Remember how exciting and awesome pizza was when you were little? Every Friday night, whether we were at our mom’s or dad’s house, my sister and I were allowed to order pizza for dinner; this was probably mostly because at the end of the week the parental units were sacked out from chasing and shuttling around two wild and crazy girls, but we would have rioted if they’d ever suggested ending the tradition.
Although I still remember the phone number of the Altadena Pizza Hut (781-0880) and our perennial order (half mushroom and olive for me, half pepperoni and sausage for sis), my tastes have certainly graduated.
I’m pleased to say that pizza never loses its luster, and it is also hands-down one of the best things to make when you have friends with different food needs/ preferences over for dinner. Why?
- You can make a couple of meaty, cheesy pizzas and a couple of vegan ones… everyone gets what they like!
- You have ample opportunity to be creative and try out new flavor combinations
- They look impressive, so the only thing you need to accompany them is a nice, big salad
- Your friends know exactly what to bring over: beer and wine
Reese makes our pizza crust when we have pizza parties, but you could just as easily buy dough at Trader Joe’s in the fridge section. I’m also a big fan of Vicolo’s cornmeal crusts, which are available at many independent markets here in San Francisco and environs. Look around and find one you like! Even (and especially) on the nights when don’t have time to make your own crust, pizza is a beautiful thing to have in your meal rotation.
I’m not guessing how many friends this will serve. It really depends how hungry they are!
Note: a couple of the directions in here use longer increments of time (like “hours”), but the active prep time is actually pretty minimal. We like to make these on Sundays in between doing loads of laundry, calling our moms, and texting our friends to come over for dinner.
Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers (used on both pizzas)
I know, I know, I just wrote about these last week, but these taste really different because they are marinated, and they are prepared using a slightly different technique. More techniques = more kitchen confidence = people are impressed!
- 2 whole medium bell peppers
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried basil
- Salt + pepper to taste
- Turn on oven to broil setting. (By the way, the broiler is a wonderful thing. Think of it as an extremely convenient appliance you could charge a lot for that already happens to be inside your oven!)
- Set your bell peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning every 5 minutes or so, until nicely charred all over. When they are black, remove from the broiler and set in a bowl.
- Let the peppers sit in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle. The steam will loosen the tough skin on the outside, and by the time they’re room temperature (about 10 minutes), you should be able to pull it off easily.
- Remove the stem and seeds, then slice the peppers into bite-sized pieces.
- Place the peppers in another bowl with the remaining ingredients and let them hang out for a few hours while you text a couple more friends to come over for dinner. (I’m assuming you’re making these on a Sunday.)
Vegan Pizza, pictured above
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise into ¼ inch thick rounds
- ½ large yellow onion, sliced
- A couple of good glugs of olive oil
- Salt + pepper to taste
- Set a pizza stone in your oven, if you have one, and then preheat it to 425º.
- Toss all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands. Then turn onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or just really well-oiled).
- Let roast for about 35 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, remove one pan at a time and flip the eggplant slices so they brown on both sides.
- When golden brown all over and nicely charred at the edges, remove from oven and set aside to let cool.
For the Pizza Assembly
- 1 round pizza dough
- Corrnmeal for dusting
- Roasted eggplant, above
- ½ recipe marinated red bell peppers, above above
- 1-2 Tbsp capers, chopped
- 2 Tbsb pine nuts (optional)
- A few basil leaves, chiffonaded, for garnish (What-ed? Chiffonaded! Roll your basil leaves up into a little taquito, then slice crosswise with a sharp knife into ribbons.)
- Roll out your dough. Be patient and use lots of extra flour. And take off your rings first.
- If you are using a pizza stone, you will be sliding your prepared pizza dough directly onto it to bake in a few minutes. Get out a cutting board big enough to hold your dough and dust with cornmeal, then assemble all your toppings except the basil on the pizza dough.
When it’s ready, get a friend to open the oven door for you (trust me), then slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone. The cornmeal will act like a million tiny wheels and will help it slide off the cutting board and onto the stone.
- Let bake about 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Then pull back onto the baking sheet.
- Let rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve!
Caramelized onions for the pizza
- 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
- Glug of olive oil
- In a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet Combine ingredients in a cast-iron skillet or other dish that is both oven- and stove-safe. Cover with a lid and put in the oven at 425º (there should be space in there with the roasting eggplant). Roast with the lid on the pan for about an hour, stirring about every 20 minutes.
- If you want to speed up the process at this point, you can move them to the stove top and sauté them to finish caramelizing, or you can put them back in the oven for another thirty minutes to an hour.
For the omni pizza assembly
- Caramelized onions
- 4-5 slices prosciutto, chopped
- A few good dollops fresh mascarpone
- Roll out your pizza dough (follow directions above!), then, once you have it on the cornmealed baking sheet, brush with oil. Let it rest for a couple minutes.
- While the dough is resting, sauté the chopped proscuitto for a couple minutes so it’s, like, bacon-y. (You can tell I know all about this.)
- When it’s done, put the onions on the pizza dough, then add the proscuitto, then the mascarpone.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, slice and mack down, omnis!