Skip the delivery and grab some store-bought dough. Then get rolling with our 10 helpful hacks for creating crispy crusts, fresh flavors, and more
Article and featured recipe and photos by Jamie Vespa MS, RD
Pizza is a crowd-pleaser, and just has a way of bringing people together. Whether you’re entertaining, having date-night in, or gearing up for game day, a hot pan of pizza rarely disappoints. And while making your own pizza seems straightforward (roll out the dough, cover in toppings, and bake), there are definitely tricks that make certain pizzas rise above others.
If this is sounding tricky, rest assured that making homemade pizza can be a breeze! I’ve put together 10 step-by-step tips for creating easy restaurant-quality pizza. You can apply them to my Summer Pesto and Prosciutto Pizza or any favorite pizza recipe.
Once you put the tips into place, I promise that your homemade pizzas will be infinitely more exciting than your local pizza chain’s offerings.
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10 hacks for easy pizzeria-quality pizza >>
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10 hacks for easy pizzeria-quality pizza
I like to think of pizza as a blank canvas ready to take on a slew of inventive, seasonal toppings. Creating a great pizza also involves a little attention to the dough, the temp, and the way you put the pizza together.
- Go for store-bought dough — and let it rest
Look to bags of refrigerated, store-bought dough for pizzeria quality and convenience. Out of the package, the dough should be smooth and springy, which indicates an optimal ratio of flour, water, and yeast. Before baking, be sure to let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This helps relax the gluten so it will be easy to roll.
- Pull and pierce
When you’re ready to roll, start pulling the dough gently from all sides to gradually expand it. (If you’re too aggressive, the dough could tear.) Next, sprinkle a large piece of parchment paper with flour and set the dough on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, starting in the center and working outward toward the edges but not rolling over them.
Now use the prongs of a fork to pierce the dough multiple times to help prevent it from bubbling up as it bakes.
Note that it helps to build your pizza on a sheet of parchment paper so you can easily transfer the pizza to a hot pizza stone or sheet pan. Parchment paper also promotes crisping.
- Reach beyond red sauce
Marinara sauce will always be a safe bet; however, the sauce spectrum runs far beyond pureed tomatoes. A slick of homemade or store bought pesto, Alfredo sauce, Buffalo sauce, or even ricotta cheese (used in white pizza, or “pizza blanco”) will keep your taste buds intrigued.
For our pizza, use the back of a small spoon to spread the pesto evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border for the crust.
- Choose the right cheese
Cheese acts like glue, helping to bind your toppings to the dough. The universal top pick is shredded low-moisture mozzarella, which is mild and melty. If you’re adding an aged cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino, sprinkle it on the pizza after it bakes.
For our pizza, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the pesto.
- Avoid high-moisture toppings
Halved cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and high-moisture cheeses (such as burrata, brie, and high-moisture mozzarella) should be added after the pizza bakes. Otherwise, you run the risk of puddles forming in the center of the pizza, causing the dough to get weighed down and soggy.
- Tap into seasonal produce
Take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits to maximize the nutritional value of your pie and add pops of color and flavor. In spring, look to chopped asparagus, green peas, and spring onions for a vibrant, fresh take on pizza. In summer, you can’t beat juicy peaches, corn, thinly sliced tomatoes, or ribbons of shaved zucchini.
For our pizza, scatter red onion and stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, or apricots) over the mozzarella cheese.
- Ace the assembly
Build your pizza in this order: spread on the sauce, sprinkle on the cheese, and scatter on toppings. This specific layering ensures the cheese gets bubbly and browned while the toppings get direct heat and become crisp.
- Go fast and HOT
Crank the oven temperature to 500ºF, or as high as it will go without broiling, to achieve the coveted crisp-chewy crust. Preheat your pizza stone or sheet pan with the oven so the dough starts cooking the moment it touches the surface.
For our pizza, transfer the pizza on top of the parchment paper to the hot pizza stone (or sheet pan). Bake pizza at 500ºF until the crust is browned and cheese is bubbly, 13 to 15 minutes.
- Keep meat to a minimum
Avoid super-fatty meats like sausage, which makes the pizza heavy and greasy. Instead, look to paper-thin slices of cured meats — like prosciutto or mortadella — to top the pizza after it bakes. A little goes a long way in terms of salty, smoky flavor.
For our pizza, top it with slices of prosciutto (plus dollops of creamy burrata cheese) as soon as it comes out of the oven.
- Finish with something fresh and flavorful