The Gygi Guide to Pizza

Just hearing the words “Pizza Night” brings happy feelings and weekend vibes. But why is that? Was Pizza Friday a thing for you growing up? Or maybe it still is. Lucky you! We certainly feel a draw to the joy that pizza elicits and highly recommend adding it to your weekly meal rotation.  That gets us thinking though, what makes a good pizza night? 

Now, we aren’t picky. But the one thing pizza night should definitely include is pizza. Some weeks we venture out to a local pizza place and try something new. Or at the end of a long day it feels good to say, “Hey, let’s order a pizza.” As the longest standing food delivery service, pizza delivery has been around for centuries!  So you can’t go wrong with a classic. Get the good stuff ordered in, and keep the kitchen sink clean for at least one meal.

The other alternative is to make your own pizza. Mmmmmm. With a homemade crust, your choice of sauce, a simple sprinkle of fresh cheese or a big pile of toppings, the whole thing is fully customizable. Which means every consumer ends up with a pizza they love. Creating delicious pizza at home couldn’t be tastier. We are not strangers to the hurdles that can pop up when it comes to deciding all the different components. So we’ve broken down each part of the pizza so you can create with confidence!

The other part of pizza night includes the people. Who do you share your pizza with? Sometimes the best person to share with is yourself! Or you might invite over a group of friends and all whip up your own creations. Ages one to 101. They all love the fun of pizza night. So gather up a few new recipes and ideas, call together your people and let’s bring pizza night back to the menu! 

It starts with the crust…

Thin. Thick. Chewy. Crispy. Dense. Light. Flavorful. Wood fired. Deep dish. And on and on and on. For every person in the world, there is a different preference for pizza- and it all starts with the crust!

Having a few homemade crust options at the ready, you can make just about any style of pizza with just a little bit of prep time.

There are times where we love the multi-step process of making homemade sourdough crust, and there are other days where we need a quick and easy crust that comes together in minutes. No matter how busy your day is, homemade pizza is never out of reach. 

After making, cooking, and tasting multiple different pizza crust recipes, we have narrowed it down to three of our favorite, most-reliable crust recipes that we think belong in each kitchen. Each of these crusts can be used in multiple ways to achieve the yummiest homemade pizza you’ve ever made. Follow along with us as we talk about pizza and show you just how versatile homemade pizza can be! 

Neapolitan Pizza

Crust

Want a chewy, slightly tangy, cooks in mere minutes kind of crust? This is the one for you! Our friend, Chef Brandon Price has simplified his traditional Neapolitan pizza crust recipe for busy families to add to their pizza night rotation with ease. The best news? You can acheive this classic wood-fired flavor in your oven at home!

Tuscan Sun Pizza Crust

This is what we would consider a classic, traditional pizza crust. Ready in about an hour, you can make this on a Friday afternoon, and have pizza ready that night. Roll it out thin for a crispy crust, keep it thick for a fuller crust (just bake it a little bit longer!)  Easy to freeze and thaw to have dough on demand. We love and make this versatile and flavorful recipe from our friends over at The Food Nanny

Two-Ingredient Pizza Crust

 You can honestly make pizza crust with only two ingredients. This will give you a more dense, protein rich dough that requires no rise time, holds up its shape with lots of toppings piled up, and can get you closer to the dinner finish line faster than our other recipes. Just simply measure, mix, roll and bake.

The Pizza Crust Awards

Testing pizza crust is a job we could do every week! For this test, we whipped up a batch of each of the types of crust, kept the toppings simple (homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil), baked them in the same oven, on the same preheated pizza stone and ate and ate and ate. 

While the results were all tasty, we did notice some fun differences in each of the crusts that made them all nice to have in your recipe box. In true Gen Z style, we are going to give each of the pizza crusts an award for their participation:

Best Crust to us in a time crunch: 2-ingredient Dough

Because it doesn’t require any rise or proof time, you can quickly whip this up with some basic essentials. We love a recipe where you can dream about pizza, and be eating it 30 minutes later, this is that recipe for you! It also has a sturdy crust, so load this one full of toppings and it’s strong enough to hold its shape. 

Best Flavored Crust: The Neapolitan

Due to the time it takes to proof and rise this dough, you definitely develop a strong and satisfying flavor. The texture was also incredibly chewy and delicious. If you love the flavor of a fine dough, this recipe is worth the time and effort. It does not disappoint. 

All- Around Favorite: Tuscan Sun Pizza Crust

This crust is the classic, all-around favorite because it has that traditional soft texture, but more of the developed bread-like flavor. You can roll it out thin, for a crispier texture. Or if you like a fluffier crust, keep it thick and bake it longer. It only requires one hour to rise, so it is the perfect blend of homemade, quick and tasty. 

Best Crust for Beginners: Store-Bought Dough

If you’ve never made pizza before, and might be intimidated by the thought of all the steps, go for the pre-made, store bought dough. You still get the satisfaction of creating in your own kitchen, but it will help eliminate the stress of trying it all from scratch on your first trt. We love the convenience mixed with customization of buying your dough all ready to bake at home. 

Time for the Toppings…

Sauce

Our philosophy is to keep the sauce simple. It should enhance and support all the flavors on the pizza, not overshadow with overly flavored red sauce (unless that is your thing, then GO FOR IT!)

We love this straightforward tomato sauce recipe . This recipe is so easy. Which means there’s no reason to use a store bought pizza sauce ever again. Our friend Chef Brandon shared this genius with us, and we are forever changed. The moment he blended it all up in a 32 oz deli container, we knew he was our kind of person! Keep a batch of this tasty sauce in the fridge and you’ll be ready for pizza night every night.

Cheese 

So you’ve selected your crust, topped it with Brandon’s perfectly Simple Sauce, now let’s take a second to talk about cheese. When it comes to selecting a cheese for your pizza, the classic choice would be mozzarella. Cheddar, parmesan or provolone cheeses are often added as an accent flavor but a mozzarella cheese base will always be the original. We highly suggest buying full-fat mozzarella for full flavor. Buying cheese in block form and grating it at home will ensure amazing flavor, perfect melting texture, and a better overall result. Pre-shredded cheese comes coated in an anti-caking agent that can affect flavor and texture when melted. So next time you’re shopping for cheese for your pizza, grab a ball of fresh mozzarella or a block of full-fat low-moisture cheese from the grocery aisle or deli counter and grate it yourself. Your taste buds will thank you! 

Pepperoni

While you can definitely eat a pizza without pepperoni, we try to add it as often as we can. It’s just so tasty. So does the type of pepperoni you use matter? We think so! We found that a blend of pork and beef resulted in the best flavor and texture on homemade pizza. We also found that the thickness of the pepperoni makes a huge difference in the way that it bakes, which in turn affects the final bite. We baked a thick and thin slice of both one inch and two inch pepperoni and found that thinly sliced pepperoni sunk perfectly into the melted cheese and left a flat layer of toppings. The thicker sliced pepperoni curled into little bowls that held their own fat. The thicker pepperoni did affect the bite, texture and flavor. So if a strong pepperoni flavor is what you’re searching for, opt for the thicker slice. If you prefer a subtle hint of pepperoni, we’d suggest a thinner slice. 

Styles of Pizza

Traditional crust:

This is the classic pizza crust that most Americans are familiar with. From the $5 pizza joint to home delivery pizza, we are certain that you have tried an American pizza crust at some point. It is generally rolled to a medium thickness crust that bakes up with the perfect chew. It features a sturdy, crispy bottom with the perfect amount of bubbles along the top crust.  

Crust info: We baked our American style pizza on the Tuscan Sun Pizza Crust from The Food Nanny.
We split our batch of dough into two, and rolled each dough ball out into a perfect 14” crust. We absolutely love the pillow-y soft texture of this crust. 

Topping ideas: American style pizza is known for being more sturdy, because of this it can hold a large variety of toppings without folding over. If you love a loaded combination pizza, American pizza crust makes a great option. 

Baking tips: American pizza crust can be cooked on a variety of surfaces. We love using a traditional pizza pan as it creates the perfect amount of crisp on the crust without it losing the amazing chewy texture. 

Chicago Deep Dish:

This pizza gets its name from the city in which it was invented! Italian immigrants living in Chicago were looking to create the familiar flavors of home with a new twist, and what they created was somewhat of a backwards Italian pizza. Chicago pizza is cooked in a pan and features taller crust sides giving it the now-famous deep dish style. When making a Chicago pizza, cheese is placed on the crust to prevent sogginess, all your meat and veggie toppings are added, and the sauce is placed on top. Chicago style pizzas are cooked low and slow.

Crust info: we used the Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough recipe for this style of pizza because of its ease of use but also its stability. This pizza crust can tolerate more handling without overworking and holds together really well. We wanted to pack our Deep Dish pizza with toppings, and this crust was up to the task of holding everything together. 

Topping ideas: the traditional toppings for a Chicago style pizza are pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, onion, green peppers, and mushrooms. But the options are really endless as this sturdy crust can handle any topping that you throw at it. Just make sure your sauce is on the thicker side as this will keep your pizza from becoming soup-like when baking. 

Baking tips: Chicago style pizza is traditionally cooked in a deep dish or cast iron pan and needs to be baked low and slow to ensure that it is baked through. It helps to wipe the pan with oil prior to adding the crust, this will ensure a crispy crust that is easy to remove from the pan.

New York Style:

One of the world’s most popular regional pizzas. Ask a New Yorker about pizza, and they will passionately share that New York style pizza is the only pizza option needed. The staple of a New York style pizza is the thin, but still chewy, crust and large slices. We’re talking pizza slices so large that you have to fold them in half to take a bite. It has long been hypothesized that the flavor and texture of New York style pizza crust has to do with the unique minerals that are present in New York City water. 

Crust info: We made our New York Style pizza on the Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough. This dough was up to the task of being rolled out super thin without turning into a cracker once baked. The two-ingredient dough keeps a perfectly chewy, almost flatbread-like, texture that paired perfectly with lots of cheese.

Topping ideas: When eating a New York style pizza, the crust and cheese are usually the star of the show. For this reason, when walking the streets of New York, you’ll generally see countertops full of simple pizzas light on the toppings. Light on sauce, covered in full-fat mozzarella cheese, classic pepperoni, maybe a few anchovies, and a dash of herb seasoning. 

Baking tips: In order to achieve the famous, crispy crust that makes a New York style pizza so special, we recommended baking your pizza on a pizza screen as this allows for increased airflow.

Detroit Style:

Detroit style pizza is known for its signature shape as this pizza is baked in a rectangular pan making the pizza itself, and the slices, square. A classic Detroit style crust includes a thick, spongey crust with a crispy bottom. This requires starting with a slightly wetter crust and some extra oil coated in the bottom of the pan. Add your dough, cover with cubed cheese and toppings, add two or three stripes of sauce, and wala! This style of pizza is also very particular about its pepperoni. Regular pepperoni just won’t do, you must use the smaller, thicker pepperoni that curl and retain their fat when baked. 

Crust info: We baked our Detroit Style pizza on the Tuscan Sun Pizza Crust from The Food Nanny. We slowly spread the dough into the square pan using a similar technique as when making focaccia bread. After a few minutes, the bread filled the pan corners and was ready to go. We kept our crust on the slightly thicker side and parbaked it for 10 minutes before adding toppings. 

Topping ideas: Classic Detroit pizzas include all the meat and cheese. Cubed Wisconsin mozzarella cheese is the go-to but can be hard to find, so any cubed mozzarella cheese will work. The order for the toppings has some leeway to them, but the classic square crust shape and crispy bottom crust is what truly sets it apart. 

Baking tips: In order to achieve the crispy bottom crust with pillow-y dough, Detroit style pizza needs to be baked at a higher temperature for less time. Spreading the pan with oil prior to baking can assist in achieving a crispy crust as well as helping remove the pie from the pan.

Neapolitan Style:

This is the original Italian pizza! This delicious pie dates all the way back to the 18th century in Naples, Italy. At this time, poorer Italian citizens needed to purchase food that was cheap and easily eaten, this is where pizza was designed. Simple ingredients, a quick cooking time, and easy to eat on-the-go. Neapolitan style pizza is known for having a thin chewy crust but is not necessarily made to hold a lot of toppings. It is best to keep this style of pizza simple. Because the crust is so light and thin, most Neapolitan Style pizzas are considered to be a personal pizza where it can be eaten in one sitting.

Crust info: We baked our Neapolitan style pizza on the incredible sourdough crust from @chefbrandonprice. The dough requires a little more effort to make but the resulting flavor and texture is beyond worth it. We could eat it everyday and not get sick of it.  

Topping ideas: The classic margherita pizza features homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. While traditionally kept simple, it is not uncommon today to find a wood fired pizza joint elevating the classic Neapolitan flavors. 

Baking tips: Neapolitan Style pizzas are typically cooked in a wood burning pizza oven. But they can also be easily made at home and cooked in your oven on a preheated pizza stone!    

Calzone:

This fun twist on pizza is known for its traditional crescent shape. Roll out your crust, add your toppings, fold, and crimp! When it comes to making a calzone, there is some debate on whether to add your sauce in with the toppings or to serve it on the side, but whatever option you choose, it’s sure to be delicious. 

Crust info: we made our calzone using the Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough recipe. We wanted to make sure that the crust would hold together, seal well, and be able to handle lots of toppings. The two-ingredient dough worked so perfectly for this. 

Topping ideas: really anything goes when it comes to selecting toppings for your calzone. Meat and cheese are more obvious, but don’t be afraid to add in some veggies. Egg wash the calzone prior to baking if you like a golden, crispier crust. 

Baking tips: this versatile option can be baked on a pizza stone, pizza pan, or even a cookie sheet. Just use what you have.

Pizza Tools….

Let’s start with Pizza Pans.

It’s so fun to see how one slight change in a baking surface can drastically affect the outcome of your pizza. From pans to stones to screens, is it really necessary to have one of each? And to that we say, it depends! Pizza is a passionate and personal topic, everyone’s preferences are a little different. So let’s talk through what you can expect when using each type of pan and then you can decide for yourself which option can best create your perfect pizza. 

  • A pizza stone can be a game changer when it comes to making pizzas at home. A stone is the easiest way to turn your conventional oven (or even your grill) into the perfect environment for making pizza. A traditional oven heats at a slower rate which often results in the toppings being burnt before the crust is cooked all the way through. A pizza stone eliminates that problem by creating a super hot heat source (most are safe up to 550 degrees)  directly to the crust, this allows the crust to begin to cook quickly and evenly with the toppings. This technique does require you to preheat the stone but we promise it is worth the extra step! 
  • Traditional pizza pans are ideal for use from countertop to oven. Roll out your dough and build your pizza right on the pan, then toss the entire tray into the oven. Pizza pans feature a thin, lightweight aluminum construction that allows for the crust to cook quickly and evenly while the cheese on top melts at a perfect speed. 
  • A pizza screen features a perforated bottom that allows for direct heat and increased airflow right to the crust. If you like a thin, crispy pizza crust then this might just be the pan for you! Pizza screens are great as they provide stability to the pizza crust making it easier to move to and from the oven. 
  • Deep dish pizza pans are another fun option to have in your kitchen. Craving an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza but can’t afford a weekend trip or the cost of having a pizza shipped to your house? With a deep dish pan, you can make this style of pizza right at home! This pan allows for the pizza crust to round up the sides, is sturdy enough to handle all the toppings you could desire, and will bake evenly for a perfect result every time.  
  • Another fun pan option for making pizza at home is your traditional baking sheet. It feels a little out of the box to think about pizza being cooked and served in a rectangular pan, but it’s still just as delicious! Using a baking sheet or 9 x 13 baking pan allows for a pillow-y soft crust and lots of toppings. You may need to parbake the crust a bit to ensure that the dough is cooked through, so read through your recipe beforehand. 

A pizza peel can be the perfect companion to your home pizza making goals, especially if baking on a pizza stone. Simply toss a bit of cornmeal on the pizza peel, roll out your dough and build your pizza. Then simply slide the unbaked pizza right onto the preheated stone. Using a peel allows for easy transfer from countertop to oven while keeping your hands away from the heat. Cornmeal will be your best friend as it helps to keep the crust from sticking to the peel. Once baked, gently slide your pizza back onto your peel and get ready to eat. 

Another tool that some pizza enthusiasts cannot live without is a dough docker. While it resembles something similar to a torture device or backscratcher, it can be extremely helpful when making doughs. A dough docker is used to create perforations in the rolled dough that prevent the dough from inflating while baking. For certain styles of pizza, such as New York style, a level crust is a benchmark feature and using a docker will help to ensure that your final product is pizza perfection!

There is nothing better than removing a perfectly baked pizza from the oven, slicing, and sharing it with loved ones. When it comes to a pizza slicer, we have two favorite options. Of course, there is the traditional pizza slicer, which is a kitchen staple. Or, you can opt for a rocker pizza slicer. We love this option for slicing thicker styles of pizza, such as a Detroit Style. 


Now, go make some pizza!! Gather in the troops. Or turn on Netflix and veg. Pizza night brings with it the good feelings we are all craving with our food. We love a pizza night with kids or friends, everyone can add toppings they love, and enjoy being together. And isn’t that what good food is all about?

SHOP PIZZA TOOLS HERE!

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