Homemade Pizza Night: Bigtime Italian Fun on a Budget

My life is dominated by Sicilians (don’t call them Italians, dude). Sal and I lived with his parents and sister for two years in San Jose, California and if you think living with your parents sounds like a nightmare, think again. Those Sicilians know how to party.

Besides guzzling his father’s homemade hooch, singing along to Italian pop music with his sister, and learning to sew with his seamstress mother, we spent a lot of time making pizzas.

Sal and his father built a brick oven in the backyard years ago, and it gets a serious workout during the summer. I feel pretty confident saying that the pizzas that come out of that oven are among the best in I Stati Uniti. Made with homemade dough, homemade sauce, homemade cheese, and garden-fresh basil they are a taste sensation. Throw in about 20 Sicilians who are screaming (talking) in Sicilian, and it’s tough to find a more authentic experience.

Sal and I don’t have a brick oven, but we do our best to keep the tradition alive here in Portland using our sad little apartment-sized mini-stove (don’t ask) and wheat flour.

We wouldn’t serve these pizzas to his family, but they’re pretty delicious nonetheless. Five great things about pizza night:

  1. Cheap: Basically, you need flour and yeast. The rest is negotiable. Use what you have.
  2. Creative: See above. No one said they have to be traditional. Natalie, of Sweetpea Bicycles, mentioned that she and Austin put beets on their signature pie… go crazy.
  3. Fun: Open a bottle of cabernet and let the games begin. The process of making pizzas is inherently fun. You get that kid in craft-corner feeling and then you get to stuff face afterward. Brilliant.
  4. Leftovers: We always end up making more pizza than we can eat which spells leftovers. I love second-day pizza.
  5. Easy: Pizzas are wayyyy easier than you think. Get past the dough-making part and you’re golden. You don’t even need one of those fancy pans or stones, just make the thin crust from the get-go and cook the damn thing, will you?

We don’t have any super-secret formulas for dough (well, I’m sure Sal’s mom does, but she’s not talking) but here are a few links to some simple recipes to get you started:

  • From Giada DeLaurentiis via Epicurious: This pizza dough will give you big boobs and a big head but we can’t guarantee it will get you a cooking show.
  • From RecipeZaar: Thin Crust Pizza
  • This one from the blogosphere looks good, too, and even has a bunch of construction pictures and stuff. I particularly like the picture of the chianti bottle at the end.
  • Another from The Kitchn: more pictures!

You’ll note that I am partial to the thin-crust variety. I will not enter a pizza debate here, but I will say this: make your crust thin or we will hunt you down. We don’t use a recipe, and we don’t make it the same every time, but we do always make it thin. Other notes: Fresh arugula on top of pizza (added after cooking) is the hizzle mcshizz. I am also a huge fan of anchovies but Sal hates them. Go. Make. Eat. Drink.

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9 comments

  1. I make a lot of pizza. Last night, I tried pizza rolls for the kids. I will post on it, cuz it worked well.

  2. Guy Smith

    That looks awesome! I have or was making them on the barbi with a big mesh pizza pan! I have become fond of pickles as a topping?

  3. I am a huge fan of homemade pizza – I love my pizza stones, but I would toss them for a brick oven in a heartbeat.

  4. By the way, I would love a brick oven! It’s in the plans, but it will be a while.

    When you guys aren’t doing a pizza night, you will have to come over to my place and give me some pointers.

  5. MichaelS.

    another really enjoyable column and i can’t wait to try it out myself. but i think oregon pinot will beat cabernet every time

  6. I threw NY style pizzas for 2 years back in high school and never ate a bite (can’t stand cheese). Friday night is now homemade pizza night in our home and I’ve recently discovered the joys of cheese-less pesto, sausage, & sundried tomato. Our first Sungold tomatoes are ripe so that’s a plus. And I hear one can make a pretty good cob outdoor bread oven? We were recently talking about making one for the whole neighborhood, which would be cool.

  7. I feel a pizza-off coming on. Ours aren’t very photogenic, but what they lack in the visuals they make up for in unabashed fat content.

  8. I got a tip from a magazine article that says if you can’t cook the pizza above 550 or 600 degrees to substitute about a third of the flour you’d normally use for cake flour. I know if sounds like blasphemy, especially if you’re Italian, or Sicilian, but it works. Something to do with the speed at which the pizza cooks in the lower temp oven and what happens to the different flours at longer cooking times.
    It works for me. I also just ordered a piece of soapstone to use as a pizza stone. I don’t have a brick oven, but now I’ll have a super thick stone that will hold heat forever.

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