What’s more fun than a pizza party? A pizza party with fresh, healthy pies right from your own oven. Next time you get family or friends together for steaming-hot pizza and everyone's favorite toppings, try these great home pizza-making tips offered by Mark Bello of Pizza a Casa. In his popular cooking classes, NYC-based Bello teaches people how to make pizzeria-quality pies in their home ovens. Check out Bello’s expert advice, and try it out with a few of our favorite homemade pizza recipes from the Rodale Recipe Finder. (If homemade pizza becomes a frequent item on your dinner menu, consider planting a pizza garden next spring for the freshest, healthiest ingredients.)
A pizza pan will work, but if you’re serious about crispy, thin-crust pizza, invest in a quality baking stone for your homemade pizza recipes. Go for something a half inch thick (Bello swears by Old Stone Oven brand, available for around $50), and get it heating up in your oven at least an hour before you plan to put in your pizza. A baking stone distributes heat evenly to the pizza and crisps up the bottom nicely.
Be gentle as you stretch your dough out, or you'll literally beat the "breath" out of it, resulting in a flat, cardboard-y pizza. Be kind to your dough and it will return the favor with crispy outsides and pleasingly bready/chewy insides. (Don't worry, we have a pizza dough recipe coming right up.)
Set your oven as hot as it goes. Most ovens can go to 500 or 550 degrees. Pizza-making perfection at home is possible at these temperatures.
With toppings, less is more, and go for quality over quantity. Don't overload your pizzas with either too much of any one topping or too many different toppings. Quality ingredients shine in moderation, and a less-loaded-up pizza will cook better.
Keep that oven door closed — no peeking! Every time you open your oven door, you lose precious heat. If making more than one pie, get them in and out pronto!
#1: Basic Pizza Dough. Yes, you can buy ready-made dough from your local pizza shop or in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. But did you know you can make your own with just flour, water, yeast, salt, and a bit of an arm workout? Give it a try. You can use this dough for any of the recipes below.
#2: Pizza Margherita. Classic, authentic Neapolitan-style Pizza Margherita will appeal to any pizza purist. The high-quality, simple toppings — San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil are clean and healthy, yet deliciously satisfying.
#3: Soppressata Picante. This one is for the meat-lovers. Topped with spicy cured sausage, it’s sure to satisfy the urge for a bit of heat. Reserve this pie for special occasions, since current research has shown that processed meat is bad for your health.
#4: Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Pizza. A super-healthy pizza pie you can make with a whole wheat crust; the low-fat goat cheese, herbs, and roasted red peppers give it plenty of flavor.
#5: Caramelized Pear Pizza. Wrap up your pizza party with a dessert pizza. Slices of caramelized pear makes it sweet, while fat-free ricotta keeps it light.