Stop! Put Down That Frozen Pizza!

Simple five-cheese and olive pizza.

Simple five-cheese and olive pizza.

What’s in that frozen pizza?  Does it have exactly the toppings you want or did you have to add/subtract some after opening the package?  Did you notice all that packaging you now have to try to recycle?  These days, there are a variety of ‘healthier’ options when it comes to frozen pizzas but even with all of the choices, nothing quite beats making pizza yourself.

I started making our own pizzas last year after finding myself completely frustrated by the lack of vegetarian options among frozen pizzas.  We eat mostly vegetarian (for environmental reasons) and keep biblically kosher (no mixing meat and dairy, no pork, no shellfish) so as I read the back of every box I grew ever more impatient.  Pepperoni was out.  The supreme pizzas had the veggies we wanted but also sausage.  There were a few vegetarian pizzas but they were fairly limited to the margherita or what I like to call, the garden (I love broccoli but not so much on my pizza).  Initially, we just bought cheese pizzas and added our own toppings.  Obviously, being frugal as I am, I quickly realized how cost ineffective that was.  I would have to start from scratch.

Below is the fairly basic pizza dough recipe I use.  It makes a 12″ round pizza or an 8″ round and a 9×13″ rectangle depending on how you do things (we do the round and rectangle combo because my son likes pieces from the round).  Also, this makes a chewy, rising crust because that’s what we like.  If you really spread out the dough evenly to make a larger pizza, it will make it slightly crunchier.

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one packet pizza yeast)

1tsp sugar

1 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

2tbsp olive oil or melted butter

1tsp kosher salt

1tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning

Butter or cooking spray to grease pans if using metal ones rather than a pizza stone, etc.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine sugar, olive oil, salt, and warm water in a large bowl.  Sprinkle in yeast and stir briefly.  Let settle until yeast starts to bloom (I usually prepare my toppings and grease my pans while I’m waiting for this).  Once the yeast mixture looks foamy, add dried herbs and begin adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough stretches well without tearing and is no longer sticky.  Form into a disk.  Press, roll, or toss your dough until you’ve reached your desired size and move to your prepared pan.  It’s okay if you have to press it out a little more and if it rips, just pinch it back together.  Add your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Tips:  Do not add too many toppings!  I know the freedom of finally getting to pick your own toppings is thrilling, but if you add too many or too much of any one topping, you will probably end up with a soggy mess.  Also, I would recommend adding things in the sauce-cheese-toppings-maybe a tiny bit more cheese order.  Putting the cheese down before the toppings will help keep the cheese from all sliding off the top when you take a bite.  Finally, this pizza dough recipe can be used to make some decent garlic knots.  I cut the dough into 6-8 even pieces, knot them (roll into log and basically tie a knot), and then place them in a cake pan that has 1/2 cup melted butter and 4 cloves of grated garlic in the bottom.  Bake until golden and turn the pan out upside down onto a plate to serve.

Frugal Fact: Depending on your ingredients, homemade pizza could cost as little $4.  That’s tough to beat for a frozen pizza this size that serves at least 3.

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