Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Make Pizza

posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister

For beginner cooks with hectic schedules, Do-It-Yourself pizza is a quick and tasty weeknight dinner solution. In the time that it takes to have pizza delivered, you can actually make your own!

All you have to do is create the basic elements:

  • a doughy crust
  • tomato sauce
  • shredded cheese
  • and whatever toppings you like.

The nice thing about DIY pizza is that you can have fun personalizing it. You can incorporate your favorite flavors and textures, or whatever happens to be in the fridge. There’s no fixed recipe to follow! Let’s get started.

First, the crust!

Ready-made crust: The bread section of the grocery store typically offers several brands of ready-made crusts that you simply top with whatever you like and bake according to the instructions. Some of these crusts even come with a package of tomato sauce! They’re usually sold in rounds that make enough for several people.

In addition to ready-made crusts, there are several different types of “breads” that will work as a pizza crust. In the photo below there a some great choices for a quick pizza crust including focaccia, crumpets, English muffins, pita bread and tortilla wraps. (Keep reading for the recipes using these various breads as a pizza crust!)

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Tortillas (wraps)

If you like thin-crust pizza, you can’t get thinner than this! It’s a good idea to pre-heat the tortilla in a toaster oven or regular oven at 350F just for a few minutes to make it a bit more solid, then turn the oven up to 450F. Put the wrap(s) on a foil or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Tortillas are the base for Humbecue Pizzas — dressed with hummus, barbecue sauce, spinach, ham and feta cheese. Photo courtesy of Jenn at Eating Bender.

Then add whatever sauce, cheese and toppings you like. Go easy on toppings so that the whole thing doesn’t get soggy. Put the tortilla in the oven for 10 minutes and check to see when it’s done – the edge of the tortilla should become brown and crispy. Here’s a recipe for Humbecue Tortilla Pizzas, which are made with hummus, barbecue sauce, spinach, ham and feta cheese.

Pita bread

Pita bread is another great option for those who like thin, crispy pizzas. There’s no need to toast the pita before putting on the toppings; follow the same baking directions as with the tortilla pizza.


Here, plain old pita gets dressed up with Italian sausage, peppers and carrots.
Photo courtesy of Cookthink.com

This Pita Pizza (shown above) topped with Italian sausage, peppers and carrots looks simple and scrumptious.

Focaccia bread

For a more substantial crust, use focaccia bread, which is often sold in big rectangular pieces. When it comes to baking the pizza, preheat the oven to 450F and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

English Muffins

Here at startcooking.com we have already posted a video on English Muffin Pizzas, which are topped with tomato sauce, ground beef and cheese.

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These mini pizzas are irresistible, and if you don’t have any ground beef on hand, you can make them with tuna.

Crumpets:

If you would prefer to substitute crumpets for English muffins, go right ahead, old chap!

Bagels and baguette

A lot of bagel shops now have bagel pizzas.

Making your own is easy as long as you have the necessary ingredients on hand! Buy your bagels ahead of time and store them (sliced!) in the freezer. Bagels freeze beautifully as long as they are wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then put in a zip lock bag.

The Sauce

Pizza traditionally has a layer of tomato sauce between the crust and the cheese. You can buy ready-made pizza sauce in a can or jar, or use tomato sauce (the kind you would use for pasta). If you don’t have either of these on hand, you could try tomato paste or salsa.

Some pizza lovers prefer their pizzas “white” – with no tomato sauce. White pizzas may be topped with pesto, ricotta or Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Or with alfredo sauce (which you can buy ready-made) and other toppings.

In this recipe for Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza , from Cooking By the Seat of my Pants, the sauce is a combination of sour cream and Greek vinaigrette.

Spinach, mushroom and goat cheese pizza — not something you see on a takeout menu!
Photo courtesy of Jerry D. Russell at Cooking by the Seat of my Pants.

If you love basil, try Pioneer Woman’s version of pizza using pesto rather than tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and parmesan.

The Cheese

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Mild: Most pizza places use mozzarella cheese, which turns nice and gooey when it melts, and has a very mild flavor. Other mild cheeses that can substitute for mozzarella are colby, cheddar, gouda, edam and Monterey jack. You can grate the cheese yourself or buy bags of pre-grated cheese. Ricotta, bocconcini and fresh mozzarella are other mild options that offer a gourmet twist because of their rich, milky textures.

Strong: Try mixing mozzarella with stronger-tasting cheeses, or going for something really distinctive. You’ll find that you can use a smaller amount of cheese if it’s strong-tasting. In our video on English Muffin Pizzas, startcooking.com suggests blue cheese with chopped fresh sage and walnuts. Some other strong cheeses to try are: parmesan, provolone, goat cheese, aged cheddar and gorgonzola.

Toppings

This is where you can really make a pizza your own. Here’s a list of topping ideas to get you started, as well as some great-tasting combinations.

Tip: Any meat toppings should be cooked before being added to the pizza.

Meat options:

Vegetables

Other toppings:

  • Anchovies
  • Chopped nuts
  • Fresh herbs, like basil or sage

Combinations:

  • Hawaiian: chopped ham and pineapple
  • Mexican: ground beef, avocadoes, salsa
  • Greek: feta cheese, olives and oregano

Good luck with your pizza creations!

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12 Comments

Deborah Dowd said:

What a great post! I just posted about pizzas using the new Pillsbury thin crust, but I have tried Boboli for breakfast pizza and english muffins for a lunch pizza. Great inspiration using tortillas as a very thin crust!!

Cynthia said:

Hi Kathy….is there a substitute for parchment paper? We always have all sizes of tortillas at our house but alas NO paper? HELP!!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Deborah!

English Muffin Pizzas were an occasional Sunday- night-supper-family-treat when I was growing up. (My mom would always cook a roast with all the trimmings for the big Sunday lunch.) My Dad was usually in charge of making the Pizza and we all loved it! To this day I can’t make them without thinking of my Dad! :-)

Cynthia, it all depends on what you are cooking. For a tortilla, use tin foil instead.

(FYI you would never line a cake pan or a bread pan with tin foil!)

Readers should not confuse parchment paper with wax paper.

“Wax paper may be used as a liner in baking cakes, quick breads, muffins or any baked food in which the batter completely covers the wax paper lining. Wax paper should never be directly exposed to the heat of an oven.”

Jenn (eating bender) said:

Mmm…pizza!! This post has some really great tips, thank you for sharing! And an even bigger thanks for including one of my recipes :) I just sent you an email!

Kathy Maister said:

Jenn, your recipe is a big hit – thanks for sharing!

(I never got the e-mail???)

Marcus Mantik said:

Hello Kathy,

I have made Pizza using the Boboli crust before and yes it’s super simple. Now I would like to advance and try to make my own crust. I gave it a shot today, but the written instructions online are confusing if you have nevermade dough before. Would you mind to post a video on how to make pizza crust?
Thanks,Marcus

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Marcus,

Making one’s own pizza crust is a great idea BUT we do have to remember this site is called “startcooking”!

Working with yeast can be tricky for a beginner, but I will add it to the ever growing list of requests! :-)

Cheers!
Kathy

Stephanie said:

Pizza crust is easy to make for beginners if you have a bread machine. You still have to stretch the dough, but you’d have to do that if you bought pizza dough from a pizza parlor. And with a bread machine, all the kneading is done in the machine.

startcooking said:

Hi Stephanie,
Thanks for the great tip! Unfortunately most beginner cooks do not own a bread machine. In fact, I have discovered that a blender is usually the most common piece of kitchen equipment.
Cheers,
Kathy

Spooscott said:

Thanks 4 the great idea- pizza is my favorite junk food!! After reading this, i’ve made my own pizza at least 3times already using ragu pizza sauce & pita bread with various toppings – i luv em! & so do my friends! Who needs 2order out? Very easy to make – Wow!

Even got my husband, who has NEVER had pizza in his life, taste it & now eating it too!! :-D (Never succeeded in getting him to try pizza until now for 7yrs! – I guess actually seeing it being made did the trick).

This sight is great – simple, clear, easy-to-follow instructions & videos! Thank you!

Spooscott said:

One more thing: I brush olive oil (just because this is what I buy) on both sided of the pita bread b4 adding the toppings. Not sure if it makes a difference with how the crust turns out, as i’ve not tried it without it.

Also, thanks for clarifying the difference between parchment paper & wax paper :-)

startcooking said:

Hi Spooscott,
That’s great news! Thanks for the olive oil tip – I’ll have to give it a try.
Cheers,
Kathy