2017 is well on it’s way… how is it the end of March already?! I have landed on my word for the year, and I’m dreaming up all kinds of ways to apply it in my life. My word is G R O W. That’s yours? 

Grow and dough kinda go hand-in-hand. It’s an easy connection, especially when yeast is involved. Watching dough expand in the bowl is fun! Well, I don’t usually sit there and watch it, it’s more like I check up on it occasionally. But just like a little plant in the garden or my young niece, I get excited over growth. I also get excited over pizza. 

Pizza night is a favorite in our house. I usually make this pizza dough on a Saturday or Sunday (link below) and divide it, putting one dough ball in the freezer for a mid-week pizza dinner. This post is all about how to make pizza night in your house a reality – even on a weeknight. The trick is to make a few things ahead (no surprise there).

ingredients for homemade pizza

Here’s how we make the pizza night dream a weeknight reality: 

The dough: Making ahead is the way to go! Sunday’s are great to get to some dough raising and freeze half of it. That way, it’s ready to go for a random Wednesday night pizza party. Here’s our favorite go-to recipe: Martha’s Basic Pizza Dough 

The sauce: This comes together really easy, and you can make extra and keep this in a plastic bag in the freezer right by the dough ball for next time. It keeps (nearly) forever, and you can make it with pantry staples. See recipe below. 

The toppings: use what you already have as much as possible. It really just takes a handful of protein or veggies, which isn’t much, so leftover odds and ends are perfect here! Open your fridge and look. Whatcha got in there? Ham?  A few wayward mushrooms? A couple random cheeses wrapped up in the drawer? Put it all out on the counter and see what you have to work with. How about the pantry: A lone can of pineapple? A jar of olives or artichoke hearts? Pesto and tapenade are great too. Also, expand your mind when it comes to the cheese you put on your pizza. We’ve used combinations of gruyere, manchego, comte, Jarlsberg, cheddar, white cheddar, mozzarella (I’ve even used string cheese sticks cut into thin rounds or strips in a pinch!), goat cheese, feta, blue cheese, parmesan… I think you get the point! You can seriously use just about anything. As long as the flavors of the cheese even remotely go with the toppings, you’re golden. It’s also good to have one melting cheese in the mix, like mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, provolone or something that will help things hold together. And if you want to finish with a cheese that’s more wet, like ricotta or goat cheese, just do one! Otherwise your pizza will end up too soggy and nobody likes a soggy pizza. 

One crucial move: use the double cheese layer method. 

What is the double cheese layer method you ask? Allow me to illustrate it: 

Here’s how to layer your pizza (from bottom to top): Crust (obvi), thin or thick layer of sauce, first layer of melting cheese, toppings with less liquid (meats, cooked veggies), toppings with more liquids (raw onions, uncooked tender veggies like asparagus, or pineapple, olives and raw mushrooms), second layer of cheese (could be melting cheese, or a mix of a harder cheese and a melting cheese), and then finishing cheeses if using (ricotta, feta, goat cheese, ect). When the pizza comes out we sometimes add fresh parmesan too! 

So you see, you need cheese as the glue to hold the toppings in place so that they don’t all slide off while consuming your delicious, hot and gooey crispy pizza. 

Again, here’s how we do it: 

Sauce goes down on par-baked crust: 

add sauce to the crust

Next goes the first cheese layer and toppings in order of moisture content:homemade pizza on a weeknight

More toppings go on after another layer of cheese – notice things that have more moisture or are uncooked are now being added:

Peppers added last, which have the most moisture: homemade weeknight pizza

Bake that pie! It will need another 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees F.

The toppings should be added based on liquid content.

You don’t want a lot of ingredients that will give off a lot of liquid while baking because it will make the pizza crust soggy. Stick to things that are already cooked, and maybe a couple of raw things. Roasted squash, onions (cut smallish, and sprinkle on and you should be fine), pineapple (add last of the toppings so it’s liquid can evaporate), mushrooms, olives, and fruit such as sliced apples or figs. Just scatter a small handful and add these things last in your line of toppings. You can also pre-cook/sauté ingredients and I highly recommend that for meat, squash, potatoes, and harder veggies like brussels sprouts. This is why pizza is so great for those little odds and ends you have leftover at the end of the week!

Bake: pizza stone, baking sheet or cast iron skillet? 

This comes down to what kind of crust you like. We usually use a pizza stone, but when our 7 year old stone finally cracked (and they will eventually) before I replaced it I used a baking sheet for awhile. And then I tried a deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet. This gives you a crispy layer on the bottom, with a mostly soft and chewy top. It was SO good and Joel calls it my “homemade store bought pizza” because it tastes like something you would get from a restaurant.

I’m a fan of all methods, but here’s some tricks: 

Preheat the oven with the stone or baking sheet in the oven, but read the care directions for your stoneware – most pizza recipes for stones want you to bake hotter then your stone manufacturer recommends. I bake at 425 and it still turns out crispy. Most cast iron/deep dish recipes don’t have you preheat the pan because you can burn yourself while shaping the crust. We don’t want burns around here!

For a crispy crust when using a stone or sheet pan, bake the crust for 10 minutes on it’s own (poke the crust with a fork all over to prevent air bubbles, then drizzle on some olive oil.) This helps the crust get crispy! If you don’t love a crispy crust, then go ahead and skip this step – just pile on sauce and toppings (with double cheese layer method) and bake. 

Try your pizza with fresh slices of tomato on top! Joel turned me on to this and it’s sooooo good! 

With a couple make ahead things you can keep in your freezer and a few odds an ends, you can eliminate food waste and cut down on dinner prep! Have a homemade pizza night this week. 

Basic Pantry Pizza Sauce
A tomato based pizza sauce you can whip up any time for a weeknight pizza party!
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  1. 1 8oz can tomato paste
  2. 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  3. 1-2 teaspoons each of the following dried herbs: oregano, basil, parsley
  4. pinches red pepper flake
  5. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Stir everything together in a small bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30min- 1 hour or refrigerate overnight to let the flavors marry.
  1. Freeze the leftovers in a small ziplock or ice cube trays for a future pizza night. Will keep up to 6 months in your freezer.
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