Time to Plan a Pizza Party!

My sister is visiting from NYC this week and I’ve been dying to host one of my pizza parties for her.  When I lived in New York City grabbing a slice was a weekly ritual.  Never did it really occur to me I could achieve a brick oven style pizza at home. It’s seems a lot harder then it looks, all it takes is some prep work and some fresh seasonal ingredients and you can too make a KILLER pizza at home.  I’ve always wanted my own brick oven but I’m pumped you can have such great results without all of the professional tools!

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The only mandatory cooking tool you need is a good quality pizza stone.  There are lots out there, Amazon offers some great options.  Mine is from a chef supply store but I found it was a little less expensive online.  Something to look for when shopping for a good pizza stone is the thickness.  I find that even though the thinner one’s work, they will often crack while in the oven at a high temperature.  Mine is approximately 3/4″ thick and can be used on the grill or in the oven.  Stone is very porous so be prepared it may become blackened like mine, this is totally normal.  You can scrape any pieces that come off with a brush or spatula then wipe it down with a damp towel or rinse it quickly.  I like to dry mine in the oven.  The important thing is to never use soap and allowing it to dry fully prior to storing.

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First things first, shop for all of your ingredients.  To make a great pizza get quality fresh ingredients from your local grocery or farmers market.
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Speaking of quality ingredients, whenever I have a pizza party I visit the cheese box at Wally’s.  Their cheese and cured meat selection is top notch and just a couple different selections from this place always make my pizza’s turn out ridiculously delicious!
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This is a beautiful sampling of cheeses offered at the cheese box.  I also buy my prosciutto, salami and the guanciale for one of my favorite pizzas from this shop.
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Pop in next door to pick up the perfect wine pairing for your dinner.  The people here truly know what they are doing, they always ask me what ingredients I am using and have never disappointed me when making a wine selection.
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Next up is the food prep.  You need a great base to your pizza’s. I always make a classic tomato sauce along with a tasty white sauce (for my potato pizza).  Something homemade can really elevate and compliment your toppings beautifully.  I have tried making my own sauce by roasting and straining tomatoes BUT this is totally unnecessary!  Most of the time I simply find Italian crushed tomatoes and simmer it with onions, garlic, fresh herbs and seasonings.  I allow it to simmer for an hour or two and strain or remove the onions prior to use.
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Two of my favorite herbs to garnish on pizza is chopped rosemary and thyme!  I use both on my potato and only the rosemary on my guanciale pizza.
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More prep work prior to pizza making!  These beauties are for my potato pizza.  The potatoes are sliced super thin and I season with olive oil, salt and pepper then bake in a preheated oven at 500 degrees for about 7-10 minutes.
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I always chop and prep some of the toppings ahead of time.  This makes assembling the pizzas back to back so much easier and less stressful.  I usually sauté an array of wild mushrooms with butter, garlic, thyme and season salt and pepper.  I also love the rusticity of red kale which I also sauté lightly in olive oil, garlic and seasonings.  I like a variety of vegetables, meats and herbs to choose from.  I try to keep all my cured meats in the fridge until I’m ready to roll out the pizza’s.
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I always separate each dough and dust with flour ahead of time, letting them rest an hour before cooking. Once I’m ready to fire them off I start by rolling one out before I stretch and manipulate the dough by hand. No fancy tossing happening over here, just some simple finessing so these pizzas are nice and thin.
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There are tons of potato pizza recipes out there, this one by far is my favorite.  Because of the heavy nature of potatoes and pizza dough, I make a killer white sauce that has a hit of acidity and I keep it simple with a very light mix of Comte and fresh mozzarella.  Garnish with rosemary and throw it in the oven.
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This is a classic pizza I love…I add the tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella and cook it on the stone until it’s crispy.  Once it’s done I drizzle with a nice quality olive oil and garnish with basil before topping it with thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma and a handful of wild arugula.  Some recipes call to cook the prosciutto on the pizza…that said if you have a great quality of cured meat I like it best as is.  The slight soft and chewy texture with the crunch of the arugula I love.
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I don’t know why but everytime I make a mushroom pizza I change the ingredients slightly.  Each time I love how it turns out but I think I’m still trying to perfect this recipe.  This one had wild mushrooms, Italian fontina, green onions and crushed red pepper.
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After the mushroom I needed something that had some bite and tang.  This is the other go-to recipe besides the potato pizza that is always a crowd pleaser.  If I were to chose my two favorites these would be the two.  I add my base (tomato sauce and mozzarella) and then I add all my toppings before cooking.  First I layer the thinly sliced guanciale then top with Castelvetrano olives and a mix of Fresno chilies and jalapeños.  Garnish a little chopped rosemary and cook until bubbly and crispy.  The guanciale is raw so be sure to cook thoroughly.  This pizza is a little spicy and the salt in the olives and guanciale balance the sweet tomato sauce.  YUMMMMM!
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I like to end with something lighter so I made a classic margherita.  I used a mix of a burrata and mozzarella which made it a littler creamier then the others.  Top with fresh basil out of the oven and you have a simple but satisfying pizza!
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I’m going to end this post with a little shout out to the gentlemen who selected this bottle of white.  It had very low acidity but was richly complex in its flavors and paired with nearly all of my pizzas last night.  This one is a winner to have around the house for your next dinner party.

HAPPY PIZZA MAKING!

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