Believe it or not, Pizza Hut ranked quite highly among my favourite places to eat out as a young child. More often than not though, when growing up we made homemade pizzas in our house, and today I’m thankful that I came to appreciate the latter. Pizza was typically a Friday night meal because, you see, Friday nights were our ritual “cleaning night”. My sister and I would come home from school and get started on cleaning as quickly as we could. The sooner the house was spotless (and for those who know my mother, spotless is not easily awarded) the sooner we could make pizza.
Fridays were also a special occasion because we got to eat our pizza with Pepsi, AND we were allowed to eat it in front of the TV, usually watching either the latest VHS blockbuster release or, when we got older, Nash Bridges. Don Johnson and Cheech Marin at their finest; Chuck Norris was on Saturday, but I digress. This was the quintessential TGIF in of my pre-adolescent years. Reflecting further, it was also an excellent tactic on my mom’s part to ensure she came home from work to a clean house.
Today I still enjoy making homemade pizza. My sister and I often host combined dinner parties and our pizza still makes a regular appearance as part of the spread. While impressive to guests, pizza doesn’t need to be reserved for entertaining. I also like to make it for a quick weeknight dinner, as Brett greatly appreciates leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Don’t believe me that it’s quick? Make the dough ahead of time, or even pick some up from the store, and all you need to do is chop a few toppings, and grate or crumble some cheese. Add a quick side salad and dinner can be served within 30 minutes.
Today’s post features two different pizzas, because I never make just one kind. For that matter, I never order just one kind either. When ordering from our go-to, just-around-the corner pizza place, Pizzeria Barbarella, we have to get two – sometimes even three. Let’s be honest, one pizza just doesn’t offer enough variety, and even if you have too much, everyone loves pizza leftovers.
Feel free to experiment with your own favourite topping choices or whatever odds and ends you have in your fridge (that’s how exciting combinations are born). The key is to resist the temptation to put too many toppings on the pizzas – if you have more items you simply can’t leave off…make another pizza.
Finally, if you have kids, make sure you get them involved – not only will it be a huge help in making dinner, but its fun for them and also encourages an understanding and appreciation for fresh, quality, homemade meals.
WALNUT PESTO PIZZA WITH PEAR, CHARD & HONEY
- Pizza dough (see note at bottom of the recipes)
- Semolina flour for dusting
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary, or ½ tsp dried
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- ½ Anjou or Bartlett pear, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup stilton, or other stinky blue cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup shredded swiss chard or kale
- 1 tbsp good quality liquid honey
To make the walnut pesto, place walnuts on a baking pan and roast in a 325°F oven for 10-12 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from oven and cool lightly. Place walnuts in a small food processor with garlic and pulse a few times. Add in Parmesan, and rosemary and drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing the processor to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Increase oven temperature to 450°F. If you have a pizza baking stone, place it in the oven now. I should note, I do not have a fancy big pizza lifter for using with a stone and, as such, I find transferring the raw dough and toppings to the stone can be a challenge. To get around this I start my pizzas on inverted cookie sheets and cook them until they are just firm enough to slide onto the stone. This way the dough gets nicely crisped. If you don’t have a pizza stone you can bake the pizzas on a cookie sheet or round pizza pan.
Sprinkle a cookie sheet (inverted, per above and photos below, if using a stone) with semolina flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Using your fists, rotate the pizza dough between hands to stretch it out a bit. Place on the cookie sheet and continue to stretch until quite thin, but be careful not to tear.
Spread walnut pesto on the prepared dough and top with pear slices and crumbled cheese. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, at which point you can transfer to the pizza stone if using. Continue to bake for 5-8 minutes until crust is golden and crisp. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with chard or kale. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Slice and serve.
CHORIZO & BELL PEPPR PIZZA
- Pizza dough (see note at bottom of the recipe)
- Semolina flour for dusting
- 1/3 cup good quality tomato paste
- 1- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ cup sharp cheddar, or whatever cheese is in your fridge, grated
- 1/3 dried chorizo, very thinly sliced
- ½ bell pepper, colour of your choice, thinly sliced
- 3-4 rounds of thinly sliced red onion
- ¼ cup shredded flat leaf parsley or fresh basil leaves
Prepare pizza dough per the above recipe
To make the sauce*, empty tomato paste into a small bowl, add oregano and olive oil; stir to combine. Spread over the prepared pizza dough. Top with cheese, vegetables, and chorizo. Reserve the parsley and/or basil for finishing.
Place pizza in the oven and bake according to instructions above. When golden and crisp remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fresh herbs. Slice and serve.
*I find that a good quality tomato paste makes the best sauce for pizzas. It has a concentrated, sweet tomato flavour and isn’t too watery. I also like to use the tomato paste that comes in a squeeze tube opposed to a can because I can take just what is needed and don’t need to worry about wasting leftovers.
Note: If you have a favourite family pizza dough recipe, feel free to use it here. Many gourmet grocers, Italian specialty shops also make great quality fresh pizza dough to go. I like to use left over leaven from this bread and make dough, but this Jamie Oliver recipe is also a great fall back. Freeze any left over dough and pull it out for a quick weeknight dinner.