You don’t have to settle for delivery next time you’re craving pizza. Great pizza can come from your home oven, provided you start with the right building blocks. That means perfectly crisp crust, delicious sauce, and just the right mix of toppings.
Although there are a plenty of shortcuts you can use to get piping-hot pizza to the table fast, we’re not going to talk about those here. Take-and-bake pies, store-bought dough, and jarred sauce might have their place on busy weeknights. But they’re not going to produce a superior pie. To create a truly out-of-this-world pizza, you’re going to need to put in a little effort. That means using a dough recipe that requires at least a day to rise, preparing your own sauce, taking the time to grate your cheese by hand, and avoiding the temptation to go crazy with the toppings.
It also means choosing the right sides for your perfect pizza meal. While some people might be happy to nosh on just pizza, we think it’s good to serve it up with some sides. So in addition to instructions for making your own sauce and crust, plus suggestions for toppings, we’ve also included recipes for a salad, garlic knots, and dessert.
We’ll start off with instructions for making a perfect pizza crust.
The best pizza starts with an awesome crust. A bland or cardboard-like base isn’t going to yield a tasty pie, no matter how delicious the toppings you spread on it. For people who prefer the crisp-yet-foldable crust of New York-style pizza, this recipe from Feeling Foodish is perfection. The long, cold rise in the refrigerator means you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to use this recipe. But the results are well worth the wait. The recipe makes enough dough for four, 14-inch pizzas.
- 28 ounces of all-purpose or bread flour
- 17.4 ounces water at cool to room temperature (a little less than 2¼ cups)
- 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
- 2½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
Directions: Pour the water in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour to a separate bowl, and mix in the salt, yeast, and sugar (if using).
Add the flour and yeast mixture to the water. Mix until fully incorporated. Add the olive oil and knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes. (Knead for 8 to 10 minutes if you plan to use the dough the next day.) Use a kitchen thermometer to check the dough’s temperature. Ideally, it should be in the high 70s or low 80s Fahrenheit.
Separate the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. (Use a scale to measure if you have one; each ball or dough should weigh about 11½ ounces.) Transfer the dough to a greased, quart-sized container or freezer bag. Seal, then refrigerate for at least overnight or up to 72 hours.
When you’re ready to make your pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerate about 1 hour before baking. Let come to room temperature.
As the dough comes to room temperature, preheat your oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 1 hour. Preheat a pizza stone if you have one.
Flour the dough balls, and then toss or open them up. Do not use a rolling pin to spread the dough. Transfer to a floured pizza peel or parchment paper. Top with your preferred sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
Transfer pizza to pizza stone. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes, until the cheese on top is browned. Remove from oven, then slice and serve.
Pizza crust tips
You can use either bread flour or all-purpose flour for the pizza crust. The latter produces a lighter crust. When measuring ingredients, use a kitchen scale rather than measuring by volume. Accuracy is key to getting the best results.
Stretching and shaping your pizza dough will get easier the more you do it. (And gives you a good excuse to make more pizza.) Real Simple has some tips for how to transform a ball of dough into the perfect pizza crust. The key is to let your hands and gravity do the work. Avoid using the rolling pin because it flattens the bubbles in the dough and yields a tough crust, Bon Appétit explained.
If you have a pizza stone, use it when baking the pizza. Doing so will help remove moisture and produce a crisp crust. Feeling Foodish suggests placing the pizza stone within 6 to 8 inches of the broiler element of your oven. The broiler will brown the cheese while the hot stone will cook the crust. Sprinkle some semolina flour on your pizza peel to keep in from sticking, but don’t overdo it or it might burn. Finally, don’t be afraid of using high heat for your pizza. You need the oven to be very hot to get a crisp crust.
Toppings for your pizza are a matter of taste, but using a light hand with the sauce will keep your crust from getting soggy. Low-fat or pre-shredded cheese won’t melt as well as low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella you shred yourself.
Next, our tips for making the perfect pizza sauce.
Making a sauce for your pizza doesn’t have to be complicated. The authors of The Pizza Book suggest hand-crushing high-quality canned tomatoes, straining out any excess juice, and using that as your sauce, according to Lifehacker. The technique works especially well with a margherita pie.
If you want sauce with a bit more oomph, try this basic pizza sauce recipe from The Pioneer Woman (via the Food Network). It’s simple to make and will provide the perfect base for whatever toppings you want to throw on it.
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 3 (15-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Directions: Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a hot pan over medium-high heat. Throw in the garlic and chopped onions, and give them a stir. Cook until the onions are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid reduces by half. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar. Add the dried oregano and basil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Topping your pizza
We’ve already covered the sauce and cheese, but what about all the other stuff that goes on your pizza? From the classics, such as pepperoni and mushrooms, to more divisive toppings, such as pineapple, anchovies, and shrimp, there’s really no limit to what you can put on your pie. (Not to mention there’s a variety of sauces you could use instead of a red sauce, including pesto, garlic, and barbecue.)
Many pizza toppings can be tossed on your pizza raw, such as spinach or olives. They’ll cook when the pizza is in the oven. But because your pizza won’t need to bake for long, there are certain ingredients you’ll need to cook in advance. Meats, including chicken and Italian sausage, obviously fall into this category, as do heartier ingredients, such as squash or kale. Some experts also suggest sautéing toppings, such as mushrooms or onions, before putting them on your pizza, though others are fine letting them cook in the oven.
When choosing toppings, adopt a less-is-more approach. Dumping six kinds of meat on your pie or the entire contents of your vegetable drawer leads to a confusing, overwhelming pizza.
“[T]he best pies keep the toppings minimal and balanced,” J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats wrote. “I try to limit it to two or three, asking myself at each step whether what I’m adding is complementing the ingredients I added before. … Does the pizza with four types of meat and seven different vegetables really taste better than the one that just has charred Brussels sprouts and pancetta? Probably not.”
Your pizza is a blank canvas. You can make a simple pie with just a few standard toppings (think fennel sausage or mushrooms and olives), or you can get a bit more creative. The options are nearly endless. If you’re starved for ideas, consider these suggestions:
- Try a New York-style sausage and broccoli rabe pie. The Food Network has the instructions.
- Trade the tomato sauce for pesto, and top your pizza with goat cheese, corn, and sun-dried tomatoes, as suggested by Delish.
- Look beyond the vegetables and meat, and include some fruit on your pizza. This sweet and savory recipe from The Café Sucre Farine calls for strawberries, applewood-smoked bacon, and chicken.
- Forget restraint, and go crazy with a bacon cheeseburger pizza. We have the recipe here.
Keep reading for advice on what to serve with your perfectly topped pizza.
Big Italian Salad
A salad is the perfect accompaniment to your homemade pizza. This recipe from Once Upon a Chef is made with romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, and olives. It’s all dressed with a from-scratch vinaigrette seasoned with fresh basil and parsley. It makes 6 servings.
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- 10 big leaves fresh basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons honey
For the salad:
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into large, bite-sized pieces
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup chopped hothouse cucumbers
- 1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons
- Handful grape tomatoes, halved
- Handful pitted olives
- Ricotta salata or feta, crumbled to taste
Directions: Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a food processor and blend.
Add all the ingredients for the salad to a large bowl. Just before you are ready to serve, pour about half the dressing over the salad and toss. Gradually add more dressing as needed. (Dress the greens generously). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate any unused dressing.
Serve these buttery garlic knots with your salad or as an appetizer. The recipe from Damn Delicious is made with refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough and takes just 10 minutes to prepare. The knots take another 10 minutes to bake. It makes 16 servings.
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 (16-ounce) tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or oil.
Add the butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, parsley, and salt to a small bowl, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Cut each of the biscuits in half (you should have 16 halves in total). Roll each out into a rope about 5 inches long and a ½-inch thick. Tie into a knot, tucking in the ends.
Transfer the knots to a baking sheet. Brush with half the butter and garlic mixture. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove garlic knots from oven. Brush with remaining butter mixture, and serve immediately.
Chocolate Chip Pizza Cookie
Every great meal ends with a great dessert. Stick with the pizza theme by serving this chocolate chip cookie pizza. Not only is this sweet snack fun to eat, but it’s even easier to make than regular chocolate chip cookies because you don’t need to chill the dough or spoon out individual cookies. The recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan with a lip.
Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt to medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Add the butter and sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until creamy. (You can also use a hand mixer.) Add the egg and beat on high for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix on high until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix on low until combined, then add the chocolate chips, with the mixer running on low speed.
Spoon the dough out onto the prepared pizza pan. Use your finger or a rubber spatula to spread it out until it reaches the edge of the pan.
Transfer the pan to the preheated oven, and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the cookie is puffed and slightly brown on top. (Bake a few minutes more if you prefer crispier edges.) Set the pan on a wire rack, and let cook for a few minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.
Finally, check out our tips on what beverage to serve with your pizza.
What to drink
You’ll want to wash down your pizza with a beverage. Wine is the obvious choice, though the perfect bottle depends on what’s on your pie. Vinepair’s wine and pizza pairing app suggests a Chianti if you’re a pepperoni fan and reaching for the Riesling or prosecco if you favor the sweet flavors of a Hawaiian pizza. Check out the app to find the perfect pairing for your meal.
Perhaps beer with pizza is more your thing? Serious Eats talked to beer experts on what brews they’d serve with different pizzas. The suggestions were all over the map, including the combo of Anchor Steam with a margherita pizza, as well as earthier beers, such as Schlafly Bière de Garde, if you’re chowing down on a sausage and mushroom slice.