Otherwise known as the pinnacle of cullinary excellence. Here's how to make one:

Dan's (aka ioctl) Pizza Recipe

Serves 2-3 people or 1 hungry hacker.

Ingredients:


Ok. Start your oven up preheating to 400 degrees F. Take a large cutting board and pour a small ammount (a small handful) onto it. Start stretching out your dough on this cutting board (the flour is so it won't stick). Stretch it into a large circle, and try not to make it too thin yet not too thick. Next, pour your tomato sauce on to the dough and spread it around to within a half to quarter inch from the edge of the dough. Here's a little tip: the key to a good pizza is good sauce. Don't be stingy and buy cheap sauce; get good sauce and your overall pizza experience will be better. Next, sprinkle cheese all over on top of the sauce. Don't be skimpy with the cheese, get more if you think you need it. Add the garlic among the cheese, however much you feel is adequate (I assume you know how much garlic you like/can tollerate). Finally add your toppings liberally, and perhaps sprinkle a little more cheese on top of the toppings. By now your oven should be done preheating, so slide your pizza onto a circular cookie tray (aka a pizza tray) and place it in the oven for about 12 minutes. I'd recommend checking the pizza ever 2 minutes starting around 10 minutes after it's in. Cook until the cheese is melted and the crust is at least browned around the edges. Remove from the oven, and make 4 equal cuts (should leave you with 8 slices) with a knife or pizza cutter. Enjoy!


For the lazy of you out there, there's always frozen pizza. Some of it is even pretty good. But sometimes there's no alternative to real, homemade (or pizza place) pizza. NOTE: Pizza Hut IS NOT A PIZZA PLACE. IT IS A PLACE OF SICKNESS WHERE THEY SERVE "PIZZA" THAT MAKES YOU ILL. Just a small warning for all of you...
Some facts about pizza:

So there are a couple of writeups here claiming that pizza is not an Italian dish, but rather an Italian-American one. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the thick-base, chewy pizza, laden with toppings and dripping with grease originated in America, the origins of the dish are very ancient indeed.

Pizza is ultimately a bread-based dish, of course. It's known that humans have been grinding up grass seeds, mixing the resulting powder with water and baking dough for many millennia. The obvious step onwards from eating plain dry bread is to add other foodstuffs to it, either before, during or after the baking process. Recipes from Naples from around 1000 AD detail how to make a flat bread topped with herbs and lard cheese.

However the characteristic additional foodstuffs on a modern pizza are, of course, tomatoes and cheese. Tomatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spanish returning from their conquests in South America in the 15th Century. At first they were grown as ornamental plants, but by the end of the 17th Century tomatoes were a recognised food in Europe. By 1839 the first written recipes for tomato sauce had appeared in Italy and this was probably being spread on top of bread by 1850.

In 1889 King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita went to their traditional summer palace in Capo di Monte. Hearing of a local dish called pizza they asked to try it, and the most famous pizza chef in Naples, don Raffaele, was called in to prepare this for them. He decided to create a new pizza in their honour, on which he put tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, so that the red, white and green would reflect the colours of the Italian flag. The pizza was a resounding success and don Raffaele named it "pizza Margherita" in honour of the queen. This is also usually considered the turning point from where pizza ceased to be a food fit only for peasants and the lower classes.

The History:

(yes, some of this matches iain's writeup, I'm not stealing from him, just using sources that say some similar things... I'm including what he's written for completeness)

The first documented foods that look similar to what we call pizza was a dish eaten by early Greeks and Etruscans, called plakuntos. It was a flat, round bread, baked with herbs and the occasional onion and garlic. The Romans later borrowed the dish, and it is mentioned in various historical records. By 1000 CE, a dough disk with herbs called picea was common in Naples and other parts of Italy. It was used mostly for the women to satisfy their hunger while waiting for all of their bread to bake in the communal ovens in the towns.

For the longest time pizza was sold by open-air vendors, or at small stands. Port'Alba, however, changed all that, as the first of what could be called true pizzerias. Lava rock from Mount Vesuvius was used to light the wood-fired ovens, in an innovation of how pizza was cooked. By this time, the tomato had been discovered in the new world, and found to be rather tasty.

Cheese was first added to pizza in 1889. Baker Raffaele Esposito was issued a royal summons, required to prepare a pizza for her majesty, Queen Margherita. He took two common ingredients, red tomato and green basil, and added white to represent the colors of the flag - to do this, he used mozzarella cheese. It went over well, very well.

In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in America, in New York City. However, pizza was not a huge hit in America at first, remaining mainly in Italian neighborhoods. American soldiers got a taste for this dish when over in Europe for World War II, and upon their return, introduced it to their families and friends, and demand skyrocketed.

Tomato sauce was not used on the pizza until after the first pizzerias in New York City were set up. The stronger-flavored Roma Tomato (plum tomato) was hard to come by, so spiced tomato sauce was tried. The resulting pizza became the standard pizza of America, with regional variations.

Since then, pizza has become the number one dish in America. Pizzerias now outnumber hamburger places in most of the country. The largest chain, Pizza Hut, has over 4,500 restaurants.

Oh yes. Pizza means "pie" in Italian. So saying "pizza pie" is redundant.

Cooking Pizza:

How to cook your pizza depends on a lot on the crust. It also has just as much impact on how well the pizza turns out. Pizzerias have specialty ovens dedicated to cooking pizzas and similar foods. You can't get the same ovens, but you can turn yours into something very, very close.

First, you need a pizza stone/baking stone, or something similarly effective, such as unglazed tiles, ceramic I believe. These provide proper heat to the bottom of the pizza. A cookie sheet, or a plain pizza pan directly on the rack will not properly cook the bottom.

Now, preheat your oven to 500 degrees for a full hour. An hour? Yes, this amount of time is necessary to make sure the stone is completely and evenly heated. Warning - 500 degrees is HOT, and you will be greeted by a serious blast of heat when opening the oven, so be careful. The higher temperature will cook the crust more thoroughly, making it firmer and crisper, instead of the softer texture that it will have at lower temperatures.

You can either cook the pizza directly on the stone/tiles, or on a pizza pan/pizza screen. Cooking it directly on the stone offers the best and most even cooking, but can be difficult to do depending on both the size of the stone you're using, and your agility with a pizza peel. Cooking the pizza on a screen offers good results, and makes it much easier to put the pizza in the oven, and remove it later.

As far as cooking time, it should be about 10-12 minutes. Watch the toppings and the color of the crust. This should help you judge the exact amount of time.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Garlic, and Pecorino Pizza

1 8 oz. jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
4-6 cloves garlic (roasted garlic also works for a sweeter taste)
8-16 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese (depending on taste)
1 C. shredded/grated Pecorino Romano cheese

After getting the pizza crust flattened and ready, brush the crust with a good coating of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Then, add the sun-dried tomatoes, as few or as many as you want - you want them below the cheese to make sure they don't char. Sprinkle about half of the minced garlic on now also.

Put half of the mozzarella on the pizza. Add the rest of the garlic. Then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella, and the pecorino, on top of the pizza, sprinking them on at the same time to mix them well.

Sources:
"Pizza", by James McNair
"The History of Pizza", http://www.ghg.net/coyej/history.htm

The Dollar Pizza Slice

Living in an urban area, such as New York City - or Brookyln in my case - it's not hard to find a place that will serve you a slice of pizza. Pizza here varies in quality, from good to near-orgasmic. However, a special section must be set aside for the noble Dollar Slice.

When hanging out on the streets at night with friends, or wandering aimlessly during the day, you tend to get hungry. Given the abundance of pizza places, you can walk anywhere and grab some food. But, what if you don't have a lot of money, or don't want to have to buy a whole pie. What if you just want something quick? Enter the Dollar Slice. Not all pizza places carry the dollar slice, but those that do serve it should be noted in that section of your mind that holds the most practical urban information.

Face it, though, the Dollar Slice isn't going to be Pizza Ambrosia. It's simple, slightly greasy, and always served plain. Toppings are extra, but you don't need them. Just walk in, ask for a slice, and walk out a few minutes later. Consume, and walk away.

A Dollar Slice comes in only a few varieties - but the floppy, greasy, thin crust pizza is the most common. It's easy to eat on the go - which is why I suspect it has such wide proliferation. You can fold it, keeping the grease inside, trapped by walls of cheese, sauce, and crust. Grease is essential to the experience.

The dollar slice is indeed a useful thing to have access to. It's the perfect late night coding snack, or food to grab while drunk. It's especially useful to a college student. Find a pizza place with Dollar Slices, memorize it's location, and respect it. You'll rely on it, one day.

Note: This is presented here for historical purposes, not because it's a particularly good example of quality schoolyard games. Don't blame me, I didn't make it up...

Pizza is a particularly inane, violent childhood game I used to play growing up in Canada. How it ever caught on is beyond me, but when I changed schools and introduced it to the new playground, it took off like wildfire. There's no accounting for tastes. So here is the 'recipe' for little broken feet.

The game is played on a 'foursquare' commonly found painted on schoolyard asphalt. It looks like this:

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Any number of little people can play, but it usually works best with at least three and no more than six, depending on the size of the square. To begin, all players stand with one foot touching the middle circle and the other held back. One person starts play by calling "ONE, TWO, THREE, PIZZA!" at which point all players leap backwards in an attempt to get as far away from each other as possible. This must be done in one shot, and without moving the feet twice or stumbling, lest ye be 'out'. At all times during game play, a player must remain within the boundaries of the outer square.

The object of the game is to get all the other players 'out' by stepping brutally on their feet and holding them down for an appropriate length of time. Each player, in turn, has a chance to move one or both of their feet, usually either attempting to stomp down on someone else's poor toes or get further away from anyone else. If a player sees that another player is going to stomp them, they can opt to move out of the way, but they had better be correct, because if the player doesn't do that, they have moved out of turn and are thus 'out' of the game. Malice and trickery abound. This leads to a lot of last-moment moves, and often a player is faced with having to yank their tiny extremity out from under some larger child's burly foot.

So, there are three ways to get a person 'out':

  • Stepping on their foot and holding the screaming child in place for, oh, let's say five seconds or so
  • Moving out of turn when it is unwarranted (i.e. thinks another child is about to maul them but doesn't)
  • Stepping out-of-bounds OR stepping on any of the inner lines (leading to much instability and falling when a player realizes he is about to step on one of these no-go-zones)
  • Bruised feet! Skinned knees! Black eyes, if the kid retaliates!

    Perhaps this game is played because it's easy to learn and appeals to both the athletic and cerebral alike. I don't remember what induced me to introduce it to a new school, but much suffering ensued. It even merited a trip to the school office, where they promptly labeled me a troublemaker. I don't know why it's called 'Pizza' either, perhaps because of the layout of the court into "slices" where you're allowed to step (or get flattened into the ground like so much green pepper). Who really knows.

    Addendum: I have no idea where this came from or who made it up. Nobody I've spoken to about it has ever heard of it. It's entirely possible that it was local to that one single playground. Or maybe, just maybe, your child will come home limping and cry out, "DAMN YOU, STARSANDGARTERS!" (Then you ground the young sprout for cussing.)Thanks to jessicapierce for asking about locality.

    I used to make pizzas in Lake George, NY during the summers when I was a teenager. I knew how to toss the pizza dough, and I used to teach the newbies how to do it so we could put on a little show - especially if there was a particularly cute woman in the audience.

    I used to experiment a bit with the recipes, and I came up with a good recipe that people would come back for each year that I worked at the pizza place. They'd ask for the Sauced Pizza, because the recipe used some Chianti in the sauce.

    The Dough
    • 3.25 cups of white bleached flour
    • 1.25 cups of wholemeal flour (adds a bit of texture)
    • 1.33 cup warm water, preferably 90 degrees
    • One teaspoon of raw cane sugar
    • One-half teaspoon of honey
    • Pinch of salt
    • One packet of active yeast
    • 0.25 cup of virgin olive oil
    • Set aside: one tablespoon of virgin olive oil
    Note: Do not substitute any other oils for virgin olive oil. You won't be happy with the results.
    Blend the flour together, then blend in the salt. In a glass bowl, mix the water, honey, sugar and quarter-cup of olive oil. Add in the yeast. Mix out the clumps, then add to the dry mixture. Mix, then knead until the dough is sticky.
    Clean off your hands, then put a dab of olive oil on them. Roll the dough into a ball, then coat with half a tablespoon of olive oil you had set aside. I always used a marble slab to raise the dough, as it is easy to clean and does not add any weird flavors to the dough. Let it rise, usually an hour and a half.
    Punch down the dough, knead it for a bit, then roll it back into a ball. Put the other half-tablespoon on it and let it rise again. It should triple in size, about three hours.
    Your dough is ready. Makes one sixteen-inch thin crust pizza crust. Use a ceramic or stone pizza platter to bake it in an oven - a metal pan will overcook the bottom when the top is done.

    The Sauce
    • One 15oz jar of tomato sauce (glass jars are best, get quality!)
    • One 12oz can of tomato paste
    • 0.25 cup virgin olive oil
    • Two teaspoons raw, chopped or minced garlic
    • Two teaspoons of oregano
    • Two teaspoons of basil
    • 0.25 cup raw Videlia or white onions
    • 0.5 cup Chianti plus 0.5 cup of Chianti to drink while cooking
    • Two tablespoons of (real) salted butter
    • OPTIONAL: One cup of sliced mushrooms
    After you have punched down the dough and are waiting for it to rise again, knock back a cup of the Chianti to get in the Italian mood.
    In a saucepan, melt the butter and flash-cook the garlic, about one minute. Pull out the garlic, then flash-cook the onions, another minute. Repeat for the mushrooms, if you like fungus pizza. Add the garlic and onions to a stock pot and toss in the tomato paste and sauce. Stir in the oregano and basil. SLOWLY raise the heat until it starts to bubble. Add in the olive oil and the Chianti. Let it begin to boil, stirring constantly. Do not let the sauce burn, it will ruin the whole pizza.
    Gather the toppings. You can put what you want on it, but make sure the mozzarella is the skim milk, low moisture variety. If you can slow-cook on a stone, I've used soy-based mozzarella, but it has a tendency to burn. Do not let your toppings pile on higher than three-quarters of an inch, as it will trap in too much moisture and the top of the crust will not be cooked when the bottom is completed.

    Assembly
    Coat your stone or ceramic pizza slab with a half-teaspoon of olive oil. Spin out or push out the dough with your fingertips. Start at the edges and work in a circle, then work the lump in the middle maintaining your circular pattern. You'll basically be spiraling in to the center. The dough should be about one-quarter inch thick.
    Using a ladle, scoop out some sauce in the middle and begin to spiral outward, pushing the sauce with the curved bottom of the ladle. Add more in the middle and keep working outwards until you are within one-half inch from the edge of the crust. If you have mushrooms prepared, put them on the sauce before the cheese. Sprinkle some Parmegan/Romano cheese on the outer edge of the dough. Add your desired mozzerella until satisfied. Pop on some toppings (remembering the topping height rule) and you're ready to go. If you are using sausage or pepperoni, sprinkle on some Parmegan before adding the meat - it will help to keep the grease from getting out of control.
    Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for about fifteen minutes. Watch for bubbles, and pop them as they begin to build. Ovens may vary, so watch the top and the bottom of the pizza - the top should be bubble, the crust should be lightly browned to a caramel color.

    This is a great recipe to use on a cooking date. You'll end up drinking the Chianti, getting flour all over, having a delicious pizza and having some romantic times afterwards.

    Pizza, the Perfect Food

      1. The people of United States eat around 350 slices of pizza each second, or 100 acres per day. 
      2. Each year, pizza is a $30 billion industry.
      3. In the there are about 61,269 pizza parlors.
      4. Everyone in the United States eats about 23 lbs., or 46 slices, every year.
      5. Each year in the United States, 3 billion pizzas are sold.
      6. In America, the most popular ethnic food is Italian
      7. Children ages 3-11 prefer pizza over all other foods for lunch and dinner, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
      8. 36 percent of all pizza orders want their pizza topping pepperoni.
      9. We consume around 251,770,000 pounds of pepperonis every year.
        Editor's note - source: http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112790/facts.html

    Micro pizzas

    Hungry? Fancy a quick bite? You can’t go wrong with micro-pizzas ('Micro' because of their size, not because you cook them in your microwave oven... They’re cheap, cheerful, healthy, and take less than 5 minutes to prepare.

    Pizza base

    For the base, you can use any type of bread that doesn’t go soggy. Pita bread is an obvious one, but I personally prefer to use Crumpets - good luck finding those outside of the UK or Australia however. The great thing about crumpets is that they have holes in the top, so your tomato sauce can seep down into the pizza base, saturating it with tomato goodness.

    Tomato sauce

    Making tomato sauce for micro pizzas is dead easy. Use a little bit of tomato puree, and thin it out with some milk. If you are planning to add spicy pizza toppings later, consider using pineapple juice to thin out the puree - it adds a sweet tinge to the spicyness, which works quite well.

    To your mixture, add plenty of ground black pepper, and a bit of crushed garlic (or garlic paste, if you’re lazy). Finally, a smattering of oregano helps making the whole thing smell of pizza.

    You’ll want quite a bit of your sauce on the micro pizzas - around two millimeters gives the whole thing a fantastic taste of genuine pizza!

    Toppings

    Go crazy. Just about any topping you find on normal pizzas can be used, but obviously (because there’s less space), you have to cut everything into smaller pieces.

    I prefer to use wafer-thin Chorizo sausage slices, some finely cut pepper, and some finely chopped shallots, but as long as you chop it into small enough pieces, you can use anything: chicken, ham, pineapple, pepperoni, artichoke, egg, chopped pine nuts… One of the great things about the mini pizzas is that it’s an excuse to use up stuff you have kicking about in your kitchen anyway.

    Of course, no pizza is complete without a layer of cheese on top - use a fine cheese grater and layer it loosely on top of your other toppings. If you want to be fancy, chuck some oregano on as well - mostly for the smell.

    Cooking

    Because the pizza bases are already ready to eat, the pizzas only have to go in long enough to warm the bases and melt the toppings. Around five minutes under a hot grill should do the trick.

    Serving suggestions

    Serve with ice-cold beer, naturally.

    Reviews

    ascorbic says: This is damn fine pizza.

    Wntrmute says re pizza: congratulations! You've created something even I can eat!

    Pizza is a very popular food in the United States, and it is popular in many different ways. In fact, like so much else we surround ourselves with, pizza, beyond its denotation of a flatbread covered with sauce, cheese and toppings, has connotations that differ based on where and how it is eaten. So here is a brief list of some of the forms that pizza takes:

    1. Retail pizza: is pizza that is bought at a store, usually frozen, and then brought home and cooked. Since this is cheaper and more convenient than most restaurants, this is the type of pizza that is most often consumed. Within this group, there are several sub-groupings:
      1. Ghetto pizza: this is usually pizza that can be made in a microwave, and is sold for very cheap, sometimes under a dollar per pizza. You get what you pay for. These are usually made without real cheese, and don't have a crispy crust, but rather a big doughy slab that squashes around. The tomato sauce is...well, not very good. The biggest market for ghetto pizza is college students who only have microwaves in their dorm.
      2. Standard frozen pizza: for the small increase in price (usually from 3 to 8 dollars each), these pizzas are a pretty good deal, especially since they are usually a bit larger than discount pizzas. The quality of these types of pizza varies from "mediocre" to "actually quite good".
      3. Gourmet frozen pizzas: these exist, but since there is only so much quality that you can get in a frozen pizza, it makes more sense to go and eat a real pizza. A big subset of this is exotic pizzas, which are exotic either for dietary reasons (such as vegan pizzas) or because some yuppie insists on putting yak cheese and mangoes on their pizza.
      4. Fresh pizzas: some delis have pizzas that are freshly prepared and then refrigerated without being frozen. For that matter, there is actually chains of "restaurants" that make nothing but uncooked pizzas. They prepare it, give it to you, and you go home and cook it later. It seems to be somewhat of a niche market to run a restaurant that doesn't do any cooking, but there is probably some reasons why these chains exist.
    2. Restaurant pizza:
      1. The traditional pizzeria: This is a traditional pizzeria that sells pizza, and usually nothing else but pizza (and perhaps some sides). This is usually an independent business, and sometimes a local chain. They usually also will sell pizza by the slice. Most of these have minimal dining facilities, but are instead take-away. This is the type that you will find in New York City, and also in other urban areas and college towns.
      2. The fun filled family pizzeria!: This is a place that sells pizza, and also sells atmosphere. Best epitomized by the Chuck E Cheese franchise of pizzerias, this is a pizza place that attracts families with young children for occasions like birthday parties. Some of these are more like nightclubs for kids that happen to serve pizza, while others may be a restaurant that happens to have a toy train running along the wall, and an arcade.
      3. The big chains: Dominoes and Pizza Hut. These chains specialize in pizza delivery. They serve a pretty standard pizza, which is usually of okay quality, as long as you don't mind lots of grease. These big chains are used frequently both by Middle America and stoned college students alike. This is also the type of pizza that the less adventuresome might be the most used to.
      4. The fancy pizzeria: this is a pizzeria that serves quality pizza. Quality pizza is a good thing, although attempts to make a normal pizzeria more fancy by going to the conventions of a normal restaurant is close to blasphemy in my mind. Pizza is a casual food, and having a waiter at a pizza restaurant just ruins the experience for me. As discussed above, many of these fancy pizzerias also dabble in health food, or just plain yuppie exoticness.
    3. Homemade pizza: For some reason pizza is not widely made as a home food. There are actually pizza crusts for sale, on which a person can make a pizza of their choosing. Why pizza should not be a popular homemade food is not due to technical reasons. It does not require more effort to prepare than lasagna, for instance, and yet it is not usually part of the arsenal of home-cooked meals. I think that the reason for this is that so much of the connotation of pizza revolves around it being a "fun" food, and having to prepare it yourself ruins the sense of indulgence and festivity that pizza grants.

    And here, having investigated the various forms that pizza takes, we find that instead of being just a simple dish, pizza is often an experience, allowing the consumer to avoid responsibility and care in the form of a dish. The denotation "unleavened bread, tomato sauce, and cheese" denotes a quesadilla as much as it denotes a pizza, but quesadillas are not cultural symbols for fun and indulgence. And thus, we find that pizza is more than the sum of its parts.

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