RECIPES: Summertime and the pizza is easy

Some pizzas you can make at home include (clockwise, starting from 6 o’clock) Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno Pizza; Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion; Pesto and Tomato Pizza; Farmers Market Pizza; and Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Some pizzas you can make at home include (clockwise, starting from 6 o’clock) Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno Pizza; Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion; Pesto and Tomato Pizza; Farmers Market Pizza; and Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

With a heavy skillet, store-bought dough, and inspiration, a party is an hour away

Serious pizza aficionados will insist it’s impossible to duplicate the taste of a true Neapolitan pizza without a wood-fired oven, a stone, and years of dough-stretching practice. They’d get no argument from me.

But I have found another road to homemade pizza nirvana that involves no specialized tools or skills — just a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a glug of olive oil, and 12 ounces of dough: homemade, store-bought, or purchased from a pizzeria.

The recipe that sold me on this method was the one for Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza, which I tested while reviewing “The King Arthur Baking Company All-Purpose Baker’s Companion” (The Countryman Press, $40) last year for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I made the dough from scratch following each step, including overnight refrigerated rest time. The crust was airy, flavorful and extra-crispy on the bottom as promised. It’s no wonder their kitchen staff named it their 2020 Recipe of the Year. If you’ve got the time and ambition, I highly recommend heading over to their website and giving it a try.

But now that summer’s here, and my interest in pursuing lengthy baking projects is waning, I’m going with a modification of that technique that can be applied to any dough and ready in less than an hour.

I owe this latest revelation to Christopher Kimball and his culinary crew. In “Milk Street: The World in a Skillet” (Voracious, $35), they advise “baking” the stretched-out circle of dough first in a well-oiled skillet on top of the stove so that the bottom of the crust takes on a “rich, almost fried crispness,” then finishing it in the oven until the edges are nicely browned and the cheese is melty and bubbly. I tried their fairly classic recipe calling for red sauce, salami, cheese and red onion, and it worked like a charm. I experimented with other pan sizes and toppings, including an unconventional combination featuring corn and ranch dressing from Atlanta native and New York Times food writer Eric Kim’s “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” (Potter, $32.50). His recipe calls for a sheet pan, which is also a fine option for home pizza-making.

I took the shortcut and bought the balls of dough freshly made from the bakeries of Publix and Kroger. Each had a good flavor and texture; but with differences. The Publix dough was yeastier, producing air pockets in the crust as it baked. The Kroger crust was easier to stretch thin to the edges without it shrinking back. Now I’m curious to compare the results of other grocery stores and pizzerias that sell dough.

I baked multiple variations and invited neighbors over for an impromptu pizza party involving paper plates and lots of opinions. All the ones presented here got gobbled up enthusiastically — with the cheesy corn and ranch, along with the peach and prosciutto, garnering the most requests for recipes.

Whatever toppings you choose, make sure to allow the dough to come to room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel on an oiled baking sheet, before handling, as cold dough is harder to stretch. This could take 30 minutes to several hours depending on your kitchen’s temperature, so plan accordingly.

Extra dough may be frozen up to three months: Shape into balls, coat lightly in oil, wrap well in plastic, and label. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bring to room temperature before using.

RECIPES

Even without special tools, expertise, and hours in the kitchen, you can produce a crispy-bottomed pizza that tastes better than anything you’ll bring home in a cardboard box, delivered hot from your oven. Follow the skillet method in the recipe here, then vary the toppings as your taste buds see fit.

ExploreThe ultimate guide to pizza in Atlanta
Combined ShapeCaption
Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion

The key to the rich-tasting crispness of this pizza crust is to brush the bottom of the skillet generously with olive oil before adding the dough and toppings, then heating it on the stovetop just until it begins to sizzle and “fry.” Pop the skillet into the oven set at 500 degrees (or its hottest setting) and in 10 minutes or so, it’s done!

This recipe makes two 10- to 12-inch pizzas, or enough to serve eight to 10 people. Fresh, store-bought pizza dough from the supermarket (usually found near the deli section) or a pizzeria is typically sold in 1-pound balls, so buy two balls and remove 4 ounces (about a quarter of the dough) from each, wrap in plastic and freeze for another use. Shape the remaining dough into two 12-ounce balls, and allow it to come to room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel, on an oiled baking sheet.

If you only want to make one pizza, freeze the other ball of dough for later and cut the topping ingredients in half.

Feel free to adjust the dough to any pan size. For a personal pan pizza, use 3-4 ounces of dough. (You can also skip the meat for simple cheese pizzas.)

Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, plus about 10 large, torn basil leaves for garnish
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds store-bought or homemade pizza dough, divided in half and shaped into balls, room temperature
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups), divided
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 ounces finocchiona (fennel) salami or other salami, or pepperoni, divided
  • With a rack set in the middle position, heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the tomato puree, 1 teaspoon olive oil, red pepper flakes, oregano and chopped basil; set aside. In another small bowl, stir together the onion, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.
  • Prepare the dough: Brush the bottom of a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe 12-inch skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Set 1 ball of pizza dough on the clean counter and, using your hands, press and stretch it into a 12-inch round.
  • Transfer the round to the skillet; the dough should climb partway up the sides of the skillet. (If the dough shrinks back, let it rest for a few minutes and press it out again. The weight of the ingredients will also help stretch it. If it doesn’t touch the sides, it will still be good!)
  • Spread half of the tomato mixture evenly onto the dough. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella all the way to the edges of the dough without allowing the cheese to make contact with the skillet, followed by half of the Parmesan. Arrange half the salami on top, then scatter on half the onion mixture.
  • Set the skillet on a burner over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the oil is bubbling around the perimeter and the crust begins to rise around the edges.
  • Run a silicone spatula around the edge of the skillet, then shake the pizza in a circular motion to make sure the pizza isn’t sticking.
  • Transfer to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is well browned, 9 to 12 minutes.
  • Remove the skillet from the oven (the handle will be hot) and set it on a wire rack.
  • With a fork, lift one edge of the pizza, then carefully slide it out of the skillet directly onto the rack, leaving the residual oil in the pan.
  • Let the pizza cool for about 5 minutes. Tear or roughly chop half of the basil leaves and sprinkle them onto the pizza.
  • Make the second pizza: Pour off and discard the oil after removing the pizza from the skillet. Rinse the skillet (the handle will still be hot), wipe it dry, and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Shape, top, and bake as before. Makes 2 (10- to 12-inch) skillet pizzas.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 8: 416 calories (percent of calories from fat, 44), 16 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 20 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 37 milligrams cholesterol, 758 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from “Milk Street: The World in a Skillet” by Christopher Kimball (Voracious, 2022)

VARIATIONS

Here are some other fast, fun ways to take advantage of summer’s bounty with a ball of pizza dough.

These topping quantities are roughly calculated for one 10- to 12-inch round or one 9-by-13-inch sheet-pan pizza made with 12 ounces (3/4 pound) of pizza dough. Adjust as needed. (You’ll need about twice as much to cover a large sheet pan.)

Follow the dough preparation method used for Crispy Skillet Pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, and Red Onion. Or if you prefer a sheet pan, brush it first with olive oil, place the room-temperature dough in the middle, and push and stretch it across the bottom with your fingers as close to the edges as you can, pinching together the dough to repair any holes as needed. If your dough is stretchy enough and you like your crust thin, 1 pound of dough will do the trick. (Since the pan isn’t already heated, you’ll need to add about 5 more minutes to the cooking time.)

ExploreRECIPE: The Grandma Pie is the perfect pizza to make at home
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Pesto and Tomato Pizza can be made with homemade or high-quality store-bought pesto. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Pesto and Tomato Pizza can be made with homemade or high-quality store-bought pesto. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Pesto and Tomato Pizza can be made with homemade or high-quality store-bought pesto. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Pesto and Tomato: Spread 3/4 pound stretched and shaped pizza dough in the pan with 1/2 cup homemade or high-quality store-bought pesto. Top with 4 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (or 1 cup shredded). Top with 2-3 sliced plum tomatoes (or vine-ripened tomato slices well-drained on paper towels). Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or more mozzarella. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Per serving, based on 4: 459 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 19 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 23 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 906 milligrams sodium.

— Recipe by Susan Puckett

ExploreDIY pizza three ways
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Farmers Market Pizza is topped with items such as zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Farmers Market Pizza is topped with items such as zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Farmers Market Pizza is topped with items such as zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Farmers Market: Mix together 3/4 cup ricotta cheese with 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 large grated or finely minced garlic clove, 2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, oregano or combination), 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Spread 3/4 pound stretched and shaped pizza dough in the pan with the ricotta mixture. Top with about 1 cup tender, thinly sliced vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, red onion, bell pepper, halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, scallions or chives). Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden brown; garnish with torn basil or mint leaves and/or other fresh herbs.

Per serving, based on 4: 402 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 15 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 19 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 39 milligrams cholesterol, 641 milligrams sodium.

— Recipe by Susan Puckett

ExploreRECIPE: Make Firepit Pizza Tavern's Meatball Pizza
Combined ShapeCaption
For a dish that your guests will remember, make Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

For a dish that your guests will remember, make Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
For a dish that your guests will remember, make Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese: Brush 3/4 pound stretched and shaped pizza dough in the pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Lay 1-2 ounces of torn prosciutto over the top. Slice 1-2 fresh peaches into thin wedges and arrange over and between the prosciutto. Crumble 3 ounces soft, mild goat cheese over all. Sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary or thyme leaves. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Per serving, based on 4: 331 calories (percent of calories from fat, 36), 13 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 13 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 604 milligrams sodium.

— Recipe by Susan Puckett

Combined ShapeCaption
You can enjoy Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno Pizza even more by serving honey mixed with freshly ground black pepper for drizzling or dipping. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

You can enjoy Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno Pizza even more by serving honey mixed with freshly ground black pepper for drizzling or dipping. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
You can enjoy Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno Pizza even more by serving honey mixed with freshly ground black pepper for drizzling or dipping. (Styling by Susan Puckett / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Cheesy Corn, Ranch and Jalapeno: Spread the stretched and shaped pizza dough in the pan with 1/2 cup store-bought ranch dressing and sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella. Top with 1 cup fresh corn kernels, 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, half a thinly sliced medium-sized red onion and 1 large jalapeno, thinly sliced in rings. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden brown. This is extra-delicious served with runny honey mixed with freshly ground black pepper for dipping or drizzling.

Per serving, based on 4 (without honey): 491 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 17 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 25 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 41 milligrams cholesterol, 843 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” by Eric Kim (Potter, 2022)

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