Thursday, March 25, 2010


When you live in a college town, pizza is what's for dinner, lunch, and frequently breakfast. It is the "free food" that lures students to attend meetings. It is the anti-anxiety agent at last minute cramming sessions. It is the foundation of many local entrepreneurial ventures, frequently founded by our own graduates who apparently absorbed the message that pizza is a product whose popularity is practically guaranteed. In Gainesville, we have our revered pizza traditions: Leonardo's where the staff is as exotic as the pizzas; Gumby's -- started by two UF students and now operating in 13 states;   Piza Vito, a real Italian style chain, also run by a UF graduate. There are at least a zillion pizza places here, and you never, ever hear of a single one going out of business. Hmmm...

So, you might wonder, why must I make my own pizza when I am surrounded by such pizza abundance? Why not just pick up the phone and make the call? Why dirty the dishes when you can just toss the empty box away? Here are some of my reasons, feel free to add your own:

  1. Good pizza is really easy to make at home and it looks beautiful. It's a good creative outlet.
  2. Pizza is the perfect vegetarian food - with all the possible toppings, no one ever misses meat.
  3. I want that first hot, melty, goolicious bite on my plate and ready for my mouth within a short minute of it's liberation from the oven.
  • 1 pkg pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 cups of homemade tomato sauce (or my current favorite in a jar: Hot Scicilian)
  • 4-8 oz of fresh mozzarella, sliced (or use 4-8 oz of shredded mozzarella)
  • 1/2 cup good parmesan or parmesan-reggiano
  • baby spinach
  • mushrooms
  • kalamata olives
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • a few tablespoons Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • anything else that sounds good to you

    Preheat the oven to 450. If using a pizza stone, it should be in the oven while it preheats. You will need to transfer your shaped dough onto the hot stone. If you use a round metal pizza pan (with the holes), there is no need to preheat the pan.

    I use a pizza dough from my local supermarket. That's what makes it easy. OK, I know what you're thinking..."She doesn't make her own dough!" Would you feel better if I said I had my local baker whip up a batch of their special pizza dough for our dinner tonight? These people are professional bakers and the dough if freshly made. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too. This lets me (and you) have a great meal without hours of preparation. You don't have to make everything from scratch, if someone else is willing to do some of the work for you. Impress your friends by learning to toss the dough.

    Shape the pie into either a 12-14 inch circle (easy using the technique shown in the tossing video), or stretch and roll it into a rectangle. Try to keep the thickness even, leaving a raised ridge around the edges.

    When I use a pizza stone, I like to bake the crust for about 5 minutes and then add the toppings. This is not necessary, but I like a super crispy crust. If using a pizza pan, I add the toppings to the uncooked pie crust.

    Fill a large ladle with sauce. Starting in the center, swirl this gently from the center to the outer raised edge of the crust creating a spiral shape of sauce. (I learned this from watching Rocky in Flagler Beach. He makes a killer spinach pie.) You want enough sauce to provide a tomato-y embrace for your toppings, but not so much that your crust will be soggy. Err on the side of caution. Less is more.

    Now arrange your toppings in an eye-catching arrangement. When I use a shredded cheese, I like to follow the Sicilian tradition of placing the cheese on top of the toppings. Do it your way. It's fun.

    Bake the pie for about 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melting. Serve with a salad and a glass of chianti. Life doesn't get better than this. Buon appetito!


    1. That looks sooooo good. I can't wait till you invite us over for pizza one night. Hint , Hint.