Amazing Homemade Pizzas

I was really in the mood to make some delicious pizza last weekend.  I remembered that my son Danny had eaten pizza in New York City a few months ago that he had gone nuts for.  I wanted to recreate that pizza for Danny.  I had so much fun experimenting with making the pizzas, and the results were amazing!  First, I used half the recipe for my homemade pizza dough to make one large pie.  The pie was half plain, and half mushroom.  The second pie I made was specifically for my son Danny, to recreate the pie he had in NY.   For that pie, I topped it with some caramalized onions, and then with some shredded romano cheese.  Then I made some homemade spinach pesto, which Danny drizzed over some of his pizza.  I can’t tell how delicious those pies were!  Few pizzarias make pizza that taste this good!

Pizza Dough  (This dough recipe makes 2 large pizzas, but the following instructions are meant to be enough for only 1 pizza.)  For the dough recipe, type in calzone above in the search, and the recipe for the pizza dough will come up.

for the mushroom pizza:  Heat saute pan.  Put a little olive oil in a saute pan to coat. Put sliced mushrooms (about 8-10 oz.)  in hot oil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, a few cracks of black pepper, and a light sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  Let sit undisturbed till mushrooms brown on bottom.  Turn and cook until nicely browned.  If you have fresh garlic on hand, mince or chop one or two cloves and throw into pan at this point.  Keep moving garlic around so it doesn’t burn.  Garlic just needs to saute for a minute to become translucent and be flavorful.  Although, I didn’t do this, you might want to add a sprinkling of either fresh thyme leaves (leaves from one sprig), or a sprinkling of dry oregano.  Saute another minute or so. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place sheet of parchment paper on large, heavy duty cookie sheet or half sheet pan. Sprinkle parchment paper with yellow cornmeal (I use Quaker).  Then, roll dough out on a lightly floured clean counter, or lightly floured piece of waxed paper or parchment paper to 1/4 inch thickness into either a large circle or rectangle.  Once dough is rolled out, lift the dough with your hands and transfer it to parchment on cookie sheet.  Then spoon about 1 cup of marinara sauce over dough.  Sprinkle a very light sprinkling of red pepper flakes over sauce (if you like the heat).  Then sprinkle about 8 oz. of coursely grated or thinly sliced whole milk (not fresh) mozzarella cheese evenly over pizza.  Place mushrooms evenly over pizza.  Sprinkle very lightly with dried oregano.  Bake on middle rack in oven for about 15-18 minutes until the underside of the dough is lightly browned.  Then change the setting on the oven to broil, and cook for about 3 more minutes until the cheese becomes bubbly, brown, and beautiful!

for the carmelized onion and romano pizza:

Thinly slice about 4 medium-large onions.  Pour about 1/4 cup olive oil into a large saute pan.  Get it hot over a medium flame.  Add the sliced onions.  Sprinkle them with kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Saute for about 30-40 minutes over a medium flame, turning every so often.  The idea is not to burn the onions, but to brown them.  This takes a little while, so be patient. Set pan aside.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place a sheet of parchment paper over a large heavy duty cookie sheet or sheet pan.  Then sprinkle some yellow cornmeal (I use Quaker) on the parchment paper.   Roll dough out on lightly floured clean counter or sheet of waxed or parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thickness, either into a large circle or a large rectangle.  Spoon about 1 cup marinara sauce over the dough.  Distribute onions evenly over top of sauce.  Sprinkle about 4 garlic cloves, minced on top.  Then sprinkle about 4 oz. of shredded, not grated, romano cheese (which I use because romano cheese has no lactose in it), or shredded parmesan cheese over top of pizza.  Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt,  red pepper flakes if you like a little heat, a little coarse black pepper,  and sprinkle very lightly with dried oregano.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake in the oven on middle rack for about 15 minutes until the bottom of the dough is lightly browned.  If pizza is browning too quickly, lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Serve with pesto on the side, and spoon a little on if your wish.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Amazing Spinach And Mushroom Calzone With Fantastic Homemade Pizza Dough

I had so much fun this weekend cooking pizza and calzones. I made pizza dough from scratch, which is so easy. I divided the dough in half. I used half to make one huge calzone, and I used the other half to make a large beautiful pizza. Both were outstanding!!!! I had so much fun making it and  seeing the reaction I got  that I made another batch of the dough, froze half of the dough to make 2 smaller calzones, and this time I made an incredible pizza for my son Danny. We are brainwashed, I think to believe that we can only get great pizza (or calzones) from pizzerias, and it just isn’t true.

for the dough: (This makes enough dough for 2 large pizzas. or for one large pizza and one large calzone, or for one large pizza and 2 medium calzones, or for 2 large calzones. or for 4 medium calzones) Are you sufficiently confused? You can freeze the pizza dough by forming it into disks, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and then putting it in freezer ziploc bags.

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (I used light)
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (around 110 – 115 degrees)

I made the dough the first time in my food processor, and the second time in my standing mixer using the dough hook. Both worked great! I’ve made pizza dough by hand, and that works perfectly too!

Measure the hot water into a pyrex measuring cup. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Put a thermometer in if you have one and when the water temp is between 110 and 115 degrees (or lukewarm), pour in the yeast and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula.

When yeast mixer has some pools of tan bubbles which have risen to the top-(this will take about 5 minutes), add the 2 tablespoons of oil and  pour the yeast-water-oil mixture into either the large bowl of your mixer, the food processor bowl, or a large mixing bowl (if you are making dough by hand).  Then measure your dry ingredients (flour and salt) and dump into the yeast- water mixture. Use the dough hook with your mixer or the metal blade with your food processor.  On low speed with the mixer, mix for about 5-10 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl once or twice. Dough is done when it feels quite smooth. In the food processor, pulse until forms a ball, let it process for a few minutes.  Dump dough once it is smooth, onto a clean floured board or clean table or counter. Form into a ball. If you are doing by hand, pour water-yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl, dump dry ingredients into bowl.  Use a fork to bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid in the large bowl.  Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in. Dump mixture onto a large floured clean work surface, and knead the dough with clean, flour-dusted hands.  Knead the dough until you have a smooth, springy dough, about 5-7 minutes.

Form your smooth dough into one ball.  Grease a largish bowl very lightly with oil (you just want a slight film of oil in the bowl) and put the dough in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in warm spot for one to two hours until the dough has doubled in size. Or place in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. If dough has not doubled by that time, take it out of fridge and place in warm spot for a little while till it has doubled. Then uncover the bowl, and dump dough out onto floured board, counter, or table. Turn it a few times. Then deflate the dough, get the air out of it by patting it down with your hand. Form it into a large disk about 12 inches in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut dough into as many pieces as you want. The larger the piece of dough, the larger the pizza or calzone will be. Form each piece you break off into a round disk about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Wrap with plastic wrap. Then refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use. If you don’t plan on using the dough that day, then freeze it in a ziploc bag. Of course, you don’t have to refrigerate the dough disks if you are planning to make your pizza  right away.

for the calzone filling: ( I made one large calzone using half of the recipe of the pizza dough, but next time, I will make 2 smaller ones)

Double the following ingredients this if you are using ALL the dough for calzones: 

    • olive oil
    • 8 oz. mushrooms (I used white button)
    • 5-7 oz. prewashed baby spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup either marinara sauce, or tomato sauce
  • a sprinkling of dried oregano or thyme or fresh 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves- about 4 sprigs)- optional
  • 1/2 pound of grated or sliced thin mozzarella cheese, either whole milk or part skim (I prefer to use a block of whole milk – not fresh – mozzarella cheese and either slice it or grate it myself)

Into a hot large saute pan, pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, and toss in the hot oil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, some cracks of black pepper, and a light sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  Let sit untouched until the mushrooms are browned.  Then turn them with a spatula.  Let them sit again until they are brown and smell fantastic.  Lower the flame and add the garlic, and let the garlic get translucent, but do not burn.  Add the thyme or organo, if you are using it.   Drop in the butter and toss the mushrooms in it to make them tasty and shiny.

Add the tomato sauce or the marinara sauce.  Heat for a few minutes.  Turn heat either down or off completely, add the fresh spinach (in batches if you need to).  Toss.  The spinach will wilt from the heat of the hot ingredients in the pan.  The spinach doesn’t need to cook!  You should have a thick, tasty mixture that’s not too moist. (If your mixture is too liquidy, it will burst through the dough when you’re cooking the calzone).

Divide the spinach and mushroom mixture into either 1 or two portions depending on whether you are making one large or two smaller calzones.  (You can make this filling in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to use.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place parchment paper on heavy duty baking sheet.  Then roll dough out on another sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper which has been floured.  Roll into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on prepared parchment lined baking sheet.  Place the filling on one half of the circle, then put the cheese on top of the filling, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dried oregano (optional).  Lift the other side of the dough up, and fold over the other side.  You will have a half circle or half moon shape.  Crimp the edges really well so none of the filling can spill out.  Cook for about 12-18 minutes until the dough is puffed up and golden  on top,  golden on the underside, and the filling is hot.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Cut the large calzone into at least 2 pieces. 2 smaller calzones are probably perfect for large single size portions.

Note:  If you have made the spinach-mushroom mixture in advance, bring to room temperature before you fill the calzones and bake them.