Spatula Diaries: Tips for a DIY pizza night

Pizza night never gets old.

Some of you consider it high art, sliding homemade dough into crazy-hot wood-fired outdoor ovens. Others keep it simple with good quality store-bought crusts and kid-friendly toppings. Whatever the case, an interactive dinner is a great way to experience fresh combinations and ensure everyone is happy with the results.

I like a leisurely weekend pizza night where there’s no rush to get everyone fed, and it’s all about tasting each person’s handiwork. To get things started, I make a classic Margherita pizza with homemade red sauce (recipe below), fresh mozzarella slices and basil slivers. Once it’s out, I pass around the slices and then invite everyone to create their own. I keep a saucepan of warm red sauce on the stove, then I spread the other ingredients out in logical order on the counter.

FullSizeRender (6)They might include:

Olive oil
Fresh, minced garlic
Anchovies (love ‘em!)
Olives of all sorts
Fresh tomatoes
Chopped raw onion
Sautéed wild mushrooms
Spinach, arugula, kale or winter greens, slivered
Roasted peppers
Fresh jalapeños
Reconstituted dried peppers
Caramelized red onions
Sun-dried tomatoes
Artichoke hearts
Cooked shrimp or crawfish
Italian sausage, crumbled and sautéed
Canadian bacon
Smoked boudin
Sliced fresh figs, apples or pear
Cheeses, included fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, feta, blue, Parmesan and smoked Gouda
Lemon wedges for finishing

For dough, there are plenty of great options. If I make homemade, I use a Patricia Wells recipe that’s easy and reliable. But there are so many quality store-bought doughs or crusts these days that work well if you’re short on time.

For the red sauce, I always make my own using the following formula:

Homemade Red Sauce

1 32-ounce can good-quality whole Italian tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon butter

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Pour the tomatoes into a saucepan and heat to medium. Add the minced garlic, salt, pepper and oregano and cook for about 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Add the butter, stir until blended and turn off the heat.

For more ideas on a variety of homemade pizzas, check out our “Dining In” feature from the August issue of 225.

Maggie Heyn Richardson is a regular 225 contributor and the author of Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. Reach her at hungryforlouisiana.com.

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