It's hard to make a nastier pizza than an American suburban pizzeria, and that's a problem for the home cook whose main goal is to satisfy a group of 6th grade girls. You know the way you can soak a napkin in the dark orange grease that pools atop one of those salty, awful/delicious pizzeria pizzas? Well, you couldn't soak a napkin in the grease on top of my pizzas. In that, I failed.
-Crust. The dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was easy and great, but I didn't realize quite how buoyant it was until I'd baked the first pizza, which ended up with a very thick, bready crust. You need the dough almost membrane thin before it goes in the oven.
-Sauce. I sauteed chopped garlic in olive oil, then poured in a can of crushed tomatoes to make a sauce. Because it seemed tart, added sugar. Sauce was then perfect.
-Cheese. The brand -- Lucerne pre-shredded -- also perfect. Weird, that buying your mozzarella pre-shredded is cheaper. My advice here is to use a mountain of cheese, really mound it on until you think there's too much, then add a few fistfuls more. The first pizza was wimpy in that regard; the pie pictured above was slightly under-cheesed, but moving in the right direction. As it cools, you want there to be a dense, chewy hide of mozzarella covering the crust.
-Pepperoni. When it comes to fatty pepperoni, Hormel rocks. (Speaking of Hormel, this was an excellent movie.)
Was homemade better? By the end, the pies were getting really, really nasty, albeit not quite nasty enough. I've watched these kids scarf down pizza, but they were shockingly moderate last night. My theory: even my worst effort tasted enough like real food that they were able to regulate their appetites which is a. good! b. sorely disappointing.
Was it cheaper? Dramatically so. I would have ordered four extra large pizzas (2 cheese, two pepperoni) from Domino's to feed nine of us, and given the delivery person a $5 tip. Price: $75.83.*
However, given that Domino's is heinous, I probably would have ordered the same quantity for pick-up at our local place, Stefano's: $82.60.
Made from scratch, last night's pizza dinner cost $14.53, which includes a leftover baked pie and dough to freeze. I didn't use all the topping ingredients, so those aren't reflected in the price. Even if they were, it wouldn't add much to the sum.
Hassle factor: Not bad. Less than an hour total to make the pizzas and wash up. But let's call it an hour. Everyone values their time differently, but for me, $61 ($68 if we'd gone with Stefano's) easily justified making crummy pizza at home.
Make or Buy? Absolutely, make.
*Three would probably have been ample, but I would have ordered four. Husband says he would have ordered "three or four." Just to be fair, the price for three Domino's pizzas (two cheese, one pepperoni) would have been $61.39, including tip. Still cheaper -- by $47 -- to make.