I tell everybody that our retirement plan is to open a pizza shop right next to the U of M St. Paul campus (it’s a food desert over there!). And I’m only half joking.
Our pizza game is on point. Mark’s pizza game is on point.
Cecconi Pizza Night
Mark and I used to do pizza night more frequently but since I have a strict rule of not running the oven in the summer (oven + air conditioner? Give me a break! I’m cheap!) we were on a pizza hiatus. But it’s snowed the entire last week up here. Consider the hiatus broken!
I can’t eat tomato, so we often come up with creative toppings so that my pizza tastes as good—sometimes better than—as the regular red sauce pie. No less-than and boring substitution for me. I’ll have none of that!
It’s all in the baking…
Mark’s pizza crust recipe isn’t one I can write out in recipe form because it has to do with adding the right amount of flour and water, which depends on many factors, including temperature, humidity, and tools used to mix (mixer vs. by hand). But I can give you some advice on how to properly cook pizza (hint: if your oven isn’t at least 500°F, you’re doing it wrong!).
- Preheat your oven to 500° or 550°F (550° is preferred if your oven goes this high).
- (Make sure your stone is in the oven for this part!)
- Let the oven run for at least a half hour so that the stone gets nice and hot.
- Create your pizza on a pizza peel, making sure to use a lot of corn meal on the peel before putting your pizza on it so it will slide off.
- Once your pizza is ready, open the oven and carefully slide it onto your preheated stone.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes—watch your pizza like a hawk…you’ll know when it’s finished. Different ovens bake differently so check at 7-8 minutes just to be sure!
- Use the peel to carefully remove your pizza from the oven and slide it onto a cooling rack.
Fun Pizza Flavors
Most recently, we did a carrot top and fennel pesto cheese pizza and a garlic bechamel, caramelized shallot, spinach, and cheese pizza. (If pizza could get you pregnant, that bacon bechamel one would do it. Whoa. It’s the pizza equivelant of a Godiva chocolate cheesecake!)
Carrot Top and Fennel Pesto Cheese Pizza
The pesto might sound fancy but it was born out of my cheapness (go figure). We had carrot tops that I refused to throw away so I decided to see if we could make pesto from them. We had also had some fennel from some other meal we made this week. I tossed the carrot tops and fennel in the food processor with olive oil, pine nuts, and about 8 cloves of garlic (normal people might use three cloves, but you have to do the Cecconi garlic math, which equates to about 8 cloves). We dollaped the pesto on the pizza with some fresh mozz, and dropped the pie onto a screaming hot pizza stone in a 500° oven (again, I recommend 550°F but our oven sadly doesn’t get that hot!), and cooked for 10-12 minutes.
Spinach, Bacon, and Caramelized Shallot Bechamel Pizza
The bacon bechamel pizza was a little more complicated. We spread a very thin layer of my homemade bechamel sauce onto the pizza (a little dab will do ya!). We put the shallots and spinach under the cheese, and the bacon on top of the cheese. When using a leafy green you either need to put it over the sauce/under the cheese OR put it on after your pizza comes out of the oven—else it will burn. We only partially cooked the bacon before putting on the pizza since we didn’t want it to burn in the oven. We baked this pizza for 10-12 minutes as well. The crust was a little floppy under all the gooey toppings, so I would recommend either baking this first or letting your stone reheat for another 20 minutes before putting a saucy pie like this into the oven.