classic cheese pizza

When it comes to homemade pizza, nothing beats the satisfaction of creating a classic cheese pizza from scratch. Not only is it a crowd-pleaser, but it also offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase your culinary skills. This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of the process, ensuring that you achieve a delicious, restaurant-quality pizza right in your own kitchen.

Ingredients for Classic Cheese Pizza

For the Dough

  1. 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  2. 1 ½ cups of warm water (110°F)
  3. 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) of active dry yeast
  4. 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  5. 1 teaspoon of sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon of salt

For the Sauce

  1. 1 can (15 ounces) of tomato sauce
  2. 1 can (6 ounces) of tomato paste
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1 teaspoon of sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  6. 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  7. ½ teaspoon of salt
  8. ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  9. 2 tablespoons of olive oil

For the Toppings

  1. 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  2. ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  3. Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  4. Extra olive oil for brushing the crust

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Preparing the Dough

Activating the Yeast

In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Stir gently and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture becomes frothy. This indicates that the yeast is active and ready to use.

Mixing the Dough

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the activated yeast mixture along with olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.

Kneading the Dough

Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour as needed.

Letting the Dough Rise

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

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2. Making the Sauce

Combining Ingredients

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Simmering the Sauce

Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This allows the flavors to meld together beautifully.

3. Assembling the Pizza

Preheating the Oven

Preheat your oven to its highest setting, usually around 500°F (260°C). If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven while it preheats to ensure it becomes very hot.

Shaping the Dough

Punch down the risen dough to release any air bubbles. Divide it into two equal portions for two pizzas, or keep it whole for one large pizza. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to your desired thickness, typically about ¼ inch thick.

Adding the Sauce

Transfer the rolled-out dough to a pizza peel or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread a generous layer of the prepared tomato sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a small border around the edges for the crust.

Adding the Cheese

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the sauce, followed by grated Parmesan cheese. For an extra touch, you can also drizzle a bit of olive oil around the edges of the crust.

4. Baking the Pizza

Carefully slide the assembled pizza onto the preheated pizza stone or place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.

5. Finishing Touches

Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing. If desired, garnish with fresh basil leaves for a burst of color and flavor. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the top for an added touch of richness.

Tips for Perfect Cheese Pizza

Choosing the Right Flour

For the best texture, use high-quality all-purpose flour or bread flour. The higher protein content in bread flour gives the crust a chewier texture.

Proper Dough Handling

Avoid overworking the dough, as this can make it tough. Gentle handling and sufficient resting time ensure a light, airy crust.

Sauce Consistency

Aim for a thick and rich sauce that clings to the dough without making it soggy. Adjust the seasoning to taste, adding more herbs or spices if desired.

Cheese Selection

While mozzarella is the classic choice, feel free to experiment with other cheeses like provolone, fontina, or even a sprinkle of blue cheese for a unique twist.

Baking Techniques

If you don’t have a pizza stone, a heavy-duty baking sheet can work just as well. Ensure it is preheated in the oven to mimic the effect of a stone.

Serving Suggestions

Pair your homemade cheese pizza with a fresh green salad or garlic bread for a complete meal. A glass of red wine or a cold beer makes a perfect accompaniment.

Conclusion

Making a classic cheese pizza at home is an enjoyable and rewarding culinary experience. With the right ingredients, a bit of patience, and a few helpful tips, you can create a pizza that rivals your favorite pizzeria. Enjoy the process, and most importantly, savor every bite of your homemade creation.

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