Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! Sing with me: “When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” I love pizza and I bet that you do too! It’s the stuff of dreams…gooey cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, olives. Yum, the list goes on and on but that’s what makes pizza so darn special. You can top it with everything you’re craving. Steak and blue cheese? Sure! Prosciutto and arugula? Absolutely! But I must say, pizza transcends all when the crispy crust is to die for.
The pizza dough recipe I rely on comes from Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth. The thyme and toasted fennel seeds in the pizza dough is genius and, to give it extra oomph, I add a bit of oregano as well.
For the pizza toppings, I added roasted red bell peppers, red onions and sausage. The vegetarian option excludes the sausage and is replaced by plum tomatoes marinated in pesto–a recipe from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten.
For the pizza dough (yields two 10” thin crust pizzas):
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
For the pesto and tomatoes:
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 firm plum tomatoes, sliced
For the pizza toppings:
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 1/4 cups pizza sauce, store bought
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
Toast the whole fennel seeds on medium heat in a small saucepan until fragrant. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the bread flour, salt, fennel seeds, thyme, oregano and yeast. Give it a quick mix on low speed.
Next, add the olive oil and water to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Switch to the dough hook and continue mixing on low until the dough comes together to form a ball around the hook.
Lightly coat two bowls with olive oil, then place the dough on a floured surface and gently shape it into an 8” round. Cut the dough in half and roll each half into a ball. Place the balls into the oiled bowls, cover and chill overnight.
Two hours before you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rise at room temperature. Then preheat the oven to 400℉.
To prepare the pesto for the tomatoes, add the parsley, basil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. With the food processor set to low, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. In a mixing bowl, add enough pesto to lightly coat the tomatoes and gently mix. Set aside.
On a baking sheet, toss the bell peppers with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bell peppers start to brown. Set aside and increase the oven temperature to 450℉.
To brown the sausage, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a saucepan set over high heat. Add the sausage and break it into 1/2” crumbles. Brown the sausage, drain on paper towels and set aside.
Now it’s time to build the pizza. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the pizza dough a bit. Place the dough on top of your lightly floured knuckles and slowly move your knuckles along the edge of the dough until it stretches to 10”. Slide it onto a pizza pan and repeat the process with the second dough ball.
Leaving a 1/2” edge, spread pizza sauce on both pies and top with the mozzarella, roasted red bell peppers and red onions. Top one with sausage and the other with the pesto tomato slices. Lightly brush the edge of each pizza with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pizzas are golden brown.