Tomato Basil Garlic Pizza

Pizza is indisputably a staple of the American diet.  I’ve known some very picky eaters, but never have I met a person who doesn’t enjoy at least some type of pizza.  Not liking pizza is like punching puppies in the face, or marrying your sibling.  It just isn’t done.  Or at least if it is, you keep quiet about it.  No one has to – or wants to – know that your love life resembles Flowers in the Attic.

I certainly ate my fair share of pizza growing up.  There were Pizza Hut’s personal pan pizzas, Little Caesar’s square pizzas, Godfather’s, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Papa John’s, and a memorable birthday at Putt-Putt Golf where I managed to spill soda at least three times on my childhood best friend’s socks while we ate pizza for lunch.  (My hand-eye coordination was apparently still quite lacking, as I repeatedly kept setting my cup on an uneven crack on the picnic table.  But even at the tender age of nine, my friend managed to be graciously forgiving and we are still buddies to this day.)  In sixth grade, my daily lunch was a slice of pepperoni pizza, a Coke, and a pack of Twix bars.  I was the poster child for unhealthy school lunches.

Pizza seems to be so unanimously popular that it was a shock to me to learn that my mom used to dislike it.  When she first came to the U.S. after marrying my dad in the early eighties, she couldn’t stomach pizza.  The tomato sauce was way too sour for her palate, and the cheese was too rich.  But gradually, my mom was won over.  Pizza is magical like that.  These days, she loves pizza as much as I do…maybe more, in fact, as she has confessed at least once to eating an entire frozen pizza by herself when my dad wasn’t home for lunch.

This is one pizza recipe that I can’t wait to share with my mother.  The dough is incredibly easy and fast to make: mix together the ingredients, let it rise for a couple of hours, and you’re good to go.  The toppings are classic and simple, creating a cheesy, slightly spicy pie punctuated by the occasional shred of basil.  It’s so good that this is the second week in a row I’ve made this pizza, I’ve eaten it five out of the last eight days, and rather than getting sick of it I’m actually craving it more.  And why try to fight it?  Because seriously, this is a pizza that is bound to win over both veteran pizza lovers and newbies alike.

P.S.  Want to keep your basil fresh for longer?  Fill a glass with water, trim the bottom of the stem as you would with flowers, stick the basil in the glass, and cover loosely with a plastic bag.  The basil will stay fresh and green for about a week.

Tomato Basil Garlic Pizza

Adapted from Shutterbean, original recipe from Jim Lahey

Although the dough recipe calls for bread flour, I used all-purpose.  Bread flour has more gluten and would result in a chewier pizza, but mine turned out just fine.

No-Knead Pizza Dough

Makes enough for two 13×18 pizzas

3 3/4 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose)

2 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast

3/4 teaspoon table salt

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1 1/3 cups water

Extra virgin olive oil for greasing pan

In a large bowl, stir together flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Add water, and using a spoon or your hands, mix together until thoroughly blended.  Dough will be shaggy.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half.  If you want to save one of the halves, wrap it twice in plastic wrap, stick it in a freezer bag, and freeze it.  You can also refrigerate it for up to one day.

Coat a 13×18 rimmed baking sheet liberally with extra virgin olive oil.  Place one of the dough halves onto the pan and gently stretch/press it out to the edges.  The dough should be very thin.  If it tears, just patch it up.

Tomato Basil Garlic Pizza

Makes one 13×18 pizza

One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

6 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, depending on how cheesy you like your pizza

Red pepper flakes to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Use a blender or food processor (I used an immersion blender) to pulse together the tomatoes, olive oil, and salt.  The mixture should be liquidy but still have some tomato chunks.

Spread tomato sauce evenly over dough, going all the way to the edges.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and garlic.  Tear pieces of fresh mozzarella and spread over dough.  Top with basil.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are slightly charred.  Sprinkle with extra basil.

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