Pizza: The Foundations


A pizza is only as good as the crust and sauce that support it. Sure, you could probably put loads of cheese and delicious toppings on anything and end up with something enjoyable…but you’ll always know something wasn’t quite right. For the past, oh, 4 years, I have been trying different crust and sauce recipes and finally I think we’ve got the formula for pizza that makes the palate sing.  It was a big day.

The crust is the “Lahey” No-Knead pizza dough recipe. What’s the secret to this dough? Time. It may seem absurd to let pizza dough rise for 18 hours, but that is exactly where the magic comes from. Plus, it’s certainly less awkward than having a 1-2 hour rise time for a weeknight meal; prepare the dough the night before and it’s ready for pizza prep come dinner time.

We had tried various other crusts, and although good they were either: challenging to work with (Smitten Kitchen’s variation on the Lahey recipe), too dense, too bready, etc. etc. etc. This crust was easy to work with (with well oiled hands) after the necessary rest period; had a crisp bottom; and the ever sought after chewy and ‘bubbly’ interior. The recipe makes about 4 dough balls – we’ve got some in the freezer now…on call for our next pizza craving. We hope to try making this with half whole wheat flour….I will keep you posted.

The sauce. Simplicity is the key here. I can’t imagine using any other sauce. I always hand crush the tomatoes but you could use an immersion blender/food processor if you like it smoother.

Pizza Dough

1000 g (about 7.5 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons fine salt
½ teaspoon active yeast
3 cups water (room temperature)

  1. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in large bowl.  No need to proof the yeast.
  2. Gradually add water while stirring with a wooden spoon until combined, as best you can
  3. Using your hands, bring the dough together into a rough ball shape. It will be shaggy.
  4. Place dough in a clean, large (!) bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 18 hours.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work station. Use floured hands to help you…it may be a sticky – you’ll get through this. Form dough ball into a large disc shape. Divide into quarters.
  6. Carefully form each quarter into a ‘ball’ shape. Repeat with remaining quarters
  7. Cover with plastic wrap/damp towel for an hour. This is a good time to get your toppings/sauce ready.
  8. When shaping your dough, it’s a good idea to oil your hands well. We did not roll out the dough, for fear of popping all the beautiful air bubbles, but instead stretched it out. Stretch it out in the air first, then lay on your pizza building surface (see below) and stretch to desired size. If your dough is giving you trouble (ie, not staying put when stretching), it likely needs a little more rest time. Take a hint, have some wine.

Source: Bon Appetit

IMG_6026Pizza Sauce

1 28oz can of good quality whole tomatoes
1 small clove garlic, grated
salt, to taste
Pinch of sugar, if desired


  1. Drain the tomatoes in a fine sieve strainer over a bowl, squeezing the tomatoes to extract any liquid from within the tomato. Give this a good 30 minutes. Reserve the juice for another use (soup, cocktails, etc.)
  2. Crush the tomatoes with your hand or blender until desired consistency. Stir in remaining ingredients
  3. This recipe makes more than your need for one pizza. Often we double it and keep portioned leftovers in the freezer.

Source: Smitten Kitchen



Pizza above topped with salami, roasted red peppers, and arugula

Preparing your pizza pie.

Everyone is going to have different tools and tricks to get their tasty pizza in the oven.  Here is our method using a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and parchment paper.

Preheat your oven to 500F for a good 35-45 minutes, with the pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven. We want that stone HOT.

Stretch out your dough* on a large square of parchment paper, on a wooden pizza peel. Prepare the pizza with your sauce, cheese, and toppings.  With a quick motion, transfer the pizza (still on the parchment paper), onto the stone. Check the pizza after 10 minutes. It may need a little longer. Goal? Browning and bubbling cheese. You can attempt to slide the parchment paper from under the pizza after 5 minutes or so, if you like. Or, just let it char. I like the parchment method as a way help prevent the pizza sticking to the peel. Speaking from experience, sometimes the flour or cornmeal method can result in a rather…unsuccessful transfer.

See THIS post for the latest way we cook our ‘za.

4 thoughts on “Pizza: The Foundations

  1. I’m saving this one!

    Question: in Portugal while it is possible to buy flour without yeast, the default is self-raising flour. 1) Have you tried this recipe using self-raising flour? 2) Do you know how it changes the recipe/instructions besides skipping the yeast part?

    • Hm. I imagine it wouldn’t really work. With this recipe you use significantly less yeast than you might normally use to facilitate the lengthy rise…with the self rising flour you lose that control.
      I have never tested an 18 hour rise with a ‘normal’ quantity of yeast. The only wild suggestion I might have would be to let it rise in the fridge so that the yeast works slower, but I have no idea if that would yield the same sort of result. You would want to make sure the dough is room temperature before trying to work with it.

      But, sadly, I might just look for a recipe made for using self rising flour! 😦

  2. Pingback: Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, Kale & Feta |

  3. Pingback: Margherita Pizza |

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