Top quality pizzas are not cheap to come by and the cheap ones are probably best ignored unless you’re in a hurry. Good homemade pizzas on the other hand are a pleasure to make and to eat, and are considerably cheaper to boot. There’s no need to splash out on posh ingredients either, I use the cheapest ingredients from the supermarket’s ‘basics’ range; including flour, tinned tomatoes, onions and mozzarella and they still turn out miles better than shop bought!
Homemade ones do take a bit more time than making a phone call to your favourite takeaway pizza place, but once you’re familiar with the process, the ‘hands-on’ time doesn’t take any longer than any other meal. In fact if prepped ahead pizza can be a very speedy meal taking only a few minutes to roll out the dough, add toppings and bake. When making pizza, I frequently make up a double batch of sauce and dough to portion up and pop in the freezer for another day; it’s well worth doing this as it means there’s always a fast, fresh, tasty meal, ready to go from the freezer.
The amounts given here, are enough for two large pizzas; or four people served with a hearty green side salad. Greedier people like my fella, might like a whole pizza to themselves!
I use pizza ‘stones’ for a crisp base; if you like making pizza as often as I do, they represent a useful addition to one’s store of kitchenalia. They last forever and can be bought lots of places now – just check around for the best deal first.
Classic Margherita Pizza
I generally start by prepping the sauce:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
- Add the onions and garlic and saute gently until tender.
- Add the tomatoes and marjoram and allow the sauce to simmer gently on the stove – stirring occasionally – for about one hour, or until the sauce is nicely reduced to a thickish paste. Set aside.
As the sauce is reducing I get on with the dough:
- 12 oz plain flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp dried yeast (either kind will do)
- 3 floz boiling water
- 4 floz milk
- Put flour, salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Stir ingredients together.
- Put sugar, milk, water and yeast in a jug and leave to sit until it activates or becomes a bit frothy, this should take about 20 minutes (if using instant yeast, bypass this stage and just add everything straight into the flour.)
- Make a well in the flour, and add the liquid. Mix to a ball of dough.
- Knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface, then return to the bowl and smooth a little extra olive oil over the surface.
- Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and place somewhere warm (such as the airing cupboard) for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Heat the oven to 240C, if using place pizza stones on the top two shelves while the oven reaches it’s temperature.
- Meanwhile divide the dough into two and roll out the pieces to roughly 12″ each.
While the oven is heating, I prepare the topping:
- 4 x 125g balls of mozzarella, drained
- 2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves, left whole
- 2 tsp olive oil, for drizzling
- Divide the mozzarella into two portions. Thinly slice one half and process or grate the other half. Then assemble the pizzas.
- If using, take pizza stones out of the oven, flour lightly and carefully place the rolled out dough onto them (be careful of fingers.) Otherwise use a couple of baking sheets, lightly floured.
- Spread the pizza sauce 50/50 over each uncooked pizza base, use the back of a metal spoon to spread it out.
- Sprinkle the grated mozzarella 50/50 evenly over each pizza.
- Put pizzas in the oven for around only six minutes.
- Take pizzas out of the oven (the grated mozzarella should be just melted and the edges of the dough beginning to lightly brown) and add the remaining toppings evenly over both. Drizzle with just a little extra olive oil.
- Return the pizzas to the oven (I switch them around at this point) and bake for a further eight minutes. Be careful not to over cook however and keep an eye on them to ensure they’re not burning.
- Take out of oven, slice and serve.