Friday Night Pizza

For as long as I can remember, Friday has always been pizza night. Growing up, we always ordered from the local pizza place. Fridays were a madhouse there. I remember going in there as a kid to pick up our order and having to fight to be seen (especially during lent when us good Catholics were not allowed to eat meat). A few months back I decided that it would be fun if we started a family tradition of making our own pizza on Fridays. It’s become a fun time and keeps getting better!

Now, I’d love to tell you that we start from scratch, but the reality of it is, by Friday night, Mrs. Foodie and I are in no mood to make a big production out of dinner. So we buy our pizza dough from a local bakery. Usually it’s Monreale bakery out by my parents’ house where Notafoodie Jr. goes on Fridays. They specialize in bread and always have fresh pizza dough on hand. Aside from being easier to use pre-made dough, I figure that I’d rather let the folks at Monreale do what they do best. The dough is a huge part of good pizza, and some day when I retire and have a bunch more time on my hands, maybe I’ll learn how to make the perfect dough, but for now I’m fine with cheating.

Next comes the sauce. As a good Italian, I always have some homemade sauce down in the freezer (also as a good Italian, I have a second freezer in my basement). A few months ago, Mrs. Foodie had the brilliant idea of portioning the sauce in Ziplock bags that were the perfect size for pizza. They ran out last week, so last night we used some leftover sauce that Mrs. Notafoodie’s mother made over Thanksgiving. It was perfect!

Next comes the cheese and toppings. Now, since this is still a learning experience for me, I usually make two pies. The first one is topped simply with sauce, fresh mozzarella, and some seasonings (oregano, sea salt, pecorino). This is a good simple pie that I know my son will eat. Here’s a picture of that one pre-oven.

The second one I usually get a bit creative. Sometimes it fails (like the night I loaded the pie up with way too many toppings, or the night i tried to make a “white” pie and piled up way too much ricotta), but sometimes it works out perfectly. Last night, it worked out perfectly. We purchased some marinated roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts from the local Italian deli. We made a simple, red sauce pie with fresh mozzarella and added the toppings. I learned from my past mistakes and did not make the crust too thin. I didn’t put too many artichokes or peppers on. I spread just the right amount of sauce. I loaded up the crust with Sicilian sea salt. Perfection. Here’s what that one looked like, pre-oven:
Then came the cooking. This is where trial and error has really come in to play. In the beginning I started with cookie sheets. I would make the pizza on the sheets, throw them in to the oven and wait. This does not work. You end up with a soggy crust and end up needing to eat your pizza with a spoon. Then Mrs. Notafoodie’s mom bought me a pizza stone for Christmas. This was a disaster the first use. I didn’t let the stone get hot enough in the oven before putting the pizza on… again, pizza soup. Now, I put the stone in the oven, crank it up to 500, wait until the oven comes to temperature, and then wait another 20 minutes before even attempting to bake. So, that was all well and good, but how do you get the raw pie in the oven? Well, dear reader,  I’m glad you asked. I use my handy dandy new Ironwood Gourmet Acacia Wood Pizza Peel. I was excited to try this bad boy out last night, and it was perfect. It’s small enough to hang from my pot rack, but served it’s purpose beautifully.

OK… end of commercial. Let’s just take a look at how the pizza’s came out.
And this was the end result:

I can’t wait until the day that Notafoodie Jr. participates in this new family tradition. I’m sure in a few years we’ll be having pizza with gummy bears and goldfish crackers on it.

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