In my opinion, no matter what your favorite pizza toppings are, the crust and the sauce will always be a crucial common denominator. The sauce should be made, at least in part, with fresh tomatoes, with plenty of garlic and herbs. The dough should be thin, crispy, and yet tender. (Sorry we are not taking any counter-arguments against these two rules for PROPER pizza at this time, you gluttonous deep-dish freaks.)
After a lot of experimentation, and many hits and misses, I was so pleased by how these turned out. And especially pleased that they were created without the need for special equipment like the stand mixer or a pizza stone. I used a 12" oven-safe cast iron pan. As for toppings, I'm sure that is something you'll want to personalize, as you can see from the photos, I made EVERYTHING pizzas. This included mushrooms, eggplants, kabocha squash, olives, peppers, corn, jalapeños, tomatoes, and fresh basil. If you are looking for ideas, here are some other combos I really like:
sliced shallots, sage, and thinly sliced mushrooms tossed in balsamic and black pepper
BBQ sauce, cilantro, roasted sweet potato, and red onions
Pesto and sliced tomatoes
jalapeño, caramelized onions and pineapple
Also pictured here, I used my cashew alfredo sauce and dropped blobs of it over the sauce, then spread them out a bit with the back of a spoon. It does add a little creaminess but I think the pizza is just as good without it!
Homemade Veggie Lover's Pizza
Makes two 12" pizzas
4 big ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
5 sprigs basil
5 sprigs oregano
5 sprigs Italian parsley
some fresh ground pepper
You can always go the traditional route of dropping your tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes and then plunging them into ice water to remove the peel. However, I prefer a different method. Chop each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds. Then, holding a cheese grater over a medium sized sauce pan, simply grate the pulp of the tomato right into, the pan, using it's skin to protect your fingers until there is no pulp left. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes and by the end you have a tidy little pile of perfectly shredded tomato in your pan. Turn the heat on to medium and add the tomato paste, shallot, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.
During this time is a great opportunity to chop or prepare any toppings you may want to use and have them standing by.
*Note, this sauce recipe makes enough sauce for 4 pizzas, if I'm going to the trouble of making sauce from scratch, I like to make extra to use for pasta, lasagnas, whatever you might want it for the rest of the week! If you want to cut the recipe in half, just make sure to use a smaller sauce pan so it doesn't burn from too much surface area.
1 package rapid rise yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 tsp sugar
2.5 cups of flour, plus one more cup for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1/2 cup for drizzling and oiling the pan
1/4 cup corn meal
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put your 10"-12" cast iron pan that you plan to use into the oven as it heats. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar, and set aside for about 10 minutes to foam up.
After ten minutes stir in the 2.5 cups of flour, salt, and 1/3 cup olive oil. Stir with a big spoon or fork until really well combined and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your work surface, knead the dough until it becomes smooth and doesn't stick to your fingers as easily, adding more flour as needed. Just a couple of minutes. Using your fingers, start to press the dough into a disc shape. This is basically what I considered war with my dough, it took forever to get right and only my fingers seemed to do the trick, not a rolling pin. Once it finally starts to obey and lay flat to approximately 10"-12", carefully pull the cast iron pan out of the oven and drizzle it with some oil. Sprinkle the cornmeal over that.
From here you should try to work relatively fast and try to get it into the oven as quickly as possible. Ever-so-carefully, lift your dough up and plop it into the pan, gently pressing it into place so that it retains it's shape. Some have suggested folding it in half, then in half again, then unfolding it in the pan. I have found that to be a disaster. So just gently slide your hands under it and lay it down gingerly, like an expensive beaded dress.
From here, the crispiness is achieved by lightly drizzling olive oil around the edges of the crust and using the back of a spoon to gently smear it all over. You by no means have to use this much oil, it just depends on a waistline-to-crispiness internal dialogue that only you can have with yourself!
After that, spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the dough and use a spoon to spread it evenly and thinly. Arrange your toppings on top of the sauce and then pop the pan in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye for that perfect golden color on the edges.When you pull it out of the oven, use a spatula to lift and slide the whole pizza onto a big plate. Wait a minute or two to cool then slice and enjoy!!!!