I remember being left at home as a young teenager (a tween, I suppose), with my older sister, and inevitably, we’d be left something to eat while my parents went out. Except we never wanted the left over meatloaf or lasagna. We wanted pizza. Cash-less and unable to order out, we would make our own pizza. And by we, I mean my sister. A thin, chewy crust, sweet homemade red sauce, and cheese galore. It was pretty darn good.
That is my favorite kind of pizza, almost. The kind that is thin, but strong enough to support toppings, and chewy on the inside while remaining crisp on the outside. I like it so much that I spent about a year focused on perfecting my pizza method. Give or take, I’d make about a pizza a week in the colder months, and after about 4 pizzas, I had a great idea of how to get that perfect pizza that we love. Now, I could whip this up in my sleep.
I was fully awake, though, when I made pizza for dinner last night. Sorry to disappoint you. You thought this was going to be a recipe you could actually make while asleep, huh? Well, no, not really.
You can make part of it while you are sleeping, though, so that’s a win for you.
I vacillate between homemade dough and store-bought dough, and it all depends on how much planning I have done. Last night’s pizza was made with a store-bought whole wheat dough from Whole Foods. But those store-bought doughs all have one big problem.
Think back to the last time you tried to roll one of those out. You couldn’t, right? It was like trying to stretch out a rubber band that just keeps snapping back into its usual shape and size. Good luck rolling it out to be thinner than a focaccia dough, guys. Well, that’s why my pizza method can be made while you sleep. I’ll admit, my trick works much better with a white dough, and always better with homemade, but whole wheat store-bought yields fine results.
The night before you are going to make the pizza–or before you leave for work in the morning–dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about it until pizza night/you get home. When you do get home, it will have risen and bubbled up to disgusting blob-like heights (or, if you use store-bought whole wheat dough, it will just look old and like a river rock…but bear with me!). Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour. By the time you go to roll it out on a lightly floured surface, you may not even need a rolling pin. Simply hand stretching the dough might work well enough, and chances are it will be so thin and flexible that you’ll think you have too much dough.
The overnight (or all day) rising has some great benefits, but they yield a specific kind of crust. By allowing the yeast to work that long, your dough will develop a pleasant malty, almost sour (as in sourdough, not lemonheads) flavor. It is able to be thin and crusty and chewy all at the same time, able to support loads of toppings. And by cooking this dough the right way–my 8x8x8 method–you’ll yield some pretty perfect pizza in no time.
Last night’s pizza was a vehicle for using up some ingredients in the fridge, including summer squash, part-skim ricotta, parmesan, parsley, onion, and some store-bought bacon crumbles.
Ricotta, Squash, + Bacon Pizza, 8x8x8 method
1 store-bought whole wheat pizza dough (I used WFM, but you can use any brand, or make your own)
1 small yellow summer squash
1 small white or sweet onion
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tsp. fresh flat parsley
3 tsp. roasted garlic or lemon (or plain!) olive oil, divided
1/4c. parmesan cheese grated
1/4c. cooked crumbled bacon (I used store-bought, in the salad section, because I had it on hand)
salt and pepper to taste throughout
The night before/morning of pizza day, dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about your dough until pizza night/you get home. Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour.
Pre-heat your over to 450F. Line a heavy-gauge half sheet pan–not a flimsy cookie sheet–with parchment and set aside.
Hand-stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface/roll it out to fit the half sheet pan, and gently place the rolled out dough on the parchment lined pan. Any tears should be patched, but don’t worry too much about how pretty the patches look.
Brush the dough with 1 tsp. of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Load the pan into the oven for 8 minutes.
While the dough is blind baking, combine the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, 1 tsp. of the olive oil, 2 tsp. of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl; set aside.
Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, slice the summer squash and onion, and set each aside in a separate bowl. Toss each in the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper each to taste.
When the first 8 minutes is over, the dough should be bubbly and golden brown. Tapping the corner crust should produce a pleasant thumping sound, but it may still be a bit soft. Don’t worry.
Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza evenly using an offset spatula or large spoon, leaving only a centimeter around the edge. Carefully arrange the oiled squash slices over the ricotta so they resemble fish scales. You could dump the squash on and smoosh it in, but I like my pizza to be organized and visually striking (see: pizza I once topped with mortadella in a chevron pattern).
Put the pizza back in the oven for 8 more minutes.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle your dogs, busy yourself for 8 minutes.
When the second 8 minutes is up, pull the pizza out. The squash should look dry, and it might even have ruffled up a bit around the edges. This is great.
Sprinkle the top with most of the parmesan, then sprinkle the oiled onion shreds evenly over the top of that. Then, the bacon over that.
8 more minutes in the oven.
More wine, more puppy snuggling.
Check the pizza when the 8 minutes is up: if the onions look translucent and perhaps even a bit browned, this is perfect, and you are done. If not, broil that bad boy until they are at least translucent. Keep a close eye and nose out while you broil, though.
Remove the pizza, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and parsley, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer it to a large flat surface (my Boos board is the perfect size for pizzas on a half sheet pan).
I wasn’t kidding about the crustiness of this…crust (duh). This can really support these heavy wet toppings.
And these toppings were heavenly together. Light and airy, but still filling. I am a white sauce or no sauce gal these days, so most of my pizzas end up looking like this.
One pizza yields 8 large slices.
We usually each have 2 slices for dinner, then 2 each for lunch the next day….lunch after pizza night is always wonderful.
I hope you enjoy my 8x8x8 method for at-home pizza. It’s served me well, and frankly, it will serve you well, too. It’s a damn simple method to adapt: blind bake for 8 minutes, cheese/sauce/wet toppings for 8 minutes, then finish with the more delicate toppings for 8 minutes. Could not be simpler or more versatile.