Pizza Night!

We ate so, so much pizza last week. So much that I actually got tired of it, and begged not to go to an Italian restaurant on Saturday. I know. It was a sad state of affairs.

But not to worry – the pizza hiatus never lasts long, and I’m here to share what started all of the pizza madness last week – easy, homemade, weeknight pizza with whatever you have on hand (or should have on hand). We made ours with cremini mushrooms, arugula, kielbasa sausage, cheese, and sauce. And it was pretty danged good. Wanna see the process? Oh, I knew you did:

All sauced up and nowhere to go. Except my facehole.
Enter cheesy joke here.
Mushrooms and kielbasa and (soon to be added) arugula, oh my!
Mmm, pizza.

My foray into baking bread began with pizza dough, which I find to be the easiest of all yeast breads to make and not screw up – it’s immensely forgiving, it’s pliable, and gives a beginning bread baker a good idea of what “elastic” means when referring to a dough. You can play with different flours and add-ins, such as herbs, too! It can be done with or without special equipment, and it freezes beautifully, so you can make a double or triple batch like me and have it on hand for an even easier weeknight meal.

Enough of my jabbering – to the dough!

Easy Pizza Dough

This recipe makes 1 very large pizza dough, or two small pizzas. I like to double it to make 3 medium-sized pizza doughs – one for the night of, and two for freezing and using later for other nefarious pizza purposes.

You will need:

  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (or one commercial package)
  • 1 1/2 c warm water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 1/3 c flour, plus more just in case

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, brown sugar, and water. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly and cloudy.
  2. Add olive oil, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of the flour and stir to make a very sticky dough. At this point, you can also add in fresh or dried herbs, pepper, or whatever else your heart desires in a dough. I’m a big fan of thyme.
  3. If using a stand mixer: Use the bread hook attachment and mix on low speed. Gradually add the remaining flour until your dough is elastic (that is, it bounces back when you lightly press it with your finger) and is no longer sticky. This should take about 5-7 minutes. If using your right to bare hands: Lightly dust a counter or flat surface with flour, and turn dough out onto the floured surface. Sprinkle the dough with flour, and knead, gradually adding more flour until your dough reaches elasticity (see above) and is no longer sticky. This should take about 8-10 minutes and is a great way to get an arm workout. The key here for either method is to go more by feel and sight than measurement – use more or less of the flour amount to reach elasticity so you don’t get a super dry or super wet dough that’s hard to handle.
  4. Lightly oil a clean bowl. Shape dough into a ball by gently stretching it outward and folding the ends underneath the ball. Turn dough in the bowl so all sides are coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow to rest in a warm (not hot!) area for about 1 hour until the dough doubles in size. You now have pizza dough!

Using Dough to Make Pizza:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Punch down the risen dough. Pull dough out the bowl and reshape into a ball.
  3. Shape the dough into a flat disc by turning and squeezing it in your hands in a circular motion so the dough stretches evenly. If it tears, mend it – it’s all going to bake, anyway. Place pizza disc (yep, that’s a thing now) onto a baking pan, floured pizza peel, or pizza stone.
  4. Top with sauce, cheese, and whatever else you want and/or have on hand – it’s your pizza! Just make sure not to overload it, or stuff will leak in the oven and your pizza might turn out soggy, which isn’t great. Try to do a mix of flavors – bitter, sweet, salty, and savory. But just savory works, too.
  5. Bake pizza for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned in spots and the crust is browned. Allow to cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Want to make the pizza at the beginning of the post? Here’s what we used:

  • 1-2 c fresh arugula
  • 1 c Easy Pizza Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 c cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 kielbasa sausage, sliced
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sauté the kielbasa until browned on the edges, then add the sliced mushrooms to the pan until they’re about half their original size. Top the pizza with about 1 cup of the pizza sauce, then shredded cheese, then the mushroom-sausage mixture, then arugula. Bake as directed.

Easy Pizza Sauce Recipe

You will need:

  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tsp sugar to taste
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 T fresh herbs or 1-2 tsp dried herbs (I like basil and thyme, but you can go with whatever you want here)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat tomato sauce on low heat in a small saucepan. Add sugar and salt to taste. (Seriously, taste your sauce – you may like it sweeter or saltier than I prefer. However, I’ve found that sugar is pretty necessary to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, regardless of your taste.)
  2. If using dried herbs, add them toward the beginning of the simmer, and allow the sauce to simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. If using fresh herbs, add towards the end of the simmer.
  3. You now have pizza sauce – huzzah! This makes about 2 cups.
Enjoy! (Wine optional. Maybe.)

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