1. Make your own pizza dough.
Yes, you can buy pretty decent pizza dough from the bakery counter at your grocery store, but why bother when you can easily mix up a batch at home for pennies? Use any one of our pizza dough recipes to get started.
While the rise time on most of these is relative short (one to two hours), you can mix the dough the night or morning before and let the dough rise slowly all day. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature for an hour before shaping.
My favorite method for shaping the pizza is to roll the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. The dough sticks to the parchment, making it easier to work with and easier to transfer into the oven. The pizza will release from the parchment during cooking and the parchment can be removed halfway through cooking. The parchment darkens in the oven, but doesn’t burn or catch fire.
2. Keep the sauce and toppings simple.
When it comes to red sauce, trust us when we say a simple, no-cook blender sauce is best. Pesto or rich ricotta are wonderful substitutes as well.
There are also no rules about the kinds of toppings you put on your pizza. Choose ones you love. They will cook a little in the oven, but if it isn’t something you like to eat raw, like sausage or mushrooms, cook them ahead of time. If you’d like fresh greens or herbs (like arugula or basil) on your pizza, sprinkle them over the pizza right when it comes out of the oven. The residual heat from the pizza will wilt the greens just slightly and bring out their flavor.
It’s best, though, to keep the toppings to just a handful at most. If you load homemade pizza down with a ton of toppings, it may take too long for the crust to cook.
3. Bake it hot.
Don’t be afraid to really crank the heat up to its highest setting. The high heat will help make a crunchier and more flavorful crust. Let the oven heat for at least half an hour before baking your pizzas. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it in the lower-middle of your oven. (Or you can invert a baking sheet in the oven as a sort of pseudo pizza stone.)
Baking on parchment paper will make loading and unloading the pizza from the oven easier, but you can also use flour or cornmeal to keep the pizza from sticking to a pizza peel or additional inverted baking sheet for building the pizza on.