So, perfecting homemade pizza has been my mission, nay obsession for the past 15 years. It really bothered me as an avid home cook that I couldn’t replicate restaurant level pizza in my own kitchen. It seemed so simple…dough, sauce, cheese, oven. I’ll get back to that simplicity thing shortly. So I tried tons of different dough recipes, various store bought doughs, homemade sauces, store bought jarred sauces, every imaginable combination of cheeses and toppings, different pans, different oven temperatures and something was always wrong. Out of pure frustration and surrender, I decided to try and simplify things. Turns out, the answer was in the simplicity. First mandatory item: a pizza stone. If you have one already, great! If you don’t, go buy one before trying this recipe. If you refuse to use a pizza stone, do not expect proper results. It’s that important. My pizza stone lives on the bottom rack of my oven. Just put one in your oven and forget about it until pizza night. The next important factor is a hot oven. Preheat your oven with the pizza stone in it at 450 degrees for an hour. Yes, an hour. One of the reasons the pizza is so wonderful at the local restaurant is because they have a screaming hot oven running all day. Trust me on this one. The rest is ingredients and technique. If you are an avid pizza lover, please do try this recipe/technique.
- 1 package pizza dough
- 1/4-1/2 cup preferred tomato sauce
- 8-10 slices provolone cheese
- parchment paper
- cookie sheet
- pizza stone
Place pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven and preheat at 450 for an hour.
Allow the dough to thaw and come to room temperature. This takes some planning ahead. If you have access to a Hannaford grocery store, they carry the Portland Pie Co. pizza dough, and it is by far the best store bought dough I have found yet. If you can’t get that, try your favorite local pizza place and ask if they will sell you their dough. Many places will do this if you ask nicely.
Once the oven is preheated, lightly coat the dough with flour and gently press into a disc shape. Pick the dough up and turn it sideways and gently press with your thumbs and fingers, starting at the center and working your way out toward the edges while turning the disc around and around like a ferris wheel. If the dough isn’t cooperating, lay it flat on parchment paper and allow to warm up more. The key to stretching pizza dough is gentle persuasion. You can’t force a dough. If the dough tears, and this still happens to me from time to time, simply pinch the hole closed and be gentle near that spot.
Once the dough is stretched to preferred thinness, line a flat baking sheet (no sides) with parchment paper (not wax paper!!). If you don’t own a flat cookie sheet, simply flip over an edged cookie sheet and use the bottom as your flat surface. Place the dough on top of the cookie sheet/parchment paper. Using a spoon, place about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce in the center of the dough and using the bottom of the spoon, slowly swirl outward in a spiral. This distributes the sauce evenly and prevents a soggy center. After much testing, I found that it did not matter whether the sauce was homemade or store bought. If I have homemade sauce, I use that. If not, I usually go with Ragu brand pizza sauce or Pastene brand jarred chateau tomato sauce. Top with cheese and preferred toppings. After trying nearly every cheese under the sun, it came down to one cheese for the perfect pizza. It was a surprising revelation for sure. Sliced provolone. What??! I discovered this by accident when it was the only cheese I had on hand. Turns out, it’s perfectly dry, melts beautifully, and has the mildness of mozzarella. Trust me on this one. Carefully shimmy and slide the pizza and parchment paper onto the pizza stone and bake for 10-15 minutes. To remove the pizza, simply slide the parchment paper back onto the cookie sheet. Allow the pizza to cool for 3-5 minutes before slicing.