I’m trying to get my kids more involved with dinner prep, primarily to peak their interest in food, but also to train them. I figure if I can get them to work a chopping board, I’ll free up some time to kick back on the couch, glass of wine in hand, and catch up on some much needed Downton Abbey. Seeing that my ambition is still a long way off, I figure an interest in food is still a solid goal, and no better place to start than a quick and easy pizza.
The last thing the blog world needs is a basic pizza recipe, but I actually struggled with this one – making a homemade pizza that my kids could help prepare and that I wouldn’t mind digging into either. A few months ago we tried make-your-own pizzas with pita bread but it was a huge disappointment. Somewhere in an exhausted corner of my brain I thought, “hey, they like pizza, I’m feeling lazy tonight, why not this?
After Lauren squinted and picked up a corner of the pita pizza with the edge of her fingernail, I knew the effort was doomed. I should have known better. Back in college, pita pizzas were the dirty step-child of the pizza world. We were always hard-pressed to find alternative lunch options in our dining hall, aptly called “the Ratty”. Someone would inevitably grab a little of this, a little of that, microwave and voila! “Pita pizza guys! Yum!” And it was never yum, or anything close to yum.
So despite my desire to lovingly mix together some combination of olive oil, water, flour and yeast and let it gently proof in a warm nook on my counter, it wasn’t happening. I’d spent the day sprinting from one appointment to the next, in heels, cursing why I hadn’t worn sensible shoes or, preferably, combat boots. No dough for our evening pizza-building activity? No problem, I grabbed the next available thing, which so happened to be a decent all-natural premade crust from the market. Sometimes I have to let go of my food-from-scratch obsessions just to get the gist across, even if it’s not all out pillowy perfection. And that’s often what a weeknight dinner is all about.
I did however carve out time to get a pot of homemade sauce on the burner, because if the kids love anything about pizza, it’s sauce covered in cheese. The sauce has to be good, and it has to be fresh. And this sauce is good, starting with a rich base of garlic, tomato paste, and oregano, and simmered low and slow with San Marzano tomatoes for the better part of an hour.
The good news is that finally I have a pizza that makes the cut (theirs and mine). No evil eye in sight, no upturned nose (well, three in fact, but no more so than normal). In fact, I got just about the best compliment a mom could ever get from her children: “It tastes just like Chuck E. Cheese!” Clearly I’ve achieved the pinnacle of cooking in my house. Might as well just pack up the chef knives and call it a day.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- Black pepper
- 2 12-inch prepared pizza crusts (such as Rustic Crust)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cups of pizza sauce, divided
- 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 10 Fresh basil leaves, torn
- 12 oz shredded mozzarella
- 4 oz thin-sliced pepperoni
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan on med-high heat. When oil is warm, add the garlic and sauté, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and sauté for another minute.
- Add the cans of tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes along with the salt, sugar, oregano and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for an hour to allow the sauce to concentrate and the flavors to marry.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
- Place pizza crusts on individual baking sheets.
- When your sauce is done, brush 2 tablespoons of olive oil on each crust. Next add 1.5 cups of sauce to each crust.
- On Pizza #1, add the sliced fresh mozzarella and scatter the basil leaves.
- On Pizza #2, add the shredded mozzarella, and top with the pepperoni. This makes a very cheesy pizza– if you’re not a fan of lots of cheese, you can easily get away with less.
- Turn your oven down to 425 degrees and pop both pizzas in the oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.