Restaurant Quality Pizza – Made at Home

About six years ago my wife and I moved from the Boston area to Texas. We left an area rich with great Italian food and… amazing pizza! We were both a little shocked to discover that the pizza in Texas, just isn’t that good. Sorry Houstonians! You may think your pizza is good, but clearly you have not eaten pizza in the North End of Boston. Great pizza is chewy and crispy with a perfect combination of flavorful cheese and tangy tomato. That great combination is difficult to find here in Texas.

Luckily I worked for several years as a restaurant manager in an Italian restaurant and have learned the finer art of pizza making. In my years working in the restaurant industry I have made thousands of pizzas. Since my options for finding good pizza in Houston were non existent, I decided to figure out how to make great restaurant quality pizza at home.

Over the last few years I have been perfecting my cheese combination and sauce recipe. I have experimented with different cooking techniques to produce a perfectly cooked pizza in my home oven, not some special pizza oven. The results have been sensational and I am excited to share them with you! This video and the recipes below are my secrets to making great pizza… at home.

Tools you will need –
– 1 or 2 Stoneware Pizza Stones – Available here
– Pizza Cutter – This is the one I use
– Pizza Peel – Available here
– Pizza Ladle / Spoodle – A ladle bent flat, see video – Order here

Place your pizza stone into your oven, and then preheat your oven to 500 degrees. It is critical that before turning your oven on, that you place your pizza stone into the oven, so that the temperature of both rises simultaneously. Once your oven reaches 500 degrees wait 10 – 15 minutes before starting, to ensure that your pizza stone comes to temperature. Now you are ready to start making pizza!

Dough –

If you have a good recipe for pizza dough feel free to make your own. Mario Batalli has a good recipe that you can find here. I prefer to purchase a few dough balls from a local pizza restaurant. They usually only charge me a few dollars for two or three dough balls and it makes the process a little easier. Ask the manager at your favorite local pizza shop if they will sell you large dough balls, in my experience most will not have a problem with it.

– Make sure that your dough temperature is at 60 degrees fahrenheit before pounding out your dough. If your dough is too cold you will end up with lots of bubbles when you cook the pizza.

{UPDATE} I get a lot of questions about making dough – Janae Monir has a great post about pizza dough on her food blog – Click here.

Pizza Sauce –

Enough for 4 large pizza’s

1 28 oz container Pomi Strained Tomatoes (You can substitute Hunt’s Tomato Sauce if Pomi is unavailable)
1 6 oz Can of Hunt’s Tomato Paste
½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Oregano

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until smooth. If you have time, let the sauce sit for at least an hour before making your pizza. You want all of the flavors to come together. You can even make the sauce a day ahead and store it in your fridge until you are ready to use it.

Cheese Combination –
I like the following combination, but feel free to experiment and try different cheeses.

– Sliced Provolone cheese (I like Sargento or Boar’s Head)
– Sliced or shredded mozzarella (Some mozzarella cheeses, especially the shredded version don’t have a lot of flavor)
– Shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
– Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

Toppings???? Go crazy, have fun, be creative. Pizza is such a fun dinner to make at home, because the combinations of toppings are endless. Get your kids involved and make it a family adventure in the land of pizza making. (For more on toppings see one of my newer posts on pizza toppings)

If you have any questions please leave a comment below, I will make sure to answer. Have fun and enjoy making tasty pizza in the comfort of your own home!

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Spaghetti all’Amatriciana – Not America

It appears my first few recipe posts all have pasta and tomatoes in common. I’m not going to lie, I love pasta and tomatoes. Pizza is also a favorite, but doesn’t everyone love pizza? I’m pretty passionate about Italian food in general. Regardless if it’s a pasta recipe and includes tomatoes, this dish is really good and warrants sharing. For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive 7 new shiny cookbooks to add to my growing collection. I recently asked a friend if you could ever have to many cookbooks?  Their response – “you know you have to many cookbooks if you accidentally start buying duplicates.” I’m not there yet, but getting close. One of the 7 was Mario Batali’s, Molto Gusto. This is my first Mario cookbook and it’s a perfect fit for me. It has a pasta section and a pizza section, score!

At first glance I thought we were making Spaghetti America, but no it’s – Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. While it is a tomato based pasta dish it’s very different than all of the others I normally cook. It has big chunks of red onion, tasty pancetta (Italian bacon) and red pepper flakes for some kick! The tomato sauce is really thick and rich – Yum. In the time it takes to boil water, dinner will be done, 15 – 20 minutes tops.

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana – Not America
From Mario Batali’s Cookbook Molto Gusto

Serves 4

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into bite sized pieces
1 red onion, halved and sliced ½-inch thick
1 ½ – 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
¼ cup tomato past (I used a whole 6oz can)
¾ Cup Pomi strained tomatoes reduced (I just used the whole 28oz box)
1lbs spaghetti
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only (I omitted, parsley is way overrated)
½ cup Pecorino Romano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get your water boiling for your spaghetti. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. In a pot pour the 28oz can of tomatoes and cook over medium heat. You want to cook or reduce the tomatoes until there is no more juice left. (I used the whole 28oz container of Pomi diced tomatoes, I couldn’t find Pomi whole tomatoes and had nothing else to do with the leftovers).

In a frying pan add your olive oil, pancetta and sliced red onion. (if you are looking for a lower fat alternative to the pancetta you may try some thick sliced Canadian bacon cut into cubes). Let your onions and pancetta cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the pancetta is browned and the onions are soft. Add the red pepper flakes to the onions and pancetta, and then stir in the tomatoe paste. (again I used the entire 6oz can).

Now add the reduced Pomi tomatoes to the onion pancetta mixture and combine into one sauce. If its to thick you can add ¼ cup of the pasta water to help thin it out. I like mine really thick, so I didn’t (Actualy I poured all of my pasta water down the drain before I remembered to save some). Mix in some Pecorino Ramano cheese, about a palm full. Strain your pasta and pour it into the pan with your scrumptious tomato sauce. Toss it all together and serve with a dusing of Pecorino Romano on top. It’s a winner! You might serve this with a Caesar salad as a starter. You could also serve a nice red wine with it to fancy it up.