Mamma Mia: Upgrade Your Pizza Night

Upgrade your pizza night

My husband and I have a Sunday night tradition of dining on pizza and wine. We toast our weekend, hit the play button on “60 Minutes” and catch up on a few of our favorite TV series. It’s a great way to unwind and get ready for the week ahead.

One of our favorite pizzerias has a frustrating habit of “accidentally” knocking its phone off the hook. It usually takes about 30 minutes for them to realize their mistake, which makes it an unreliable option.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, it’s time to take matters into my own hands.

I recently dusted off a favorite pizza sauce and dough recipe from my mom. Mamma mia! Why hadn’t I made this sooner?

Thank you, phone-clumsy and nameless pizzeria for reminding me how easy it is to make my own pie. Our pizza-night call now answers to a new chef. She’s much more reliable.

Step 1: Start your dough

Because you'll need 90 minutes for your dough to rise, your first step is to prepare the dough. This recipe makes about two 14-inch pizzas.

If you're only making one pizza, no problem. You can freeze the dough for a pizza down the road.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of regular yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water, divided
  • 3 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • Corn meal

Dissolve yeast and sugar in ¼ cup of warm water. Let set two to three minutes until dissolved. Stir and then let set in warm oven (about 180 degrees) until bubbly, about five minutes.

Preparing yeast mixture for pizza dough

Put flour and salt in mixing bowl.

Flour-and-salt mixture for pizza dough

Add 1 cup of warm water to the yeast mixture. Make a well (inverted "v") in flour and salt mixture. Pour in ¼ cup olive oil and yeast mixture.

Pouring yeast mixture into flour well

Beat with a dough hook for 8 minutes.

Kneading pizza dough with Kitchen Aid mixer and hook attachment

Flour the ball of dough and let rise 1 ½ hours.

Pizza dough prepares to rise

After the dough has risen, mash out air in dough and divide into two balls.

Risen pizza dough

Flour each ball and put into covered bowl in refrigerator until ready to use.

Step 2: Get saucy with it

With dough on the rise, it's time to get a little saucy. The richness of this pizza sauce is so good you could serve it on crackers and be satisfied. However, we won't be doing that for our beloved pizza night.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 4 cups of Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped but not drained
  • 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (reduce to 2 teaspoons if you're sensitive to salt)
  • ½ teaspoon of course ground pepper

Pizza sauce ingredients

To chop the canned tomatoes, I like to use my food processor. Pulse about a dozen times until roughly chopped.

Roughly chop whole tomatoes by pulsing in food processor

Heat olive oil and onion on medium heat for seven minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

Heating onions in oil

Stir in tomatoes, paste, oregano, bay leaf, sugar, salt and black pepper.

Stirring tomatoes and paste into onion mixture

Adding remaining ingredients into pizza sauce

Bring to boil then simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for one hour. Remove bay leaf.

Step three: Bring it all together

Prepare your surface area and rolling pin with a light dusting of flour. Roll out the dough to about one-fourth of an inch thick. Then place it on a pan covered with corn meal.

Rolling out pizza dough

Top with ½ cup of sauce, mozzarella cheese and your choice of toppings. Dribble 2 tablespoons of oil over pizza (optional). It may be tempting to add more sauce, but remember the richness goes a long way. You can always freeze the sauce for a pizza date in the future. It's also great on pasta.

Adding pizza sauce to dough

Adding cheese to pizza

Favorite pizza toppings
Ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and basil, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, mushrooms and jalapeno-stuffed olives are a few of our favorite pizza toppings. The beauty of a pizza is there's no need to compromise. As you can see below, we each top our own sides.

Adding topping to pizza

Cook for 12 to 15 minutes in 500-degree oven on the bottom rack. It takes a while to get your oven this hot, so give it about 30 minutes to preheat. Remove your pizza from oven and let set for a few minutes before cutting into it.

Pizza is served

Presto! Pizza night is on.

Salads and wine complete pizza night

Recipe snapshot

Pizza sauce recipe
Servings: About 3 cups of sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 4 cups of Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped but not drained
  • 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (reduce to 2 teaspoons if you're sensitive to salt)
  • ½ teaspoon of course ground pepper

Heat olive oil and onion on medium heat for seven minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, paste, oregano, bay leaf, sugar, salt and black pepper. Bring to boil then simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for one hour. Remove bay leaf.

Freeze leftover sauce.

Pizza dough recipe
Servings: About two 14-inch pizzas

  • 2 packages of regular yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water, divided
  • 3 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • Corn meal

Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup of warm water and sugar. Let set two to three minutes until dissolved. Stir and then let set in warm oven until bubbly, about five minutes. Put flour and salt in mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of warm water to the yeast mixture. Make well in flour and salt mixture. Pour in ¼ cup olive oil and yeast mixture. Beat with a dough hook for 8 minutes. Flour well and let rise 1 ½ hours.

Mash out air in dough and divide into two balls. Flour each ball and put into covered bowl in refrigerator until ready to use.

Roll out dough and put on pan covered with corn meal. Top with ½ cup of sauce, mozzarella cheese and your choice of toppings. Dribble 2 tablespoons of oil over pizza (optional).

Cook for 12 to 15 minutes in 500-degree oven on the bottom rack. It takes a while to get your oven this hot, so give it about 30 minutes to preheat.

Freeze leftover dough by wrapping in plastic wrap. Set in refrigerator overnight to defrost.

Comments   

+1 # Maggie 2015-05-07 12:17
Mom's recipe is amazing, and there is plenty of sauce to freeze for another pizza night. I'd forgotten about making it, too.
Especially enjoyed this post! Brought back memories of mom's hospitality when inviting over guests to build their own pizza.
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0 # Susie 2015-05-07 12:30
Those are great memories of mom and her pizza gatherings. I remember having a pizza-themed birthday party at her former deli, Odeli's. Mom's pizza is the best!
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0 # Raj Basu 2015-05-07 18:44
I got hungry reading this!
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0 # Susie 2015-05-07 19:13
Just my intention. That's the best compliment you could give it. :)
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