Back in university, as my roommate Carol was cooking through The Moosewood Cookbook, she developed a passion for making pizza from scratch, crust and all.
Now, when Carol gets into something, she goes all the way. She made pizzas so often that she started making evaluation forms for her pizzas - there were columns to rank taste, texture, creativity and visual appeal out of 10 and space to leave comments. These evaluation forms soon morphed into judging sheets for pizza-making contests - she would make the dough and participants would put together whatever toppings they wanted to. Carol was always the most creative one, making pizzas piled (too) high with strange ingredients like broccoli and purple cabbage and hummus instead of tomato sauce. She's so into pizza-making that when I visited her while she was working as an interpreter at Dinosaur Provincial Park this summer, we had a pizza-making contest and all the evaluation forms that were ever done were stapled together. I was looking back at evaluations that I'd done four years ago!
When B. and I made pizza a few weekends ago, I couldn't help but think of Carol when I saw that my side of the pizza was piled high with weird ingredients like beet greens (leftover from the previous night) and feta.
B.'s pizza was no less weird, despite being less mountainous - he had come up with the combination of prosciutto and brie, and was wondering what would go well with it.
"Nothing," I said, "Who puts brie on pizza?" And I did a Google search to prove it. It turns out that prosciutto and brie is a popular combination, especially when combined with peppery arugula or sweet pear or figs. We didn't have any of those things, so B. was initially going to put raisins on his pizza when he remembered how much he liked the roasted grapes the night before...
I was originally going to go with a simple vegetarian pizza with mushrooms, onions, bell pepper and mozzarella, but then there were the beet greens... and the feta... and the roasted red pepper... (which I used instead of the fresh bell pepper to make things more interesting)
Despite our crazy ingredients, the real "stars" of the show were the crust (we ended up using double the amount of recommended dough due to a mix-up of how big our pizza was going to be, so it was super-thick, which in a way was good because it didn't become soggy under all our ingredients) and the tomato sauce, which dominated the flavour of the pizza with all its tomatoey goodness.
I grew up eating jarred tomato sauce (mixed with ketchup on spaghetti - blech!) and so always had the impression that making my own tomato sauce would be a lot of extra work. Throughout university, my favourite comfort food was pasta - I would chop up all the veggies I could find in my fridge (carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic...), brown a fist-sized lump of ground beef, add the vegetables to cook, pour the sugar-and-salt-loaded tomato sauce on top and simmer with some added spices for a little bit before serving it with rotini (I didn't start buying whole wheat until my third or fourth year) topped with grated cheese (sometimes cheddar, sometimes Romano). It wasn't till just a few weeks ago (perhaps the week before we made this pizza) when I was looking for a tomato sauce recipe for a client that I realized that it was so easy! As written, it goes well on pizza - though next time we'll buy the diced canned tomatoes instead of the whole ones, and maybe use less - I'm already thinking of ways to add on to it to make it my favourite pasta sauce...
I unfortunately really don't have a pizza or pizza crust recipe for you because we made the dough in B.'s bread machine and just followed the instructions from that. But if you, like me, have been secretly/openly eating jarred/canned tomato sauce, this recipe is nearly as easy, much healthier, and packs in lots of tomato flavour -
Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 2¼ cups
- 1½ tsp (7 mL) olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
- 2 tsp (10 mL) fresh chopped oregano, or ½ tsp dried
- 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh thyme, or ¼ tsp dried
- Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Nutrition Info (per ½ cup): 52 calories, 2 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrate (2 g fibre, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein, 274 mg sodium. A good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and potassium.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- If using on pizza, cool to room temperature before spreading on dough.