Forget hamburgers and apple pie – what's more American than pizza? And, I have statistics to prove it: according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 1 in 8 Americans consumes pizza on any given day. While pizza may be one of the top five sources of calories in the American diet (according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and one of the top leading contributors of sodium (per the CDC), there are many ways to make pizza a healthier meal.
My story with pizza is personal. After I graduated from college, I needed to find innovative ways to get more vegetables in my diet. I honestly didn't know what to do with vegetables other than steaming them (which sounded boring) and making a salad (which, at the time, seemed like a large — and expensive — undertaking for just one person). So I thought, "Why not cook veggies on a pizza?"
Homemade pizza is so good, and can be good for you since you control the ingredients. And, what I love most is that pizza is easily customizable based on food preferences. Often I've made a single pizza for family dinner with quadrants devoted to different toppings: one kid likes pepperoni, the other prefers only cheese, I can have goat cheese on my section and my husband can have mozzarella. We all eat the same pizza, but we eat it the way we want it.
Making a good pizza is really easy and includes items you likely already have in your pantry or refrigerator. Truly inspired chefs may want to make their own dough or sauces, but I prefer to use store-bought dough and spaghetti sauce.
Here are my six tips for a perfect homemade pizza.
Start with Raw Dough
Fancy retailers have some great pizza dough options, but chances are you can also find it in the deli section of your local grocery store. Or, if you have a favorite neighborhood pizza place, ask if you can buy a ball of fresh dough directly from them.
Let the Dough Come to Room Temperature First
Cold dough is very elastic and will contract when you try to roll it out, meaning you'll have to keep fighting the dough to stretch it out.
Use Any Sauce You Want … But Not Too Much
Too much sauce can make the dough soggy and drippy. Leave about a ¾-inch space from the edge to make a pizza parlor-style crust.
Sprinkle Toppings Evenly
And, pay more attention to the edges than the center. As the pizza cooks, the toppings will gravitate toward the center. The center also takes the longest to cook.
Oil the Crust
Lightly brush olive oil on the crust before baking. It gives the crust a really tasty crispness.
Use a Pizza Stone if You Have One
This is not required, but this kitchen item helps replicate the effect of a pizza oven. Keep the stone in the oven as it preheats, about 30 to 60 minutes before you place a pizza on it. That way, it'll make the bottom crispy while the oven cooks the cheese and toppings. Remember, never wash your pizza stone with soap!