What makes a great pizza?

As I get started writing about the big three and giving advice on how the average guy or gal could make pizza, bread, and pasta at home, I thought it may be a good idea to step back and qualify exactly what it is that makes pizza, bread and pasta so delicious.

Today we focus on what makes a pizza such a great food.  So sit back and try to remember the smell, taste, and even sounds of the great pizzas of the past as we explore exactly what is we are looking for when making a fresh homemade pizza.

The pizza crust.  

A pizza crust can make or break a pizza.  While opinions may vary on thick or thin, chewy or crispy, a good pizza crust should be the foundation of a good pizza.  I like my pizza crust to have a certain sour tang to them, a subtle sweetness, a smooth shell, a crispiness you can hear, and some pretty bubbles.  When inspecting a crust, I like to see air pockets in the crumb.  A good pizza crust should indeed be the sum of its parts, and no one ingredient should stand out.  Just for the record, I like my pizza crust thin and crispy. Any soggy, uncooked dough destroys a pizza.

The sauce.

A simple marinara does the trick here.  I prefer my sauce to be smooth as opposed to chunky and not too sweet.  The olive oil should give a bit of a shiny, satin finish but should not be overpowering. There should be hints of garlic and sauteed onion, and lingering accents of Italian herbs like oregano and rosemary.  Quantity is also a concern.  Too much sauce can create soggy under cooked dough which kills the crust and can even make one sick!  Tool little and I feel like I am eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  I realize some pizzas call for no sauce at all, but for me the classic tomato sauce is a necessity if a pizza is going to meet my taste bud’s high standards.

The Toppings.

This traditionally starts with cheese and that is just how I like it.  A moderate amount of mozzarella mixed with either Parmesan, or preferably Romano, is what suites my palate.  The cheese should be well cooked and evenly distributed with some parts turning a golden brown.  The cheese, like the crust, can even be crusty.  Here again quantity matters.  Too much cheese and we may end up with a soggy crust, and too little like a bread dipped in sauce.  To get the perfect margarita pizza, we need to just add some fresh basil leaves right under the layer of mozzarella.  Some red pepper flakes often accent the mix of cheeses quite well.  Additional topping choices are vast but some of my favorites include sauteed onions,  roasted red peppers, shredded zucchini, prosciutto  and more recently shitake mushrooms.

Go ahead and unleash your inner pizza preferences and let us know what you think the perfect pizza is like!