Until a few years ago, I always preferred the pizza from my native state of New York to anything I found in California. The pizza in North County San Diego, where I grew up, was inedible as far as my family was concerned, so we always made our pizza at home. My mother's pizzas were unparalleled by anything we could get at a local pizzeria -- thick crust with a tangy tomato sauce laced with anchovies and black olives. When I moved to San Francisco years ago, I loved that I could finally buy a decent pizza. Right now, Oliveto, Pizzaiolo, and Dopo are my East Bay neighborhood favorites, with Pizzeria Delifina taking the gold medal for my all-around favorite local pie. Yet although these restaurants and many others offer wonderful Roma and Neopolitan-style pizzas, I still often make my own pies at home, especially now that I've discovered grilled pizza.
Yes, I am now grilling my pizzas. This may sound odd, but using your grill actually makes more sense than baking your pizza in an oven. Although people will disagree about toppings -- sauce or fresh tomatoes? Anchovies or plain cheese? -- it is universally known that you need a very hot oven to make a great crust. A home oven only reaches a max of 500 or, if you're lucky, 550 degrees, while most grills get up to 600 degrees or hotter (mine gets up to 650 degrees). You'll never replicate the intense radiant heat from a professional pizzeria oven at home, but using a barbecue grill will get you pretty close. Used with a pizza stone, your backyard grill becomes the perfect home pizza oven.
I also have a new dough recipe which is worth mentioning. I used to make my pizza dough the old fashioned way, kneading it by hand and then letting it rise in a bowl. But I recently tried a recipe from the New York Times Sunday Magazine and loved it. This recipe lets the paddle on your mixer do all the kneading, so it's quick to make and pretty mess free. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can still knead the dough, but if you do have one, this recipe is so easy there's no reason to ever buy pre-made dough again. Best of all, the final result is a moist pizza dough that crusts beautifully.
My new homemade pizza of choice is one made with wilted arugula, prosciutto, and Brie cheese. I love how the earthy and slightly peppery arugula tastes with the salty pork and oozy puddles of buttery cheese. It's truly a match made in pizza heaven.
Why make your own pizza?
1. Homemade pizza is much less expensive than restaurant pizza, especially for a family of four. When I buy two pies at a local restaurant, I often spend over $40, but making two larger pizzas at home usually runs under $20 (and if I use only cheese, basil and tomatoes, I spend less than $10).