Two Christmases ago I received one of the most on-the-point gifts ever. A six-pack of Peroni and a pizza stone.
The beer was short-lived but the pizza stone had me thinking these grandeur thoughts of my kitchen being this pizza making mecca, with amazingly creative and flavorful gourmet pizzas flowing out of my oven left and right. And I figured heck, I’m Italian so this pizza making stuff has to come naturally to me, like pasta sauce right? Wrong.
I failed miserably with my first try at pizza making. Even with the already made pizza dough I purchased (thank you again Trader Joes), I soon realized that this whole process was going to take a bit more than what I initially thought.
Through trial and error, and help from my friend Alyson, I think I’ve finally started to get this pizza making thing down. I asked friends over for dinner on a Saturday night, promising that they were about to be overly impressed by my pizza abilities and thankfully Alyson was there to help!
We realized that the warmer the pizza dough got, the easier it was to roll it out to the desired circle. Therefore, we let the pizza dough sit out for about 20-25 minutes, while I started on making some of the toppings for the pizza – browning the ground Italian pork sausage, caramelizing the onions, and sautéing chopped baby bella mushrooms in herbs and wine.
Then as if Alyson took a class, the girl set to work on making the dough look like a pizza. She made sure to flour the counter and then rolled out the dough, with each push of the rolling pin making it stretch out a bit further until there was this imperfectly perfect circle in front of us.
We then figured out both time-wise and taste wise, baking the pizza first rolled out on the stone, before topping it, was a smart idea. Five minutes of bake time later it was on to toppings.
The first pizza we did a traditional margherita pizza. I sprinkled olive oil on top of the cooked pizza crust, then lightly sprinkled some garlic powder around. Then I topped the pizza with thinly sliced large tomatoes and then topped that with a light layer of sliced, fresh mozzarella cheese. Then I lightly chopped up some basil and sprinkled that on top. We gave another drizzle of olive oil over the top, some light pepper grinding and lil extra shake around of garlic powder and in the oven it went. About five minutes later it was perfect!
For our next pizza we decided to do a caramelized onion, spinach and mushroom with goat cheese. The mushrooms I had earlier sautéed in some olive oil, then topped with herbs de provence and salt and pepper. Then at last minute i added a touch of white wine, which the mushrooms soaked up for a couple minutes.
As for the pizza, we again baked the crust first for five minutes, then topped it with fresh spinach, caramelized onions, the mushrooms, then crumbled up goat cheese everywhere. About five minutes later, or when the goat cheese looked to be slightly melting, we took the pizza out and I drizzled some aged balsamic vinegar glaze on top (to make your own bring a cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan to a boil, allowing it to reduce down).
The third pizza was actually a mistake, but then again great things can come from that. We realized we had run out of mozzarella cheese and so our crumbled italian sweet sausage pizza turned into a taco pizza, after finding some shredded mexican mixed cheeses in my fridge.
Instead of sauce or olive oil, I spread mango salsa over the cooked pizza dough, then added on top chopped extra tomato left over from the first pizza and chopped red onion.Then I spread the sausage on top, and covered it in the shredded mexican cheese, with the final touch being a couple shakes of Franks Red Hot Sauce.
Needless to say this pizza was a bit taller than the rest, so we left it in for a little under 10 minutes. The minute that pizza came out of the oven, we were all pretty much salivating at the site. Once it came out, I took a bit of sour cream and tried my best to drizzle it over the top.
The pizza night was a hit and my friends noted that they especially enjoyed the variety of pizzas, with not one really like the other. The experience taught me that sometimes the most creative dishes that come from the kitchen are the ones you don’t plan for.