Stop ordering out for expensive pizza, and instead make your own at home. Many supermarkets and bakeries sell fresh pizza dough…or you can use a refrigerated pizza dough such as Pillsbury Classic Pizza Crust. Here are ways to make sure your homemade pizza rivals the best pizza joints in your area…

Prepare the dough: Let the dough sit outside the fridge for at least one hour so that it comes to room temperature. When you are ready, set the dough ball on a clean, floured surface. Start to stretch it with your hands, turning it as you press down in the center. Then using your hands or a floured rolling pin, continue to stretch the dough until it forms a circle about the size of your pizza stone.

Prepare the pizza stone: These are flat pieces of unglazed clay that fit into a home oven. They mimic the effects of a brick pizza oven by retaining heat and helping to make the crust crisp.

Temperature is important: Place the stone on the lowest oven rack in a cold oven—it may crack if you place it in a hot oven. Turn on the oven. Once it reaches 500°F, leave the stone in for 30 minutes more so that it heats through fully.

Dust a wooden pizza peela wooden shovel that helps move the pizza from your countertop to the pizza stone—with flour. If you don’t have a peel: Use an upside-down baking sheet. Place the toppings on the dough before placing it on the pizza stone.

Cooking time: For all the pizzas below, bake at 500° for 15 or 20 minutes. After 15 minutes, check to see that the crust is golden, not burned.

Get creative with toppings: In addition to the traditional pizza sauce, cheese, onion, mushroom and pepperoni, here are some other ideas…

Salad pizza: Brush the dough with olive oil. Place sliced tomatoes, then mozzarella slices, sliced mushroom, shrimp and a sprinkle of oregano on the dough. After you remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle it with lemon juice and spread fresh arugula on top to give the pizza a peppery, fresh dimension.

Pesto pizza: Spread about three tablespoons of store-bought or homemade pesto sauce over the pizza dough. Place one ounce of mozzarella cheese slices over the sauce. Add seven to eight thin slices of tomatoes, and dust with grated Parmesan cheese before baking. Add some fresh basil leaves before serving.

White pizza: Instead of a typical tomato sauce, make your own using one-half cup grated Parmesan cheese and four crushed garlic cloves mixed with one-quarter cup cream. Spread on the dough. Top with sliced fontina cheese. Add other toppings as you like, and bake.

If you don’t have a pizza stone: Spread the dough into an oven-safe ­skillet. Add your toppings, and place the skillet in a 450° oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet, and place it on a lighted burner on the stovetop. Cook for one to two minutes. Test the crust color by gently lifting the dough with a spatula—it should be deep golden brown.


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