Note: Scroll straight to the bottom for the full recipe, The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Pie.
Friday nights were pizza night in our house when I was growing up. Pizza Night was a family tradition. The week’s menu was always written out in my mother’s longhand and taped on the inside of the kitchen cupboard. I would come home from school and stare longingly at Friday, wondering why it had to be Broccoli Casserole Tuesday, or Spaghetti Arrabiata Thursday. Homemade Nut Burger Monday was excruciating because it meant four more sleeps until Pizza Friday. No amount of ketchup and mustard could replace melted cheese and marinara.
During the years when my parents were both working full-time, we would order from a local chain, Pizza Pizza. There were inevitable fights about what toppings to order. One of my sisters hated mushrooms. “Gross! They smell like Chlorox,” she’d yell.
I always wanted to try the pepperoni. My friends at school wouldn’t eat pizza without the shaved coins of sausage. It was my first brush with the fear of missing out. We were a devoutly vegetarian house.
Our oldest sister was always saying pineapple on pizza was for kids. She was a teenager. She wanted her own pie.
I was the youngest, and after a few years, Pizza Night attendance thinned out. My sisters had boyfriends, parties, suspicious amounts of perfume on their coats and tic-tacs on their breath. Dad went through a phase of working late, every night, including Friday. Only mom and me were left at home for Pizza Night.
I always loved to cook, so Pizza Night became an opportunity for us to experiment in the kitchen. We made pita pizzas. Tortilla pizzas. Microwave pizzas. Grilled cheese pizzas. Focaccia pizzas. Thin crust pizzas. Gluten free pizzas. We even tried cauliflower-crust pizzas. But nothing quite matched the delicious, gooey, crunchy stringy-cheesed magic of delivery, until we found a recipe for homemade baking sheet pan pizza. Because I love you, and I know you’ll put it to good use, I’m going to share the 5 magical secrets of our recipe with you, so you can start your own Pizza Night.
Secret #1: Make your dough as soon as you get home from school, so it can rest for a few hours before you dressed it up and cook it.
Secret #2: Don’t add anything to your tomatoes! No sugar, no herbs, no oil, no garlic, no salt, no nothing. Just simple, canned and pureed plum tomatoes. When you open the can, you will smell Italy at the base of Mount Vesuvio, and you don’t want to mess with that.
Secret #3: Use exactly one ball of mozzarella. No more, no less. Grate it right before you use it, otherwise you’ll snack on the stringy bits and eat a bunch of it before any cheese makes it onto the pizza and melts into gooey goodness.
Secret #4: Shake lots of cornmeal into the bottom of your baking pan before you add the dough. It will give the bottom of your crust that extra crusty crust crunch.
Secret #5: You can peak and stare into the window to your heart’s desire, but don’t open that door of the oven, until you switch your pie from bake to broil at the end. Watch as the cheese bubbles and browns and turns into the perfect homemade pie before your eyes.
The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie
- 2 cups/500 ml lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons/30 ml yeast (2 packets of Fleischmann’s)
- 4 cups/1 L all-purpose flour (sifted if you’ve got the time)
- 3 tablespoons/45 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon/5 ml fine sea salt
- Dissolve the yeast in water as warm as your hand, but not warmer. You’ll know it’s alive, when it starts bubbling after a few minutes.
- On clean flat working surface, make a mountain of flour and salt, then carve out a crater with your hands.
Note: Keep the flour and olive out out, in case you need to add more of either to sticky hands or a sticky counter.
- Slowly add the yeasty water and olive oil, pushing the edges of the crater into the well until gets stick and forms a dough ball.
- Knead until the dough becomes elastic and gently rises back up when you poke your finger into the ball.
- Now, the most important part: Give yourself a break! Wrap the ball up in plastic wrap. Or, you can oil the outside of the ball and place it in a large mixing bowl, then cover the bowl with a damp tea towel
- Go and peak every once in a while until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour or so)
- 1 28 oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes.
- Puree the tomatoes in a blender, or with a hand blender in the can, or dice them up and send them through a sieve. Just don’t add a thing.
- 1 ball mozzarella
- Grate the cheese, immediately before use, otherwise, it will slowly disappear in roaming hands and inquiring mouths.
- The best part about cooking is being creative. The toppings are up to you, and there’s no limit, from oysters to kiwis, blue cheese to antelope, you can eat anything on a pizza.
- Cut your toppings before hand into bite-sized pieces, so they cook evenly.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as hot as it will go.
- Dust your baking sheet with gritty cornmeal. This will add megatons of crunch.
- Oil your dough ball and roll it out on a floured surface, tossing it up in the air as high as you dare. When it is stretched enough, lay it out over the cornmeal coated baking pan and tapdance a fork’s prongs over the surface of the dough until it is perforated.
Note: Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if your dough rips. Dough is sticky, so you can just stick it back together.
- Put a big splotch of tomato sauce in the middle and draw spirals outward with a big spoon or ladle. It doesn’t matter if it’s even because it will flatten out while cooking.
- Now quickly grate and add the cheese before it disappears, then dress your pizza in delicious toppings.
- Bake until the edges start to brown (7-9 minutes), without opening oven.
- Switch the oven to a high broil. Wait thirty seconds, then carefully move the pizza to the top rack of the oven.
- Count to one hundred, keeping watch for smoke.
- Remove pizza from the broiler and enjoy The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie.