I think I could eat pizza everyday. I love pizza, as does most of the rest of the world. There are so many different varieties and versions of pizza, topped with anything and everything, and so many types of sauces that can be used as well. Some people like their pizza with a thin crust; others prefer it with a thick crust (I am a thick, doughy bread crust person). The possibilities are endless.
Pizza originated in Naples, Italy. Naples was originally founded in 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement for the wealthy, upper class people of the times. But the workers who lived there could not afford to eat the foods of the wealthy, nor could they spare the time to prepare a lot of different, labor intensive foods, so pizza was created as a quick and easy food for the working class people. It was an inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza is a flatbread that is served with sauce and various toppings. At the time, it was made with foods that were easily and readily available to the workers, but today, anything goes.
With the large number of immigrants coming to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, the various foods and cultures also came to the United States as well. Pizza being an “immigrant” too, was introduced to Americans officially in 1905, when the first American pizzaria was created. That first American pizzaria was G. (Gennaro) Lombardi’s, in Manhattan, New York, and is still in business today, with the original pizza oven. Once pizza was introduced to the States, it took it by storm and was a huge hit here in the States long before it was really popular in it’s native country of Italy. At that time in Italy, pizza was known as food for the working class. Today, it is popular all over the world and is probably one of the most loved foods anywhere you go. Everyone loves pizza.
I made pizza with pesto sauce, Italian sausage and sauteed vegetables. Usually I make my own pesto, and I bought enough basil to make it again today, but I discovered I already some store bought pesto that I already had and needed to used. My husband added some cheddar cheese to half of the pizza, whereas I only had mozzarella.
I like a thick, bread-like dough, so I used some yeast to make it rise.
Thick Pizza Dough
2 packages of dry active yeast or 4 1/2 tsp
3 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
2 TBSP olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour+ plus extra to knead the dough
2 tsp salt
Mix the yeast with 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let it proof or set for about 10 minutes or until it becomes thick and frothy.
Whisk the egg, milk and olive oil together before adding it to the dry mixture and yeast.
Combine the flour with rest of the sugar and salt and mix well.
Once the yeast mixture is thick and frothy, and has sat for about 10 minutes, add it to the flour mixture and along with the egg and milk mixture. Add the rest of the water as needed and combine everything together. You want to the dough to be soft. Then sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and start kneading the dough on the floured surface with the heel of your hand until it all forms into a soft ball.
Use the rest of the olive oil to coat a large bowl and the dough, then cover and let it proof and rise for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
As the dough is rising, prepare your toppings. I love all kinds of pizza, and have different toppings and sauces all the time, so make what you like. This time, I used Italian sausage that I cooked and cut into chunks and sauteed vegetables. I added a lot of different vegetables too. I used red, yellow and orange bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, artichoke hearts and tomatoes. I sauteed the onions, mushrooms and bell peppers, and added the artichoke hearts and tomatoes at the end.
Once the dough is ready, press or roll it out onto your pizza stone. Again, I prefer to gently press it with my hands, but you can roll it too, and that is just fine. Once the dough has filled the pizza stone, it is ready for your sauce and the toppings. I added my pesto sauce first and covered the dough, leaving about an inch at the end as a border, which I rolled and twisted. Then I added my cheese and covered the sauce. Next were my sausage and vegetables, followed by just a little bit of sauce and more cheese.
It’s now ready to bake. Preheat he oven to 375* F and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the crust is done and is lightly golden. The more loaded your pizza, and as you can see, I like mine loaded, the longer it will take to bake, making sure the center is done. If the outer crust is done and the center still needs more time, you can always cover the pizza with aluminum foil and cook longer as needed.
Time for pizza and wine. Just like with your sauce and your toppings, drink what you like. My wine of choice tonight was a light, citrusy viognier (one of our local wineries close to my house, Turquoise Mesa Winery) to go with the pesto. I try to match the wines with the sauce. Mangia!