My husband and I love to have people over for dinner. Warning to you though if you ever come, we may put you to work when you arrive. Think experiential dinner party! Last night we decided to have a pizza party. I put out some great toppings and then when our friends arrived, we got started topping the pizzas!
Thanks for helping us make our pizzas last night friends!
I like to make pretty much everything from scratch, but you can always substitute any prepackaged ingredients that you would like. If you don't feel brave enough to make your own dough for example, Trader Joe's makes a great refrigerated dough that I've used when I don't have the time for letting the dough rise.
Our table with the toppings ready for our guests
This takes some preparation on my part. I mix up some of my Rustic french bread dough (tutorial on a previous post) which makes a delicious pizza dough. I make up a full batch of the dough which will make 3 large pizzas. If you don't need 3 pizzas, either halve the recipe, or mix it all up, use what you need and refrigerate the rest of the dough to make some French bread later.
Ingredients for the pizza sauce
We made two pizzas with tomato sauce and one with pesto. For the tomato sauce, I just bought a can of tomato paste and mix in crushed garlic and some Italian herbs. I'm very much an experimental cook, so I never measure this sort of thing, but I would suggest one large or two small garlic cloves (1 tsp) and then a 1/2 tsp of Italian herbs.
I wish I could claim this delicious homemade pesto, but Joe makes the pesto in this house! He does a fantastic job and likes making it. I know that he uses pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese and basil. We get fresh basil plants from Trader Joe's for $3.29. Love it. No batch ever turns out exactly the same, but it's always delicious! Thanks Joe for the pesto. Buy it from the store if you don't have a Joe in your house to make the pesto or if you don't want to tackle making your own pesto.
Preparing the baking stones and rolling out the dough.
I put a light sprinkling of corn meal on a baking sheet. I use both my baking stone and regular metal baking sheets. They both work well, and they both get the corn meal. I then roll the dough out on a floured counter with a rolling pin. You can decide how thin you'd like to roll it, but I aim for about 1/4 inch. That's what we've found as our preference. If it gets much thicker it gets very bready (and we love bread). And remember, it will also rise a little bit while you're baking it, so it'll end up being about 1/2 inch once the pizza comes out of the oven. After I roll it out, I carefully transfer it to the baking tray before topping it.
A rolling tip, if your dough is not easily rolling, let it sit for 20 seconds and try rolling it again perpendicular to your last rolling. This allows the gluten to relax and be rolled again.
Next up, the toppings! Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the dough. I put about 1/2 of the paste on one pizza. It doesn't look like it will be enough, but trust me, a little goes a long way and has a lot of flavor. After the sauce, then top away how ever you'd like.
We did three pizzas. See them all below.
Piazza number one: Pepperoni, Tomato and Basil
Toppings for one of the pizzas
We enjoy putting on tomato sauce, pepperoni or sausage, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese on one of the pizzas. The tomatoes caramelize so nicely in the oven and the parmesan cheese on the very top of the pizza is what gives it that lovely browned cheese topping. We get our parmesan cheese at Kraemer from Watertown, WI. They have very good cheese at reasonable prices. They have flat rate shipping, so we put a large order in with a friend once or twice a year. I didn't use freshly shredded parmesan before this, but it is really much more delicious.
Bake at 425˚ for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Doesn't it look lovely? You'll only see the tomatoes at the very end of this one since that is how our guests wanted to have it! That's the beauty of making it at home since it customizable.
Pizza number two: Shrimp Pesto (This is our favorite!)
We start with the layer of the pesto on the dough. The we add shrimp, feta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
Here you can see the pesto topped dough and in the background Joe is sautéing the shrimp. We cut the shrimp into bite sized pieces. Heat up a frying pan with some olive oil on medium heat. Add 2 gloves of crushed garlic and heat for about 20 seconds before adding the shrimp. Heat the shrimp for about one minute until it is mostly pink. Add some more of that Italian seasoning to the shrimp while it is cooking. It doesn't need to be cooked all of the way through because it will finish cooking while the pizza is in the oven.
Bake at 425˚ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
I'm so happy we have some of this one left over for dinner tonight too. Yum, yum yum!!!
And finally our last pizza was a stuffed crust Hawaiian pizza. The stuffed crust was one of those happy accidents during our last pizza night. Our friend did a wonderful job shredding fresh parmesan for us, so we had a lot of it to use. Also, we didn't quite have enough sauce since we were using up sauce from a pizza I had made a week earlier. So we decided to try stuffing the extra cheese in the extra dough. It was awesome!
To stuff the crust, spread the sauce on the dough in the middle and stay about 3 inches from the edge. Put a line of cheese around the edge and then roll the excess dough up and around the cheese.
Joe stuffing the crust on our Hawaiian Pizza
Add Canadian bacon, pineapple and then mozzarella cheese. Bake a 425˚ for 20 to 25 minutes.
The stuffed crust turned out to be delicious again
Throw your own pizza party soon and let me know how it went. You can top it with anything you'd like. You're really only limited by your creativity. If you have some fantastic topping combo, let me know, and I'll have to try it next time. These just happened to be the three that we enjoyed. Serve with a salad and a glass of wine for an even better time.