Robbie tells me that the moment he realized he loved me was when I joked that it takes all of my willpower not to have pizza in my mouth at all times. We are dedicated pizza connoisseurs and have enjoyed pizza with our favorite toppings (that’s garlic, tomatoes, spinach and sometimes basil or artichoke hearts) in every city we’ve visited together. We even served pizza at our wedding.
We also love to make our own at home with our favorite spaghetti sauce: Gia Russa’s Tomato & Basil.
Here is the recipe for our most successful homemade pizza. It has a whole wheat crust. It requires some planning ahead so that the dough can rise for at least an hour but it makes two large thin crust pies so it’s worth the time commitment. Here’s the crust recipe:
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
cornmeal for dusting the pizza pan
extra all-purpose flour to get the consistency just right
extra olive oil for oiling the bowl
1. Heat a cup of water in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm it up. Pour the water into a small bowl. Stir the tablespoon of honey into the water. Empty the entire packet of yeast into the water mixture and gently stir to mix. Let the yeast mixture sit and gather a foamy layer on top while you move onto the next step.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Once the yeast mixture has sat for five minutes, make a well in the center of the flour and pour the yeast mixture and the three tablespoons of olive oil into the well. Mix the ingredients together with a spoon and add more flour if needed until a dough forms and the dough can be pulled away from the bowl without sticking.
3. Knead the dough for about eight minutes. The bowl I use is big enough to allow me to flour my hands and knead it right in the bowl.
4. Shape the dough into a ball. Hold the ball in one hand while you oil the same bowl with the other hand. Place the dough ball back in the bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for an hour. It should double in size.
5. When the hour is up and your dough is gigantic, knead it for a few more minutes. Now divide the dough evenly into two balls. If you’re only making one pizza today, wrap one of the balls in the plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. If I make it within the next 1-2 days it tastes just as good as the first pizza.
6. Dust a 12″ pizza pan with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Work one of the dough balls in your hands, pulling and stretching it gently to make it into a thinner, flatter disc. Put the dough disc on the pizza pan and begin pushing it into the pan and spreading it so that it covers the pan evenly. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and parbake for about 5 minutes at 425 degrees.
The crust is ready to go! Now here are the ingredients and steps for topping the pizza.
24 0z jar of Gia Russa brand Tomato & Basil spaghetti sauce
reduced fat shredded Italian cheese
16 oz block of part skim mozzarella (We like the Sorrento brand.)
2-3 vine ripened tomatoes
fresh spinach leaves (about an ounce)
jar of artichoke hearts
1. We pour a jar of Gia Russo Tomato & Basil sauce into a saucepan. Add a generous scope of minced garlic and a sprinkle of garlic powder to the sauce. Heat over low and stir occasionally while preparing the other ingredients. This sauce is delicious but is sometimes too runny so this step thickens it up and makes it garlicky.
2. Cut small chunks of part skim mozzarella. I use about a quarter of the 16 oz package on one pizza.
3. Wash the tomatoes and cut thin slices. Select the nicest fresh spinach leaves from the bag and set them aside. I like artichoke hearts of my half of the pizza so I take 3-5 artichoke hearts from the jar and press them in a paper towel to get some of the oil off. Chop those into smaller pieces.
4. Once the sauce is ready, top the pizza with that first making sure to leave a crust around the edges. Then top with a light layer of reduced fat shredded Italian cheese. After that I place the tomatoes followed by the artichoke hearts then the spinach. Put a slice of mozzarella on each spinach leaf and try to space it evenly. The mozzarella chunks spread a lot during baking. Top with another light layer of the shredded cheese.
5. Bake the pizza pie for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is starting to brown and the cheese is melted, at 450 degrees.