About a year ago my fellow cooking club members and I had a special pizza night.  We invited our friend Giovanni from Naples to teach us how to make the perfect pizza.  We had a lot of fun and we made some really good pizza. It was that night that my love affair with pizza began.

I love cooking and trying new recipes, so I rarely make the same thing twice.  Pizza has proven to be an exception, though.  Maybe because it offers a lot of variety or maybe because I am so happy with the results, I keep coming back to making pizzas.

Naturally, I’ve tried lots of different toppings and combos, but I’ve also tried different crust recipes and even grilling it.  Some have been better than others, but I’ve never really been disappointed.  If you haven’t fallen in love with pizza yet then please read on and I will share some tips and links to my favorite recipes.  I hope you will be tempted to have your own slice.

If you are new to pizza then head over to Smitten Kitchen’s Pizza Section.  You will find everything you need there.  I recommend starting with the simple pizza dough and the basic sauce.  I have also tried her sweeter crust.  The sweeter one is just as good, but I found it harder to knead for some reason.

Don’t worry too much about the exact timing of the dough.  I’ve let it rise from anywhere from 1 hour to 2.5 hours.  If you find your home drafty put it in a slightly warm oven (ie. just warm enough that you’d be happy to sit in it, so not super hot!).

I don’t have any fancy pizza equipment.  Baking sheets have always worked fine for me.  I think the most important thing is to resist putting too much on the pizza.  If you load it on then the dough will struggle to puff up and if you put on too much sauce it will get sticky and wet.  Go easy on it and make two pizzas if you want to use up your toppings.  I’ve always doubled the dough recipe and was happy I did.  Who doesn’t like leftover pizza?

I’ve had great success with grilling.  You still need an oven though to broil it a bit if you want your cheese to melt and brown a little.  I make sure the coals are not too hot and brush a little olive oil on the crust.  Then I place it olive oil side down on the grill and brush the other side.  I turn it over and then put my toppings on while the other side cooks.  Once it has puffed it goes in the oven just a few minutes to get the cheese bubbly.  It works beautifully and the grill gives it a smoky flavour akin to a stone oven.

Here are my two favourite topping recipes.

Roasted Vegetable with Feta (for 1 pizza with leftovers for a pasta sauce)

  • 1 cup chopped eggplant (let it sit for 15 min sprinkled generously with salt and then rinse to remove bitterness)
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 of large red onion chopped
  • 1 cup chopped mixed peppers
  • a few cloves of chopped garlic
  • oregano
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • cubbed feta

Combine all ingredients except feta in a casserole.  Make sure to toss it all liberally with olive oil.  Roast in 400*F oven for at least 45 min or until the vegetables are very soft and browned.

Top your pizza with some basic sauce and then spread the roasted veggies on top.  Sprinkle with feta cubes and if you like it you can add parmesan too.  Proceed with baking the pizza.  Any leftover veggies can be mixed with the leftover sauce for a pasta sauce on another night.  The roasted veggies are also tasty in sandwiches too.

Goat Cheese with Peppers and Thyme (for 1 pizza)

  • 1 log of goat cheese sliced into 10 discs
  • chopped mixed peppers
  • chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

Top your pizza with a few tbsp. of sauce.  Spread your mixed peppers on top with the red onion.  Place the goat cheese discs in a nice circular pattern on top.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme and proceed with baking the pizza.  This pizza is shown in the top picture.

What are your favourite pizza toppings?