm place till doubled. I turn my oven on low and set the bowl on stove top.
When risen cut dough in half. Roll the dough out until fairly thin and transfer to pizza pan or cookie sheet and shape it to the pan stretching it in the side. Careful not to rip the dough. If you do just try and pinch it back together or re roll and stretch. It doesn’t have to be perfect especially if it’s just for you.
Have fun with the toppings!! This is where you come in, but here are my suggestions and toppings.
1 can contadina tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste or from the tube.
I mix these together to make a semi thick sauce I suppose you could use a spaghetti sauce too.
I shake dried oregano on top of the spread out sauce and some garlic powder.
Jimmy Dean loose sausage meat (i lightly cook it first to cut the grease but you don’t have to)
This is probably the most important part! I use the best cheese possible. It’s important to use whole milk mozzarella.
Most grocery store mozzarella is part skim milk. Go to your deli where they have sliced meat. They usually have mozzarella made with whole milk. I also sprinkle on a little extra sharp cheddar. In my opinion Kraft Cracker Barrell extra sharp cheddar is the best tasting store-bought cheese in your typical cheese section. If you want to be really fancy go to a cheese shop where they have amazing selections and you can actually taste them. Bristol farms and Whole Foods are great for that!
Now eat the hell out of it!!
And now to set your mood!!!