I’ve been on a quest (that’s far from over) to steadily improve my homemade pizzas. On the Frachelli TV YouTube Channel there’s been videos on Grandma-Style Pizza and Buffalo Chicken Pan Pizza, but I also wanted to share some behind-the-scenes learnings and additional tips.
From my research, I’ve seen a strong consensus from reputable chefs that homemade pizza dough is best after 48 hours. In order to provide more time for experimenting, I’ve started this domestic pizza journey by using store bought frozen pizza dough and focusing on the cooking techniques. As I’m cooking in apartment, I’m trying to avoid buying a pizza stone at this juncture due to my overall lack of storage – plus, I like to share recipes that folks can reasonably make at home without having to shell out hard earned cash for additional kitchen tools & gadgetry.
To substitute for the stone, I’ve been switching between a cast iron skillet and standard baking sheets, both with positive results. I’ve found what’s more important than choosing cast iron or baking sheet – is making sure the oven is hot (preferably 500°F or more), and the cooking surface is well oiled with olive oil. In my grandma style pizza video I cooked at 475°F (so most people could replicate in their stoves) and threw the whole pizza in at once (again, easier to do if following steps). It came out great, but I have found crusts to be better when I cook the crust and sauce first for 4-6 mins at 500°F, then add cheese and toppings until cheese is melted and golden. More risk of burning yourself, but much more optimal crust.
For tomato based pies – I’ve been keeping the pizza sauce very simple. Without a doubt, San Marzano tomatoes make a huge difference and a can of these peeled imported gems with the juice can be enough on their own to make a home-run pie. I like to add olive oil, garlic, basil, a pinch of sugar, and some oregano to more closely mimic the flavors of my favorite NYC pizza joints.
I’ve been conflicted about cooking the sauce prior to making the pizza (a lot of pizzerias don’t), but found optimal results if I cooked it with just the dough prior to topping (as mentioned in the crust section). For a recent approach, I heated 4 cloves of finely chopped fresh garlic in olive oil, then mixed the garlic oil with the room temperature crushed tomatoes and juice. 1 tsp each of sugar, salt, and pepper along with a generous sprinkle of oregano sealed the deal. Instead of putting the basil in the sauce I laid fresh basil down below the cheese in the “topping” stage. It came out great.
This is the easy part. For my grandma-style pizza I used both ricotta and fresh mozzarella cheese, but for pizzeria style pizza you want lower moisture cheese to achieve optimal melting and cheese stretching. For more standard pies I use Polly-O whole milk mozzarella, which isn’t fully low-moisture, but works and tastes great.
I also sprinkle a nice dusting of finely grated parmesan cheese atop the sauce before adding the main cheese and top the whole pizza with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for flavor and beautiful browning of the cheese.