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The Nom-Nom Diaries: Homemade Sweet & Spicy pizza

Homemade pizza is high on my list of weeknight meals because it's easy (even if you make your own dough), and so much cheaper than even a frozen pizza. That said, it was a frozen pizza that inspired me to try this. One of our favorites is store brand Sweet & Spicy - Italian sausage with sweet bell peppers.

Keys to good pizza? I hate to say it, but Papa John's is right: Better ingredients, better pizza. If you can avoid doing so, please don't skimp on the cheese! Whole milk mozerella is all we use in our house. Every store, I think, carries some form of whole milk moz, usually in the deli department. Pizza stone - if you don't have one, get one. They're cheap and, unless you manage to crack one, will last forever. I've had mine for more than a decade. It's blackened from regular use - in other words, it's very well seasoned. :)

On with the recipe:

The dough (this is not an original by me... it's out of 365 Easy Italian Recipes - a good cookbook to have on hand):

1 cup warm water (divided)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 envelop (or 2.25 tsp) dry yeast

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water with sugar and yeast. Let stand in a warm place for 10-12 minutes, or until good and bubbly. The yeast will give off a yeasty smell.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, and add proofed yeast, remaining warm water (TIP: Don't pull all your warm water at once... if you do the 3/4 will get cold while the yeast is proofing) and olive oil. Mix flour and liquid together until you form a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl.

3. Lightly flour a work surface, and turn dough onto that. Knead with the heel of your hand 5-8 minutes, turning and folding the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic (trust me, you'll know it when you feel it). Put dough into a clean bowl and let rise, covered with a towel, in a warm place (75-80 degrees), 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

4. At this point, punch dough down and kneed one minute. Divide the dough in half. Make pizza with both, or make pizza with one half and freeze the other. In our house, I just make two because the first pizza disappears while the second is in the oven.

On to the pizza!

Here's where it becomes less about recipes and specific amounts. This is very much a loose guideline - pizza's all about what you like and how much of something you want on it. Want more cheese? Shred more. Want less? You get the idea. Put stuff on in whatever order you like (some people like toppings UNDER the cheese, some over). But here's how I make mine:

1 pound shredded moz (1/2 pound for each pizza. Yeah, you heard me.)

1/2 pint pizza sauce (roughly 1/2 cup on each pizza, because we don't like real saucy pizza)

1 chopped green bell pepper

1 chopped red bell pepper

1/2 pound browned Italian sausage, crumbled (it won't look like it's enough, but trust me... 1/4 cup per pizza is plenty)

1 chopped sweet onion

Parmesan cheese

Garlic powder

 

I roll out the dough and then press our pizza plate on it to get the pizza circle (it fits perfectly on the stone this way!). Spoon the sauce onto the dough. Put a little less than half of the cheese on top of the sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 of the sausage around. Put about half of the peppers and onion on. Take another handful of cheese and sprinkle on top.

I do a twisty edge on my pizza. It's pretty and very easy to do (and another thing done so that it will fit on the stone). Pick a starting point and roll in a bit of the overhang, pinch, go down about 1/2" or so, roll/fold and pinch again. Repeat until you've gone full circle.

Sprinkle garlic powder around the edge of the crust (and shake some on the pizza itself if you like). Sprinkle parmesan (really, I don't measure this one) across pizza top.

Bake at 450 for ~15 minutes on the center or top rack in your oven, or until the cheeses start to brown and bubble.