Monday, April 12, 2021

1980's Homemade Pizza

I am after the recipe for the homemade pizza I remember so vividly from my teenage years. A pillowy crust made from Val's homemade white bread recipe, red sauce (from a can?, doctored?), sliced green pepper (red was too exotic and would never have been found at the Stop & Shop back in 1980 something), sliced white onion and thick slabs of mozzarella (the basic kind you can still find with the store brand name on it near the individually wrapped slices of American cheese). No time to shred it on the box grater, Val needed to get dinner in the oven. Pre- shredded cheese had just come out but if you are going to be a purist and make your own dough, why would you put cheese mixed with "anti-caking agent" on it?

Val made pizza often but especially on the night before Thanksgiving, after the parade down Main Street and the pep rally on Fuller Field. We rolled into our driveway and before the rest of us were out of the four door brown Nova with the tan fake leather seats, she was in the kitchen stretching the dough onto coarsely ground cornmeal scattered on a cookie sheet. She still had her coat on. We were hungry and likely driving her crazy. I am sure she was stressed thinking about the huge meal she was going to begin making as soon as she woke up the next day at 4:00am. While my sister was upstairs fixing her hair before one of her friends picked her up to go out for the evening, I whined and slouched my shoulders when Val asked me to set the table and my younger brother ran around, harassed the dog and begged to drink some of the Cott Cream Soda she allowed us only in such moments of weakness. 

But when that pizza came out of the oven, even my sister, who was now running out the door, grabbed a square that was destined to ruin her lipgloss with her first bite. I don't know why my 13 year old self would ever have thought that the addition of sliced green peppers, mushrooms and slivers of white onion would taste good enough to try or maybe that was all that was left after my brother devoured the "plain" slices. It was a smart move on Val's part to throw these vegetables onto the pizza hoping to get some sort of nutrients into her kids. Of course, if my brother ended up with a piece that had vegetables hidden under melted mozzarella, he left the evidence on his plate. 

The Best 1980's Homemade Pizza

Pizza Dough:

At dinner time the night before you want to make pizza, mix the dough. Cover with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. Pull it out the next day 2 hours before you plan to cook your pizza.

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 package) OR 1 teaspoon yeast and 1/4 cup starter that was fed 8-10 hrs before.

1 3/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil plus more to oil the bowl

2 teaspoons sea salt

4 cups AP flour, more if needed


3 tablespoons coarsely ground cornmeal

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 oz. can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons dried oregano

mozzarella cheese, grated

1/2 green pepper, sliced thin

1/2 small onion, sliced thin

2 oz. mushrooms sliced thin

sliced pepperoni

parmesan cheese

To serve:

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

crushed red pepper flakes

Proof the yeast by placing it in a measuring cup with the warm water. Allow to rest for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy. 

If using starter with the yeast, scoop out 1/4 cup and place in water and yeast mixture. Add olive oil to the water/yeast/starter mixture.

In a stand mixer with a dough hook, place salt 2 cups flour and salt. Mix wet mixture into the flour and salt with a spoon or rubber spatula. Use the dough hook on medium to continue the process. As the dough becomes sticky, slowly add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time until all 4 cups of flour are incorporated. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if needed while keeping dough slightly sticky. Continue to mix with the dough hook for a few more minutes. Turn dough out into a bowl greased with olive oil. Turn to coat dough. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and refrigerate dough for up to 24 hours.

2 hours before baking, remove dough from refrigerator. 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Grease a half sheet pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cornmeal. 30 minutes before baking, remove dough from bowl and place on prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with olive oil. Gently push the dough from the center into the sides and corners of the pan. If the dough springs back, allow to rest for a few minutes and gently work it again until it reaches all edges of the pan. Cover with plastic and keep in warm place (on top of the stove) until ready add toppings.

Meanwhile, shred the cheese and slice the vegetables. Top dough with tomato sauce. Sprinkle dried oregano over sauce, top entire pizza with shredded mozzarella. Place vegetables together in one section, place pepperoni in another section, leaving the third section with just cheese. Top the entire pizza with parmesan cheese. Place in oven and bake for up to 20 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling and the bottom of the pizza is lightly browned.

Loosen edges of pizza and immediately remove from baking pan onto a cutting board. Allow pizza to cool for 5 minutes, for the cheese to set. Cut pizza into squares and serve from cutting board.