Everyone loves a good pizza. I mean seriously, what’s not to like? From mozzarella to Italian sausage, sweet onions to olives, and arugula to feta cheese—the combinations are endless. Am I making you hungry? I hope so because I have plenty of pizza tonight so grab a bottle of wine (or beer) and come on over!

Marc made three (yes, this is not a typo) pies for the two of us. Mister slacker city boy made his attempt at Neapolitan pizza. He thinks he sucks at making pizza (but he is dead wrong) so he didn’t mind me watching over his shoulder to steal his recipe.  I would have asked him to share his secrets for making a great pie, but he never writes recipes. Ninety nine percent of his cooking is from the heart and from memory. He spent twenty+ years working as a chef in Boston and San Francisco and a number of places in between. Now I have his secrets and I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.

Here are the pizza choices:

Pizza #1: Three Cheese Pizza with Spicy Red Sauce

Pizza #2: Italian Sausage with Sweet Onions, Roasted Red Peppers & Tomato Cream Sauce

Pizza #3: Arugula Almond Pesto with Olives and Feta

Now lets get started!!!

Refrigerator Proofed Pizza Dough Recipe

Recipe yields three pizza doughs

3 cups Italian Tipo “00” or Bread flour (only use all–purpose as a last resort)
1-cup water at 90 degrees F
2 Tsp. honey
1 1/2 Tsp. kosher salt
1 Tsp. dry active yeast
2 Tblsp. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil—remember this as I might test you later)
Semolina or cornmeal for paddle

Marc's pizza dough

Marc prefers a stand mixer with a dough hook. This recipe also works if mixed by hand, but the kneading will take longer.

Warm the surface of the bowl you are making your dough in to 90-100 F. This will help in having the temperature right when you add your water. If the bowl is too cold the yeast will not activate, but be very careful not to get the bowl or the water too hot. 100+ F will kill the yeast. Always wait until the yeast comes alive to move forward. You can always start the yeast again if you kill it. But if you add the flour and the yeast does not activate you will waste a lot of flour.

Add water, honey and yeast then stir. Make sure yeast activates. It will bubble and foam in 3-4 minutes. When yeast is rising, add flour, salt and olive oil. Mix on low until a ball forms scraping down sides often then turn mixer up to medium and knead 4-5 minutes. The ball should be soft and pliable. Place dough on oiled surface and cover in plastic. Refrigerate dough for up to three days. You can also cut into 3 portions and freeze what you plan to use at a later date.

Dough will require up to four hours of room temperature before use, so plan ahead. If you are going to use dough you froze, place frozen dough in the refrigerator a day before using and still plan ahead as dough takes four hours to proof after removing it from the refrigerator.

After the dough has set out at room temperature for two hours, dust work surface with flour and press each portion to be used into a ½ inch thick disc about five inches in diameter. Let the disc rise until it doubles in size before attempting to stretch the dough. To stretch the dough, have a pizza paddle ready (or sheet pan) with semolina or cornmeal dusted to place dough on after stretching. Slide hands under dough and make a fist in both hands rolling your fist up into the dough so it is resting on top of your fists. Pulling outward, stretch the dough carefully, rotating slowly so you do not tear it. If it tears, mend it and start again. As you stretch the dough it is important you obtain a uniform thickness. Stretch dough to size. For balls of this weight, 12- 14 inches will work well.

Place on dusted pizza peel or dusted pan. Add toppings and slide on to hot cooking surface.

Arugula Almond Pesto

2 cups cleaned arugula leafs
2 cloves peeled garlic
½ cup roasted almonds
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup EVOO
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Almonds and garlic

Add almonds, garlic and a a drizzle of olive oil into a food processor

Almonds and garlic paste

Pulse until coarsely ground. Add ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Add arugula ½ cup at a time pulsing while adding olive oil. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Sauce

At this point, you can use this pesto for things like pasta sauce, risotto, chicken, shrimp and lamp chops

Reduced pesto sauce

For pizza sauce, reduce ½-cup heavy cream by ¼ volume. Stir in ½ cup arugula pesto, then remove from heat. If you have leftover sauce, save and refrigerate. Remaining pesto sauce will keep for one week refrigerated.

Pizza Assembly & Baking

Pizza #1: Three Cheese Pizza with Spicy Red Sauce

After stretching the dough, add your favorite red sauce (spicy if you like it that way) and add mozzarella, romano and ricotta. Next, add onions and peppers. Bake till golden brown.

Pizza #2: Italian Sausage with Sweet Onions, Roasted Red Peppers and Tomato Cream Sauce

Italian sausage with sweet onions, roasted red peppers and pink sauce

Reduce ½-cup heavy cream by ¼ volume. Stir in ½ cup red sauce, then remove from heat. Spread a light layer of sauce on the dough then add mozzarella, Italian sausage with sweet onions and roasted red peppers. Is this making you hungry?? ;) Bake till golden brown:

Italian sausage with sweet onions roasted red peppers

Pizza #3: Arugula Almond Pesto with Olives and Feta

Arugula almond pesto with olives and feta

Spread a thin layer of pesto on the crust and add mozzarella, olives and onions. Bake till golden brown:

Arugula Almond Pesto with Olives and Feta Cooked

Once removed from the oven, add feta cheese

Insider Tips

  • Always start with a clean oven. Pizzas have to be cooked at high heat—500F or hotter is best. There are probably many things in your oven that will not smoke at 350F but at 500F, you will set off the smoke alarm if your oven is not clean. Place your pizza stone in your oven 45 minutes before cooking your pizza. If you do not have a pizza stone the back of a sheet pan will work but do not preheat the pan.
  • Always have all ingredients prepped prior to assembly—sauce, cheese and toppings
  • Do not overload the dough with toppings. It is the worst thing you can do to a pizza. Sauce lightly. It is best to brush the sauce on, sprinkle cheese lightly, and be discriminate about your toppings. On a 12-14 inch pizza, you should never exceed 6-8 ounces of toppings. If you like four toppings, then 2 ounces of each is all you need.
  • If you are going to use dough you froze, place frozen dough in the refrigerator a day before using. Dough will require up to four hours at room temperature before use, so plan ahead.
  • Chewiness or crispiness of the crust depends on how you stretch the dough. Stretch the dough really thin for crunchy. The less you stretch, the chewier it is.

Time for your QUIZ!!! What does the acronym EVOO stand for?