April 17, 2010

I can't stop cooking and eating Italian...Part II


During my post-vacation Italian extravaganza I ate lots of pizza. Mmmmmmm - pizza! I'm kind of a cheater when it comes to making homemade pizza because I rarely make my own pizza crust. I like homemade pizza to be a quick, go-to meal...but now I've got Steve loving homemade pizza and he is not satisfied with any of the store bought packages of make-your-own crusts (I usually use the Jiffy kind in the blue box). I think he is going to insist on trying to make our own dough next, which of course I will have to post about (have I ever mentioned that I am not a baker? It should be interesting), but in the meantime - here is my recipe for quick "homemade" pizza:

For the crust:
We usually use two boxes of Jiffy pizza crust mix (you can also use the Betty Crocker pizza crust bags), mix it with 1 cup of hot water (as per package directions), add some Italian seasonings and kosher salt. Let it rest (covered) in a warm place for about 5 - 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Flour your counter top or a board and roll out the pizza crust into a circle (or a deformed circle, if you are like me). Place the crust on a preheated pizza stone or pizza pan, brush the top with olive oil. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on how thick) or until the top is just starting to get golden...this helps make a crispier crust (if you like that sort of thing).

For the sauce:
If you are in a hurry, use a pre-made pizza sauce. Just make sure to taste it first, because they can be pretty salty. You can add more herbs if you want to, but you don't have to. If you are feeling rowdy, you can always make your own sauce. I like to saute garlic and really finely minced onion in a small amount of olive oil, then add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of tomato paste. Stir in oregano, basil, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Let it cook on the stove top, stirring occasionally until it is the consistency that you like. If you are really feeling crazy, you can start with fresh tomatoes. You will probably want to use roma tomatoes (they make thicker sauces), and you will probably want to seed and peel them. This will take longer because fresh tomatoes are more watery and will take longer to get to the desired consistency. You may also have to hit it with the immersion blender to get rid of any large chunks (unless you like that sort of thing).

Once the crust is golden, remove it from the oven and spread desired amount of sauce over the top. Put the remaining sauce in a jar and put it in the fridge to use to top chicken breasts, for use on sandwiches, for dipping breadsticks in, or better yet - make another pizza!

Top the sauce with your favorite toppings and bake at 500 degrees until the cheese is melted and starting to get golden. On the pizza above, I used some leftover chicken and chopped up jarred jalapeno peppers with mozzarella and provolone cheese. Chicken jalapeno pizza is one of my favorite pizza's ever! The other kind of pizza I made during my Italian extravaganza was a classic margherita. I left the tomatoes in the sauce a little chunky and then used fresh basil and fresh mozzarella cheese on top. Delizioso!

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