Aaron and I will both openly admit to subsisting on Little Caesar's $5 pizza through most of college and thinking it was pretty much as good as pizza got.
After a few years of marriage we went out to dinner with some friends, one of whom had lived in Italy for a couple years. They promised us real pizza and we were sort of sitting there like, "Do we not know about real pizza? What's the difference?"
OH there is a difference. Thinner, perfectly chewy crust, bright uncomplicated sauce and fresh mozzarella. Basil leaves! Spicy salami! White pizzas! We were blown away and quickly discovered several restaurants around the valley that serve amazing authentic pizza*.
Unfortunately, none of those restaurants are remotely close to us. So, we started experimenting with pizza at home. A good friend of mine, knowing of our pizza-love, swiped a dog-eared Bon Appetit for me from the salon where she works. There was a big section about pizza (including a recipe for no-knead crust) that she thought I'd appreciate.
It was what finally set us on the correct path. The crust is perfection (well, it would be even better if we had a 900 degree brick oven in our back yard, but we do what we can with our regular oven in our kitchen). Plus, one batch makes enough for 6 pizzas. We stick the extras in the freezer and it makes for super easy meals later.
A few weeks later another friend recommended a simple pizza sauce made out of canned whole tomatoes (drained), a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I saw the same recipe in the footnote of this New York Times article. We tried it and Aaron couldn't stop talking about how fresh it tasted, so close to the pizzeria pizza we love but hate driving 45 minutes to get.
And so it is that pizza has become a passion around our house. We are always experimenting with different ways of cooking and adding new toppings but this basic margherita recipe is always a winner!
7 1/2 c all purpose flour (1000g)
4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon active drive yeast
For the how-to, hop on over to Bon Appetit. I make it exactly as written! Except I roll it out rather than hand-stretching. I am not patient enough for that.
One can peeled whole tomatos, drained
Pinch sea salt
1 t olive oil
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Preheat your oven as hot as it will go. Ours handles 500 pretty well but at 550 it randomly shuts off.
Slice mozzarella thinly and lay on paper towels to absorb some of the extra moisture. I like to chiffonade my basil for ease of eating but if you prefer whole leaves, that's fine too!
We've had bad luck with pizza stones (cracking and a small fire were involved) so, for now, we're sticking with a cookie sheet. Line a cookie sheet with foil and dust with cornmeal. Roll out (or hand-stretch, if you are infinitely patient) your pizza dough to the desired thickness and transfer to the cookie sheet.
Spread with sauce, add your cheese, sprinkle with basil (can do before or after cooking. We go back and forth). Place in your blazing hot oven. I am honestly not sure how long it takes to bake (5-10 minutes, I'm guessing) because I always just keep an eye on it. Pull out when cheese is bubbly and enjoy!
*If you're local, we love Cibo and Pomo. The latter is certified Neapolitan (fancy!) and they are passionate enough about their pizza that Aaron has a funny story involving a waiter, a custom pizza order, and a chef who only spoke Italian insisting that he couldn't make the pizza Aaron wanted because it just isn't done that way. Cibo is our fav, though. The food is amazing and you can't beat the ambiance. And before you bring it up, we HAVE been to Bianco and were surprisingly unimpressed (also, $90 poorer).