Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Semi-homemade Pizza

Let’s face it we’re all busy and sometimes we don’t have time to do it all.   It is okay.  (I keep repeating that to myself in hopes that it sinks in…. “It’s okay to not be able to do it ALL.”)

It is perfectly okay to take cooking shortcuts.   There are so many great products out there that make it easy to cut some time out of the process.   (I keep trying to remind myself of this too.)

Despite having a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, I have never made pizza dough from scratch.  Historically, I’ve always used the Boboli thin pizza crust that comes all ready to go.

Well, I was recently in Boston visiting my sister and she made a pizza using store-bought dough.   It looked pretty easy and turned out great.   I figured that maybe I should graduate to fresh dough myself; store bought – I’m not ready to make pizza dough from scratch (yet).  

I made a trip to Trader Joe’s (yes, I love that store) to buy the ingredients to make pizza for dinner.  Most stores carry all of these ingredients and some pizza shops even sell their dough.    


  • Fresh Pizza Dough
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Sliced Mushrooms (I bought Baby Bellas)
  • Yellow Onion
  • Chicken Sausage (I bought Spicy Italian Vino & Formaggio Chicken Sausage)
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Olive Oil

NOTE:  These are my favorite ingredients on pizza, but pick out whatever ingredients you like on your pizza.  For sauce you could use garlic and olive oil, Alf redo sauce, pesto, taco sauce, salsa, etc....  Toppings could be chicken, shrimp, zucchini, peppers, olives, peppers, olives, etc….  Pick your favorite cheese… The possibilities are endless.     


  1. Set all ingredients out to get to room temperature about 30-40 minutes before you get started.  
  2. Diced the onion and sauté with 2 tsp. olive oil for about 3-4 minutes until the onions start to get soft and caramelized.   Set aside.  (I find it best to partially cook the vegetables in advance as the pizza isn’t in the oven long enough to cook the vegetables all the way through.)
  3. Sauté mushrooms with 2 tsp. olive oil for about 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms start to get caramelized.   Set aside.
  4. Remove the sausage from the casing.   This is kind of gross, but easy; the sausage basically just squeezes out the end when you grab it and push it out.  
  5. Pre-cook the sausage by sautéing and set aside.  (It is important to fully cook all meat before adding it to the pizza.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 375.  
  7. Grab some flour and then grab the crust.   You will want to flour your hands and the dough because this stuff is sticky.   (It might be preferable to use cornmeal if you have any.)   Work with the dough.  I don’t really know how to explain this part other than to manhandle it.  Use your fist, throw it in the air, and play with it to try to stretch it out a bit.  This stuff is sticky and likes to go back to its original ball shape, so this is more work than you might think; I was surprised.  Once you think you have gotten the dough to relax a bit, sprinkle some flour on the bottom of the pan and then try to stretch the corners out to the ends.  Again, this is easier said than done.  I should’ve video taped my experience with this crust because I was quite the experience: Penelope vs. Pizza Dough - who will prevail?   I got out my rolling pin but it kept hitting the edges of the pan so I ended up using a soup can to try to roll out the dough.  I should mention that I prefer thin crust and was trying to get this puppy as thin as I could.  I finally gave up at a “good enough” point; it wasn’t perfectly round and it was thinner in some areas than others but it looked good enough.  I do not like doughy crust, so I popped the crust into the oven for three minutes figuring it would help to cook it a bit before adding the toppings.   The thing puffed up like a blowfish!   I took it out poked it a couple times with a knife and drizzled it with olive oil and salt and pepper and popped it back in for another three minutes.  Remove from oven and turn the temperature up to 400.   (Note to self and to you – use a fork or knife to put some holes in the crust before baking so it I doesn’t “rise” like bread.)
  8. Time to add the toppings.  Spread the sauce around on the crust.  I am picky with my pizza and don’t like too much sauce.   This is the beauty of making your own pizza – you control everything!   After I added the sauce I had to add a touch of my own spices, including minced garlic, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning with oregano. 
  9. After the sauce add the sausage, onions, and mushrooms (or whatever toppings you choose).  
  10. Top with cheese.
  11. Pop the pizza in the oven for about 9-12 minutes.   Keep an eye on it; preferably you want the cheese to melt and start to brown. 
  12. Slice and enjoy!
Sautéing the Sausage

Sautéing the Mushrooms

My imperfect, but "cute" crust

My fat crust!  Make sure to poke some holes with a fork to keep it from rising.

After the addition of olive oil.

Sauce it up baby!

Addition of ingredients (hubby doesn't like mushrooms)

Seriously, how good does that look?
I loved the pizza!  The crust was really good, the sauce was great (and I’m picky about my red sauce) and I really liked the sausage.  I’d never had chicken sausage before and with all the flavor I could barely tell the difference between that and pork Italian sausage, and it is healthier.  I will definitely be making this pizza again.  It is so much better than any frozen pizza, which is a given, but I almost liked it better than one of my favorite pizza places.  

I think a big difference in a crisp crust is the pan.   My sister had this pan with holes in it and I think it helps crisp the crust because of the air flow.   I went out and bought one at TJ Maxx for $10 before making the pizza.     

I served the pizza with light Caesar salad.   For the dressing I used, 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1 tsp. of Champagne mustard, 1 egg yolk, ½ cup of olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. grated parmesan, salt and pepper.  You have to make sure to really mix the dressing for awhile until it gets somewhat thick and emulsified.   Toss with romaine lettuce, top with fresh grated pepper and shaved parmesan (just use a vegetable peeler to shave off ribbons from a chunk of parmesan cheese).  (FYI – I usually add minced anchovies to the dressing but didn’t have any.)   

Red wine or a cold beer.

This could add a whole new meaning to a pizza party.  How fun could this be for a dinner party?  You could use the dough to make individual pizzas and have the toppings set out so that everyone can make their own.   You could also cheat and buy the Boboli pre-made individual crusts.  

Please let me know if you have any tips for working with pizza dough (okay, if you have a good pizza dough recipe you can send it to me).   AND please let me know any and all pizza tips you might have.  I’d love to hear your favorite toppings too!   Talk to me.  



  1. YUM! I'm really quite hungry right now...thanks! :)

    I've made a couple of pizza on the grill, which is quite delicious! It adds that smokey flavor to the crust. I've got one on my blog that I paired with a grilled romaine salad

  2. Interesting, I don't normally pre-cook my crust. I also let the dough 'marinate' in my fridge for about a week before using it. :)
    sister in Boston