How to Make Homemade Pizza on a Weeknight
Homemade Pizza is Amazing
Do you love pizza? I love pizza. My husband loves pizza. You probably love pizza.
For years, I thought that homemade pizza could never rival that of a pizzeria because my oven can only get so hot. I was wrong. I’m sure that there are amazing pizzerias that can make pizza better than I do. But my homemade pizza is better than what I can find in an average pizza joint. We still eat frozen pizza from time to time, but it doesn’t compare to this pizza.
With the right prep work, you can have homemade pizza in less time than it takes to get delivery.
You Can Meal Prep the Dough
Doing the prep work will save you hours the day of. Besides the fact that homemade pizza dough tastes amazing, we can’t have the store-bought for allergy reasons.
An average batch of dough will make about four 12 inch pizzas. Here are some very popular pizza dough recipes. After you have your dough, portion it, wrap it in plastic wrap, and then freeze it. The night before you want pizza, all you need to do is throw it in the fridge and you’ll be ready to go.
Ingredients and Substitutions
You need some sort of pizza dough. Pillsbury pizza crust can do the job. But I strongly recommend making your own. I know it involves yeast, but don’t let that little fungus intimidate you. Try it out on a weekend afternoon.
We like Rao’s pizza sauce, but there are so many options out there. Don’t be afraid to try them. We open a jar, and it will keep well in the fridge until the next week.
The important thing to know is do NOT use pasta sauce, it has the wrong consistency. I recommend steering clear of all sauces that claim they are both a pizza and a pasta sauce. Any that do are broadcasting that they are really neither.
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella
This cheese will make your pizza absolutely amazing, even if you mess it up a bit. There is something special about this cheese. If you’ve never had it, go out and buy some. It can be a bit pricy, but they now make snack packs, and you can even get larger sealed hunks of it at Costco nowadays.
You can probably use the shredded part-skim, but I predict it won’t melt as well and the flavor will fall short.
We don’t add any other cheeses because the mozzarella is mind-blowing as it is. But if you want to explore, feel free to check out Romano and of course Parmigiano Reggiano. Some people like the powdered Kraft parmesan on their pizzas, and if that’s your thing go for it.
I was raised on this stuff and so was my husband. For us, this tastes familiar and we like it. But go for the real pepperoni if you are so inclined. Just remember that a little goes a long way on a 12-inch pizza.
Do note that some sort of heat magic happens to turkey pepperoni in the oven with the pizza stone, where they crisp up just like traditional pepperoni. This crispiness is a feat I have not accomplished elsewhere with the turkey variety.
I love basil so much that I keep a plant on my balcony. Fresh oregano would also go well if you have some. You can also use dried seasonings like basil, oregano, and garlic powder.
Be gentle with fresh herbs, a little really goes a long way.
Do You Need a Pizza Stone?
The short answer is yes. The science-free explanation is that the stone performs cooking magic to make the crust, sauce, and cheese perfectly combine.
There are many sciency reasons why this occurs. Something about the stone’s thermal mass and its pore structure (this will be material-dependent, with a stronger effect in more porous materials like the manufactured ceramics compared to the more natural stones like granite).
What you need to know is that the stone gets hot and stays hot. Also, thermal shock will cause it to crack, so it needs to be heated and cooled slowly.
Here’s a link to the stone we use. It was a wedding gift and works well for us. We really like the handles. There are many less expensive and very effective pizza stones on the market. Here’s a link to more about choosing and using a pizza stone.
Do You Need a Pizza Peel?
Again, the short answer is yes.
I personally was in denial about this for a long time. Instead, we choose to rapidly assemble the pizza on the hot stone like a pit crew at NASCAR. This was a bad plan. Because the pizza started cooking as we were assembling, we needed to cut our cook time by two minutes. This caused the top of the crust and the cheese to not heat as well.
By having a pizza peel, we can rapidly transfer the pizza straight from prepping onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. Those extra two minutes cook the pizza to absolute perfection.
This is the pizza peel we use. I like it because it’s completely dishwasher safe and even folds to fit into a cabinet, so I strongly recommend it if you are in the market for one.
First, wash your hands and wipe down your counters. Then preheat your oven to 450°F.
Next, take your dough out and remove any packaging. I normally take off the plastic wrap and put it in a bowl on the stove. The heat my oven gives off while pre-heating is just enough to warm it up. In our experience, the dough both rolls and cooks better when it’s allowed to reach a bit above room temperature before we start pizza assembly.
Once the oven reaches temperature, wait another 15 minutes. This extra time will ensure that your pizza stone is nice and hot for your pizza. Usually, I’ll preheat, set my dough out, and then walk the dogs.
You’ll have time to take care of something short on your to-do list. Like folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or mixing a cocktail.
After that extra time, you can start rolling out the pizza dough and getting out all your ingredients. I roll out my dough on a silicone pastry mat.
I really like the mat for two reasons. First, it helps me make the dough into a circle. Something that would be impossible without the guide circles on the mat. Second, it’s easy to get the pizza dough off the mat and have it stay in a circle. Here’s a link for my mat.
I also like my French rolling pin, but an English can do the same job. Here’s link for that.
I use a food scale to measure out most of my ingredients. This method is especially helpful for pepperoni and cheese. I’m not good at eyeballing the amount nor do I have the patience to count pepperoni.
After you have all your ingredients ready, you can start assembling your pizza. We like to assemble right on the peel.
Remember to put some flour on your peel before you put on the dough, so it’s easy to transfer into the oven. Then brush some olive oil all over the top of the dough. Next tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni or other toppings.
Bake for 12 minutes but watch it carefully the first time you do this. Each oven is different, and your time may vary. You want to look for browning on the crust and melting cheese.
Remove from oven and enjoy. Remember to turn your oven off and to leave the pizza stone in until the oven cools. Then take the pizza stone out before you need to use the oven again. We forget this step so often that I made a pizza stone sign to remind us to take it out.
There are too many New Yorkers in my family to even consider putting toppings beneath the cheese or, heaven forbid, the sauce on top. It simply isn’t done.
In that same vein, an able-bodied person eating pizza with a knife and fork is sacrilege. Your pizza is made correctly if it’s sturdy enough to eat properly. Folding is acceptable.
- Pizza Stone (strongly recommended)
- Pizza Peel (strongly recommended)
- Rolling Pin
- Pie Mat (optional)
- Basting brush
- Pizza Cutter
- 180 g Pizza Dough Weight will vary by recipe. Make sure you have enough dough for a 12 inch pizza.
- 2 tsp Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Pizza Sauce
- 4 oz Fresh Mozzarella
- 30 g Turkey Pepperoni
- 4 leaves Basil
- Flour for dusting
- Additional Toppings
- Put pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450°F.
- After the oven reaches temperature wait another 15 minutes.
- Start rolling out pizza dough (12”)with a generous amount of flour.
- Put additional flour on pizza peel and then the dough.
- Brush the dough with olive oil.
- Pour on tomato sauce, careful to not have any pooling spots.
- Quickly transfer the pizza from peel to stone. Bake for 12 minutes and watch it carefully. You want to look for the crust starting to brown and the cheese melting.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and turn off the oven. Enjoy!