Have you met anyone who doesn’t like pizza?
I’ve met people who “prefer” something else (which I think is slightly bogus because seriously, who doesn’t like pizza?!).
But no one has crossed my path who all out blatantly doesn’t like pizza.
Mr. Crumbs was born and raised on the East coast where New York’s Lombardi’s tops the list of pizzerias. A fellow pizza gal myself, a trip to Gino’s is a must when we’re visiting family in Chicago. You could say that my kids were born with a pizza gene.
New York style, Chicago style, American style, California style…
Thin crust, deep dish, thick crust, cracker crust…
Anyway you slice it, there’s a pizza to be made for each of us. And that’s what we do nearly every Friday night – make pizza.
Why make pizza and not buy it? Before we moved to California, we could buy a large pizza for $10. It certainly wasn’t “healthy,” but we were brand new parents with a brand new baby and a brand new budget. It was a frugal and easy way to “eat out” without leaving the living room.
That nice price though doubled when we moved to the West coast. No joke! We drove for two, straight, long, days with a 9-month-old in the backseat (who wasn’t eating the jarred food I packed because I normally made my own). And you haven’t fully experienced “tight squeeze” until you’ve tried nursing a baby while – balancing on one knee, on the arm rest between two back seats – sandwiched between an infant car seat and all the random goodness that a house could hold. Let me tell you. THAT was fun.
After realizing I was not created to join the circus, locating pots and pans and cooking ANYTHING was out of the question when we put the car in park. We called the nearest pizza joint, ordered a large pepperoni pizza and paid over twice than we were used to. And to top it off, the pizza wasn’t even good.
Paying $20 for an unhealthy dinner was no longer appealing and it certainly wasn’t frugal.
So the four-year journey of creating our own homemade pizza began.
Making pizza at home really is a simple task – dough, sauce, cheese and toppings.
Everything can come from a jar, or it can be made completely from scratch. The best part is that each of us can tailor the fun for what’s best for our families!
Our standard homemade dough is Cheri’s. We tried dozens of recipes before finding this one and declaring it a keeper. We used to alter the quantity of semolina, but found that the original recipe really was our favorite. You can use all-purpose instead of semolina if you’re wanting a cracker-type crust.
We also prefer New York style, so Mr. Crumbs gently pounds out the dough until it’s roughly 15″ in diameter. We had a hankering for thicker American style one night and pounded out the dough into a well-oiled (with olive oil) 9×11 glass pan and it tasted great that way too.
Start locating some recipes from trusted sources (like highly ranked on Allrecipes or from a blogger you trust) and start experimenting. We use bread flour mainly, but recipes using whole wheat are out there too. I don’t recommend going the store-bought version, for both cost and nutrition, but if you must, be sure to look for hydrogenated oils and any other ingredient you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize.
When we first started making our own pizza, we asked my dad what he recommended for sauce (since he IS a chef and all) and he said Italian tomatoes. He brought home two large cans and we tried them both with one being a clear winner. Amazon – by far – has the best price for Cento Italian Tomatoes (<– affiliate link). We paid twice as much locally (at a specialty shop) before realizing Amazon had them. The price per can is $2.53 and each can makes enough for two pizza nights.
We tried a different recipe once when our Cento stash was low (see above), using tomatoes we had in the fridge and dried herbs from the spice cabinet. My step-mom has also made her own by roasting her garden tomatoes first and using fresh herbs. Out of tomatoes? Start with pasta sauce and spruce it up!
If red isn’t your style, white sauces are typically some variation of alfredo – garlic, roasted pepper, extra cheese, etc. There’s also the option of using homemade salad dressings like ranch or blue cheese – as a delicious base. Have leftover basil? Make a pesto pizza! Wing sauce? Make it a buffalo pie!
Most people think that the jarred sauce at the supermarket is their first option, but with so many EASY homemade options, I honestly can’t suggest wasting your money on even one jar!
The saying “use the best ingredients possible” most certainly holds true for cheese. This doesn’t mean the most expensive, but rather the best quality of ingredient.
Kraft-like shredded cheese will give the typical melt you find in a high-volume pizzeria. Since we’re not feeding huge crowds, we can afford to spend a little more on a better quality cheese. Fresh balls of mozzarella in water, sliced very thin, have yielded us pies that pizzeria’s just can’t touch.
We buy our cheese at Costco where three 8oz balls cost just under $7. This sounds steep, but our thin slices make this 3-pack last for two pizza nights (or four pies).
If this is out of your price range, start by finding blocks of mozzarella with “mozzarella cheese” listed as the only ingredient. You’ll save money by shredding it yourself with the option of making the cheese as thick or as thin as you’d like. Since cheese prices will vary, consider that fresh mozzarella balls cost $2.33 for 8oz and use that as a guide.
Should I even mention the pepperoni requirement?
This is where creativity takes center stage. Just look at this line-up of options:
grilled chicken (bbq or lightly seasoned)
Let’s not assume we all have all of these ingredients in our pantry – because I surely don’t! But we have some of them, right? Some of our favorite combinations are:
- Red sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni (and then more pepperoni) and bell peppers
- Blue cheese dressing, mozzarella cheese, shredded chicken tossed in wing sauce (optional drizzle of wing sauce as well)
- Pesto sauce, mozzarella cheese, shredded chicken and roasted garlic
- Red sauce, mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon and pineapple (optional jalapenos)
- Greek-seasoned red sauce, mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese
- Pesto sauce, mozzarella cheese, broccoli, red onions, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes
- Alfredo sauce, mozzarella cheese, chicken, mushrooms, red onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic
- Even more ideas from Good Cheap Eats and Tasty Kitchen
Obviously some of those ingredients can run a pretty penny, but just choose something else if it’s not in the budget. Or if you happen to have artichoke hearts, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes leftover from pasta salad, put them on a pie!
You’ve seen the various options in the anatomy of a pie and how we splurge a bit on ingredients. Are you curious what the cost of our homemade pie is compared to take-out?
One homemade 15″ pepperoni pizza (or the average medium) costs us $3.89 to make from scratch. No. Joke. Is it any wonder why we choose homemade over take-out?
- tastes better
- much less expensive
- provides entertainment
- made with real, unprocessed food (minus the pepperoni )
I mean, we can make pizza for THREE WEEKS for the cost of one take-out pizza! Incredible!
The Best Part
The price isn’t even the best part though. The kids LOVE pizza night. I mean, they hear the trash man come while I’m pouring my first cup of coffee on Fridays and they know what’s coming. All day long they chatter about pizza for dinner. They’re even disappointed when we make other plans!
Dad “sneaks” them pepperoni with a “don’t tell Mom.” Sparkly juice (juice and mineral water) is poured for everyone and we all indulge in one of our favorite meals as a family.