Back in my early 20s I volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters as a big sister. At first I was nervous about what sort of activities I would do with my “little” because kids have never been my thing. But I quickly found out that the kid loved to cook and as luck would have it, my apartment had a kitchen with an oven and running water and everything.
At that point in my life I was a strict vegan and my culinary acumen centered on the few vegetables that could be effectively wrapped in a tortilla. But after a trip down the many grocery aisles I had previously ignored, I quickly discovered that you could “make” a pizza with a few highly processed, elaborately packaged ingredients. A pre-baked pizza crust from the good people at DiGiorno. Pre-shredded mozzarella cheese – thank you, KRAFT! A jar of Ragu, a packet of sliced pepperoni, and shaker of parmesan cheese powder later and my little and I were in business.
What that pizza lacked in nutritional value it made up for in ease and it didn’t taste bad at all. I am a big proponent of the slow food movement, but there is something to be said for food that gets people in the kitchen together. My little and I went on to bake cookies from a Pillsbury tube of cookie dough, Rice Krispie treats, Betty Crocker cupcakes with florescent pink frosting, and an endless stream of more ambitious endeavors that always ended in disaster and a trip to Taco Bell.
I didn’t learn to actually bake until I started working at a bona fide bakery, but I learned to love preparing food when I made that first piecemeal pizza with my little. It was the first time I realized cooking and baking could be recreational and yielded results that went beyond the stuff you eat.
I was thrilled to eventually find a better pizza recipe, however! The recipe for pizza dough and pizza sauce in the MSBH results in a much tastier, much healthier pizza than any you can buy from a grocery store or pizza joint, in my humble opinion. (And is even more fun to make with kids because YOU GET TO TOSS YOUR OWN DOUGH.)
The dough is started in the food processor. I don’t have any pictures of that but good news, it’s not all the visually interesting anyway. You let it proof and then you form it any old way you want – I’m a fan of tossing and stretching it. I don’t have any pictures of that either and that’s good news for me, because I’m sure I look absurd while doing it.
The MSBH pizza sauce recipe is basically just canned tomatoes, oregano, salt & pepper, and olive oil simmered together until delicious (about an hour).
It’s great on pasta too. I never buy jarred pasta sauce anymore, this is just so cheap and easy and good. You can add other spices to it, mushrooms, onions, cheese, whatever.
I bought a big basil plant at Trader Joe’s before leaving Seattle and let me tell you what, it is the best $2.99 I’ve ever spent in my life. I repotted it and keep it watered and in a sunny window and it gives me biggest, greenest, sweetest basil leaves ever. I hope it lasts forever and I may very well cry if it ever dies.
Pizza Margherita is tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and what more do you need? Of course I love this pizza, it’s the Caprese Salad of pizzas. I love Caprese Salad. It is the best thing about summertime.
My pizza formation skills are as underdeveloped as my pie crust forming skills. I’m really bad at the pizza dough formation. Sometimes I have huge holes in the bottom of crust which is most certainly a pizza fail. But it always tastes good so I just slice it all up really quickly and nobody seems to notice. Hooray, pizza!