One of my favorite ways to take advantage of all the fresh produce around this time of year is to throw a pizza party. Invite a few friends over, take a trip to the farmer’s market and pick out some really fresh toppings, and then experiment with four or five different pizzas! The thing about having a pizza party like this is that a lot of the work is front-loaded (making the dough, cutting toppings, grating cheese, etc) so when the party is in full-swing, you can actually relax with everybody else!
Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough (From American Pie)
Makes 4 10-ounce dough balls.
- 5 Cups (22.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 Teaspoons salt
- 1 Teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 3/4 Cups plus 1 Tablespoon room-temp water
Making the dough
This is my go-to pizza dough recipe these days. I find that it makes a really nice crust that isn’t too thick or thin. It’s has a great crunch to it but is still a tiny bit chewy in the middle. It’s pretty all-purpose which I like for a thing like this where I’m making a bunch of different pizzas.
If you’re using a mixer, mix all the dry ingredients together in the mixing bowl and then add the wet ingredients. Mix on low speed with a dough hook until everything comes together (about 4 minutes), then let the dough rest for 5 minutes in the bowl. This will help it relax and make it easier to mix. Then mix it on medium-low for another 2 minutes until it forms a smooth ball that clears the sides of the bowl but sticks slightly to the bottom.
If it’s too dry, mix in water by the Tablespoon. if it’s too sticky, then do the same with flour. The dough should pass the windowpane test (Rip off a piece of dough and pull it apart. Can you see light through it before it rips? Then you’re on the right track.)
If you’re using hands, stir everything together in a bowl until it forms a ball. Mix the dough with your hands by continuously dipping your hand in water and work the dough as you turn the ball (think of your hand like a dough hook). As all the flour gets incorporated, the dough will become hard to work with. Let it rest for 5 minutes at that point to relax (you and the dough). Then continue mixing again for 2 or 3 minutes until it passes the windowpane test.
Measuring the dough
Regardless of what technique you use, measure your dough out into 10 ounce balls right away and put them in large plastic bags with some olive oil.
Let these sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and then stick them in the fridge overnight. If you don’t have time for that, you can let them rise at room temperature for an hour, then take them out of the bags, punch them down to get out some of the gas, return them to the bags, and refrigerate them for 2 hours.
I highly recommend just doing the dough the day before (or a few days before). You’ll end up with better crust and less work to do the day of the pizza making.
This was my dough after a night in the fridge.
Day of Preparation
Whether or not you decide to give your pizza the overnight treatment, you need to bring the pizza back to room temperature before using it. Otherwise it’ll be too hard to work with. At least two hours before you want to make pizza, take out each dough ball, punch it down, form a ball and put it on a baking sheet.
Drizzle on a bit of oil oil onto each ball and cover all of them with a damp towel. (I did 1.5 times a batch of dough which is why I have 6.)
So to be clear, if you want to make the dough the same day you’re making the pizza, you need to make it about 6 hours before dinner time. Trust me. It’s easier to do it the day before by a long shot.
Finally, some pizza making. I picked up a few great things at the farmer’s market for this meal including some heirloom tomatoes, purple peppers, nice yellow squash, fresh arugula, and hot Italian sausage.
I picked up some sopressata and a few other things (like a lot of mozzarella cheese) from the store as well.
For the sauce on all my pizzas I used this basic marinara sauce (also from American Pie)
Basic No-cook Marinara Sauce (I changed around some stuff from the original. Feel free to customize based on what you have in your pantry.)
Makes 6 Cups, enough for probably 18 pizzas. You can freeze the leftovers!
- 1 28 ounce can tomato purée
- 1 1/2 Cups water
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 Teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 Teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 Cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
- 1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Just mix all that together in a big bowl and you’re ready to go! It’s actually a really delicious sauce.
Cooking the Pizzas
I used the exact same technique to make each of the below pizzas. Roll out the dough until it’s the desired size (I shot for about 12 inches across). Place the dough on a pizza peel that’s been dusted with corn meal or semolina flour. Add a few Tablespoons of sauce. Add your toppings. Slide it onto a 500 degree (pre-heated) pizza stone. Each pizza should take 10-12 minutes to be done.
The first pizza I made was a take on a classic Italian pizza with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil. It’s also the pizza in the first photo for this post.
I had some meat lovers in attendance so I did one with just the Italian sausage (I pre-cooked it) and the sopressata.
The Purple Pepper Pizza
This one had these nice little purple pepper slices on it along with fresh yellow squash, cheese, and sopressata. The purple peppers lost a bit of their color in the oven, but it was still tasty.
I made a pizza at the end of the night with just the leftovers so it had some meat, some peppers and squash, a few tomatoes, and I topped it some fresh arugula when it came out of the oven which gave it a peppery flavor.
I’ve posted a lot of pizza posts on Macheesmo, but hopefully they make it accessible. The thing that made all these pizzas very tasty was the nice fresh veggies. Their flavors really came through nicely. I was really impressed by how much I liked the squash actually.
Pizza is really one of my favorite things to make and with just a bit of time you can blow 95% of restaurant pizzas out of the water.
Here’s a few other pizzas I’ve made over the years: