Friday Night is Homemade Pizza Night in our house! This is more than just a recipe! It’s my Complete Process, a full guide to cooking pizza at home including all the tips and tricks I use to easily make delicious homemade pizza every week. All the steps, from the crust, sauce, cheese and toppings are completely made from scratch. But, I’ll show you ways to cut corners if you want to, and how to use your freezer and your pantry so it’s not all the work in one night. It’s the best pizza in town, homemade made easy, right from your own kitchen!
Pizza Night – A Pandemic Silver Lining
What seems like forever ago, in our long ago life before the pandemic, we would often go to my in-laws house at some point over the weekend. Those days were filled with swimming, cousins, fishing, kayaking, ice fishing in the winter, and often ordering pizza. In the isolating months of March and April, I longed for the simple days of bringing the kids over for pizza night. We had to start some new traditions at home with just the 4 of us. Family Pizza Night was officially born.
Depending on the difficulty and challenges of the week, it would be either homemade, take-out, or frozen, but Friday would always be pizza. Well, online school pretty much ensured every week would be difficult and challenging. But, Fridays soon became our favorite days. For one, the first grade had no zoom calls on Friday and a lighter amount of work. We started our Field Trip Friday tradition where we would meet up with a few friends also doing school online and go for a hike or outdoor adventure. That ebbed and flowed along with the state restrictions, and we hiked alone when we had to. After a healthy dose of fresh air, Friday always ended with pizza and a movie.
The Homemade Pizza System
The more I made homemade pizza from scratch, the easier it got. What once felt like a chore now felt like an easy weeknight dinner, and the perfect end to our favorite day. So we seldom ordered in, and instead rolled up our sleeves, sometimes even getting the kids to help.
Homemade pizza night got easier for me because I did what I always do in my kitchen. I made it part of “my system.” My meal prep, my freezer stash, and my pantry, all working together so the actual work on Friday night’s was pretty minimal. Here is the breakdown, ingredient by ingredient. With ways to cut corners if you want to, ways to stretch your efforts, and ways to save time while still making seriously delicious pizza!
The Pizza Dough Process
This simple artisan pizza dough recipe is part of the meal prep. It makes 8 pizza crusts, which is 2 nights worth for my family of four. I make the dough the morning of, or a day or two before pizza night. Cut it into 8 balls, put 4 in the freezer for next week, and 4 in a bowl on my counter on Friday morning (or in my fridge). So I’m only making pizza dough every other week, saving me a lot of time. On the off week, I start defrosting the pizza dough in the fridge overnight on Thursday and then let it sit on the counter all day on pizza night. If you start making pizza a lot, making extra and storing pizza dough in the freezer is a great time saver. You can make the recipe 2 or 3 times in one day, giving you 6 pizza nights to store in the freezer! Don’t try to double the recipe in the stand mixer, it won’t fit. Just make one batch followed by another.
Making the Dough
Ideally, I mix the dough in a stand mixer with the dough hook. But, when I don’t feel like getting all that out, I’ve found it works just fine to mix it in a bowl and then knead it by hand on a cutting board. Either way, it’s not hard. Add the flour and salt to a large bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a glass measuring cup, stirring to allow the yeast to incorporate with the warm water, honey, and oil. Add the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a spoon to form into a rough dough, or mix with the paddle attachment in the stand mixer.
You just need about 4 to 5 minutes of kneading. Do this with the dough hook of a mixer on medium-low speed, or turn the rugged dough onto a floured cutting board or clean counter. Lift and turn with your left hand and push down with the heel of your right hand, over and over for 5 minutes. If the pizza dough is sticky, add a bit of flour. A few times, pulling and stretching the pizza dough and then tucking it back into a ball. This helps develop the gluten.
Portioning and Storing Pizza Dough
Once you have kneaded the dough, tuck it into a ball by stretching and then tucking the ends under itself to look like a mushroom top. Cut the dough in half with a knife, then in quarters, then in 8 equal pieces. Take each piece and form again into the little mushroom ball. Oil a large bowl, and a container with a lid for the freezer and set 4 dough balls in each. Choose containers that are larger than the dough is now, it will expand to be bigger in size. Now of course you can adjust this for your family size. These are thin and not very large pizzas. A hungry adult would easily eat 1 pizza or more and a kid maybe a half. Freeze whatever amount you don’t plan to use.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or sometimes I can a reuse an old produce bag to be eco-friendly. Proofing pizza dough at this point is as simple as leaving it on the counter all day if pizza night is tonight. Or, set it in your fridge overnight and pull out the morning of pizza night (up to 2 days in advance). Put the extra container in the freezer. Frozen dough can be thawed in the fridge overnight. On the morning of pizza night, take the refrigerated pizza dough and let it sit on the counter all day.
If the dough part of homemade pizza seems like the hard part to you, there are plenty of store-bought refrigerated pizza dough options and crusts. Give them a try!
There are lots of options for the sauce for your pizza. Again a major meal prep part of my pizza process, I almost NEVER make the sauce on the day I make the pizza. I always have pint jars of sauce in my freezer. The difference between pasta sauce and pizza sauce just depends on the eater! To me, any basic tomato marinara sauce can be used for pizza sauce. So, instead of making a separate batch of sauce just for pizza, I instead make a big pasta dinner! Then I freeze the leftover sauce in pint jars for pizza nights. One pint jar (2 cups) is the right amount for 4 pizzas.
Here are some of my Favorite Marinara Sauce – Pizza Sauce recipes that are delicious pasta dinners and work great for pizza:
I’ve also included a very basic pizza sauce in the recipe below to use just for pizza night if you like. It makes about 4 to 5 pint jars worth. Pizza sauce can be frozen, but only fill the jars three quarters full and cool overnight in the fridge first so the glass doesn’t crack!
All the sauces above can be left vegetarian if you prefer. Pizza sauce also lends itself well to the idea of hidden veggies. Whether you want your kids to be eating more vegetables, or you just want to add extra nutrition where you can, a food processor can easily add a lot of vegetables to your tomato sauce. Things like onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, zucchini, and a few leaves of spinach or kale can be processed until very small. Saute them in olive oil before adding canned tomatoes and seasonings and they blend right in. These are just ideas and options, any red marinara, including store-bought jars will work great for pizza! Pesto or bbq sauce pizzas also make fun variations. Caramelizing an onion in a pan, then adding a half cup of cream to slightly reduce has become our favorite white pizza sauce!
I’ve found that really any white shreddable cheese will do. I always shred my own, but have used any combination of provolone, mozzarella, white cheddar, muenster, havarti or parmesan. A ball of fresh mozzarella for pizza is also a great option. Just slice it thin and spread it around, I often add a bit of shredded cheese too when doing that.
The Meat Pizza Toppings
My easy trick for always having pepperoni ready to go, is to buy a bag of it from the deli counter and keep it in your freezer. It’s better quality than the prepackaged pepperoni, and a 1 or 2 pound bag will last for months. It’s an easy ingredient you never have to worry about not having. If you used the pasta sauce leftovers option, your sauce may have some meat right in it. You can also try prosciutto or cooked bulk Italian sausage. Leftover or rotisserie shredded chicken also works great on pesto or bbq pizzas.
The Veggie Toppings
The veggie toppings are totally your preference. My kids only like pepperoni, which is why I like the hidden veggies in the sauce. Me, I like as many veggies as I can possibly fit! On pizza night, I start by preparing my veggies and then do it “build your own pizza” style so everyone gets something they like. I have a few tricks here to make veggie prep an easy task. Whether it is leftover from my garden, or a surplus purchase at the last farmers market, I like to buy a bunch of bell peppers, slice and freeze them in a ziploc. You can add a sliced onion to the mix if you like. That way, my favorite topping, bell pepper, is always ready to go. I’ve found out a bag of frozen sliced peppers and onions is extremely handy for chicken fajitas, omelettes and soup nights too.
You can add whatever fresh veggies you like, peppers, onions, sliced or cherry tomato, mushroom, zucchini, and a few cloves of minced garlic (seriously good!). I freeze a lot of mixed herbs from my garden which are great to sprinkle on pizza, but chopped fresh spinach, kale, or any herbs like parsley, basil, oregano or rosemary work great too!
Don’t forget your pantry when looking for Italian pizza toppings! Jars of kalamata olives and artichokes are delicious. I’ve bought artichokes in a can which was larger than I needed, so I froze the extras in small jars for the next couple pizza nights. Each pizza can be different, and different every week. Try copying your favorite restaurant pizzas or let each family member top their own!
The Cooking Process
Your dough is proofed in a bowl on the counter, a jar of sauce is thawed in the fridge, you’ve shredded your cheese, a bag of pepperoni is in your freezer, and you chopped your veggie toppings. You’re ready to put it all together! You don’t need a fancy oven or any fancy equipment, you just need to get set up.
I’ve found the best at home oven temperature for pizza to be 450° convection bake. Place a large baking sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven while it’s preheating to act as a pizza stone if you don’t have one (I don’t and a baking sheet works really well!). You want your pizza baking temp and the pan to be super hot, convection means the oven fan is blowing the hot air around, which gives you a crispier crust.
You’ll need a few cutting boards, one to prepare your toppings, one to roll your pizza dough, one to slice and serve your finished pizza, and possibly one to transfer pizza to the oven. A pizza peel works great (the big wooden paddle used to take pizza in and out of the oven), but that extra cutting board will do. Spread the peel or cutting board with cornmeal. This is a must, absolutely important, don’t skip it! Without cornmeal your pizza will stick to the peel when you are trying to transfer it to the oven.
On a floured cutting board, roll your first pizza dough ball with a rolling pin. No, you don’t need to fling the dough in the air like they do in a pizzeria! The rolling pin gives you a nice even thin dough. Get it as thin as you can, if you want to pick it up and stretch and turn it with the back of your hands, go ahead and give it a try. Just don’t get a thin spot or a hole! The toppings will be burning on the bottom of your oven and you may set off your smoke alarm (I’ve done that a few times!). The goal is a thin circle, the size of the pizza peel.
Place the rolled dough on the cornmeal covered pizza peel or cutting board, and add your sauce, cheese and toppings. Now the next step is where you need to make sure things go right. First, can you lightly shake the peel or board back and forth to see if the cornmeal is moving the pizza around? If it seems stuck in any spot, try to lift that part with a spatula and toss in a bit more cornmeal. Then you are going to pull the pan out slightly with a hot pad and shove the pizza onto the hot pan. Be careful, it’s hot! Sometimes I think it’s easier to take the pan out of the oven with hot pads and set it on your stove top to transfer the pizza to it. Use a spatula to help if it seems to be sticking. If it stuck a bit, use more cornmeal for the next pizza.
Put it in the oven and get started on your second pizza. When you have your second pizza ready to go into the oven, your first pizza probably won’t be quite done, but the crust will be firm enough to transfer to the top oven rack. With two sturdy metal spatulas, carefully pick the whole pizza up and put it directly on the top oven rack. This will finish cooking, giving you a nice crispy crust. Now your pan is free to slide in your second pizza. And if the top pizza drips, it will fall onto the pizza/pan underneath instead of burning onto the floor of the oven (again, the smoke alarm won’t go off!).
While those two are cooking, make your third pizza. By the time you are ready to add number three to the oven, pizza number one is probably done. Remember your oven is really hot, so check on it and don’t let it burn. Take it out, slice and serve on a cutting board. I usually do the kids plain pepperoni first since they are the most impatient when hungry! Now transfer pizza number two to the top oven rack and pizza number three to the sheet pan. Make your final pizza and transfer them all through the oven using this same method. We always start eating in front of the movie as the first pizzas come out of the oven. A big salad is a great addition to pizza night, and dressed arugula is even kind of fun to put right on top of the pizza.
Final Pizza Thoughts
Homemade Pizza Night in our house is our Friday night tradition. It’s family night, it’s movie night, it’s our favorite night. I used to feel that making pizza from scratch was a daunting difficult task. It takes a little practice, but with my system of time saving, you really can make delicious amazing pizza from your own oven every week!
Have you Made Homemade Pizza?
I would love to hear about it if you’re making pizza at home! Leave a star rating and comment below and tell me how it turned out or ask any questions!
For the Crust (Makes 8 pizzas, Freeze extras)
- 5⅓ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water (can warm in the microwave 30 seconds)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons honey or sugar
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
For the Sauce (Makes 5 pint jars, Freeze extras)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced (optional – add extra hidden veggies like bell pepper, zucchini, carrot, celery, and a few leaves of spinach or kale, ground in a food processor)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 grinds fresh black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 28oz cans crushed tomato
- 1 6oz can tomato paste
For the Toppings
- 1 Tablespoon cornmeal IMPORTANT! DO NOT SKIP (use as you go)
- white cheese Any combination of shredded provolone, mozzarella, white cheddar, muenster, havarti or parmesan, or a ball of fresh mozzarella.
- Optional Topping Ideas – sliced bell pepper, onion, tomato, mushroom, zucchini, a few cloves of minced garlic, olives, artichokes, fresh or frozen herbs or greens like spinach, kale, parsley, basil, oregano or rosemary
- Pepperoni, cooked sausage or prosciutto (optional – buy a 1 or 2 pound bag of pepperoni from the deli counter and store in the freezer, add to pizza, no need to thaw)
- Variations – Pesto or Bbq sauce with leftover or rotisserie chicken
For the Crust
- Make the dough the morning of, or 1 to 2 days before pizza night. Add flour and salt to a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add all other ingredients to a glass measuring cup or bowl and mix with a fork, let sit 5 minutes. Add the liquid into the flour and mix with a spoon or the paddle attachment of the mixer to form a rugged ball.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes using the dough hook on medium-low speed, or by hand on a floured cutting board. Lift and turn with your left hand and push down with the heel of your right hand, over and over for 5 minutes. Add flour if the dough is too sticky. A few times, pull and stretch the dough and then tuck it back into a ball.
- Once you have kneaded the dough, tuck it into a ball by tucking the ends under itself to look like a mushroom top. Cut the dough in half with a knife, then in quarters, then in 8 equal pieces. Take each piece and form again into the little mushroom ball. Oil a large bowl, and a container with a lid for the freezer and set 4 dough balls in each. Choose containers that are larger than the dough is now, it will expand to be bigger in size. Adjust this for your family size. These are thin and not very large pizzas, a hungry adult would eat 1 pizza or more and a hungry kid maybe a half. Freeze whatever amount you don't plan to use. For a family of 4, this is 2 nights worth of pizza dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or reuse an old produce bag to be ecofriendly. Leave it on the counter if pizza night is tonight, or set it in your fridge overnight and pull out the morning of pizza night. Frozen dough can be thawed in the fridge overnight. On the morning of pizza night, take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter all day.
For the Sauce
- I don't recommend making homemade sauce on pizza night, see the above sauce section for easy pasta sauce – pizza sauce recipes.
- To make homemade sauce, in a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil, onion and any extra hidden veggies from the food processor. Saute until starting to brown and soften.
- Add garlic, salt, pepper, and seasoning.
- Add canned tomato. Reduce heat to low and simmer at least 1 hour. Freeze extra sauce in pint size jars (1 jar, about 2 cups, is the right amount of sauce for 4 pizzas). Only fill jars ¾'s full so they don't crack when freezing, cool in the refrigerator before freezing.
Making the Pizza
- Place a large baking sheet or pizza stone on the bottom rack of your oven and preheat to 450° convection bake.
- On a cutting board, prepare and slice all toppings, including veggies, cheese and pepperoni.
- Prepare a pizza peel or another cutting board with a generous sprinkling of cornmeal.
- On another floured cutting board, roll out the first ball of dough with a rolling pin (don't worry that they have expanded and grown together, just pull or cut back apart). Add flour as needed. Get it as thin as you can, about the size of the pizza peel.
- Transfer dough to the cornmeal covered peel. Top with sauce, cheese and toppings.
- Making sure the pizza slides around on the cornmeal, transfer the pizza to the hot pan in the oven. You can take the pan out and set it on the stovetop if that is easier. If any part sticks, carefully release it with a spatuala.
- When pizza #1 is in the oven, make pizza #2. When pizza #2 is ready to go into the oven, pizza #1 probably won't be quite done, but the crust will be firm enough to transfer to the top oven rack. With two sturdy metal spatulas, carefully pick the whole pizza up and put it directly on the oven rack above. This will finish cooking, giving you a nice crispy crust. Now your pan is free to slide in pizza #2.
- While those two are cooking, make pizza #3. By the time you are ready to add #3, pizza #1 is probably done. Remember your oven is really hot, so check on it and don't let it burn. Take it out, slice and serve on a cutting board. Now transfer pizza #2 to the top oven rack and pizza #3 to the sheet pan. Make pizza #4 and transfer them all through the oven using this same method.
- You did it! And it all gets easier with practice! Enjoy!