The Thinking 

One Woman Defies the Pizza-Industrial Complex

June 14, 2012


DRINA writes:

You have clarified before that homemade pizza is a perfectly good and acceptable food. Perhaps some of your readers who aren’t ready to give up pizza would consider making their own? I challenge them to make their own pizza for a few months and then try going back to cheese-product topped cardboard if they dare.

Pizza is on our family menu at least once a month, and we usually enjoy three basic kinds: regular tomato sauce, Alfredo sauce, and pesto. It’s hard to beat pesto pizza! Since I’ve had a basil plant in front of a window in our house over the past year, I’ve made several pints of pesto. (Note – you can find perfectly fine pesto in a jar at the grocery, but it’s another food that’s hard to purchase once you’ve made your own.) Pesto pizza is now my very favorite, and we use any combination of these toppings: fresh mushrooms, bacon, tomato, black olives, artichoke hearts, and diced cooked chicken. My husband loves pizza with Alfredo sauce, usually topped with diced cooked chicken, mushrooms, black olives and spinach. We still make regular pizza with tomato sauce, mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, pepper, onion etc, and all of them are topped with REAL mozzarella and Parmesan or cheddar cheeses. Also, pizza crust is easy to make. I like thick crust and my husband likes thin, so I usually alternate between a couple of different recipes. If anyone needs a place to start, there are two good crust recipes here and here. Replacing part of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat adds to the taste, texture and nutrition.

If anyone is interested in making their own pesto, this is the recipe a friend gave me. It’s delicious, and more affordable since it uses walnuts instead of expensive pine nuts:

4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
16 lg. fresh basil leaves
2 Parsley sprigs
6 T Parmesan cheese
1/4c chopped walnuts
1/2 t salt
1/2c olive oil

Raise the bar – make your own pizza!

Laura writes:

Thank you for the suggestions. I never thought of making pizza with Alfredo sauce. Good idea.

Making pizza at home is cultural resistance of the highest order. It’s a form of defiance against the cult of ugliness that threatens to engulf us.

Here is my own recipe for crust:

1 cup warm water
1 tsp. yeast
pinch sugar
3 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 T. olive oil

Put it all together and mix it up by hand or dough hook. Let it rise for a couple of hours. It makes three or four small or two large pizzas. Roll out the dough, top it and bake at 450.

It’s a good idea to make large batches of pesto when it is at its peak and freeze portions in baggies. This makes for an easy meal on pizza or pasta and will keep throughout the winter. I use about half the garlic that Drina uses. I sometimes make pesto with no nuts as my older son is allergic to them. But when I do use nuts, I also prefer walnuts. Pecans work too. Arugula is good in pesto too.

Also, grilled pizza is an even more exalted act of resistance, as it is reminscent of pizza’s origins in early Mediterranean civilization. Plato probably ate tons of grilled pizza.

Here’s what you do. Roll out the dough and place on a cookie sheet. Slide it onto a charcoal grill with the coals spread evenly in the middle (or on a gas grill). Grill until the underside is browned. Check doneness by lifting edge of crust with a tongs.

Remove crust and place the toppings on the grilled side of the crust. Also move the coals to the side for indirect heat. Then slide the pizza back onto the grill. Grill until the bottom is browned. Again, use a tongs to gently lift the crust to check whether it is done. Alternately, it is possible to grill both sides of the crust, place the toppings on and broil briefly in the oven.

This tastes like pizza made in a wood-fired oven. It can be made even on a small hibachi grill.

These suggestions come from a very good cookbook I received for Christmas: Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig W. Priebe (DK, 2008).

                                           — Comments —

Joseph L. Ebbecke writes:

The classic nut in pesto is pignoli (pine nuts) which requires selling at least one child into slavery to afford on a regular basis.

Walnuts are good but sunflower seeds are a very cheap and tasty substitute if you want pesto pasta frequently – there have been times when I practically lived on it.

Laura writes:

Sunflower seeds! Of course. I never buy pine nuts. Very expensive, and my son is violently allergic to them.

I believe pesto has immune-boosting properties. The garlic, basil, nuts and cheese together create something death-defying.

But it is very important to use fresh basil grown outside. However, there also are pretty decent jarred varieties of pesto.

I always use extra virgin olive oil, which I buy in large, more economical containers.

Bruce B. writes:

I think I’m going to ask my wife to make me Chicago deep dish pizza for Father’s Day this year. I remember seeing a recipe in Jeff Smith’s book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. I found it online here.

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