Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH which had been only 99 cents (!) for as long as I can remember, went up to bit by bit and is now $1.29. While I loved it for under a buck, its still not a bad deal, say compared to Whole Foods prices.

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah, baby!) Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough sold in the refrigerator section.

To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can find in the fridge, that might work on it!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home, folks. No really, it’s pretty easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine. Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course cheaper than buying one. There is nothing like eating a pizza you made yourself and just pulled fresh out of your oven, bubbly and browned. If you have never made pizza at home before, you must try making one yourself at least once. I promise once you do, you’ll want to make a pizza once a week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3-4 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight).

Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres how to make a pizza:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA WITH TJ PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some sauce (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better (optional: fresh garlic, diced tomato, fresh/dried basil, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but it is too short). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out,so plan ahead! (around the 1/2 hour point, turn on to pre-heat your oven to 450-500…very hot) Do not nuke it.

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work your dough on. Dust it with flour. Remove the dough from the package (TIP: Its sticky! I invert the plastic bag to remove and just keep tugging and pulling till I get it all out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I generally use a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza in. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square/rectangle instead of a round but I like it like this. If using this kind of sheet pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put in your dough, put some oil your fingers and on top of the dough and work it into shape using your fingers, pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough towards the corners. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ and keeps pulling back on you. Normal dough behavior. Just let it rest 5-10 minutes, then come back. Try to be careful and not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. And not too thick either or it will be tough! Get it just right. Build up the outside edge a bit. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want (optional). Another Option: Use a rolling pin to get it started and transfer that carefully to the pan and then work it. Remember if its the pan style its a rectangle you are shooting for. Shaping the dough is the only tricky part of making a pizza. The more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time don’ worry. It will still taste as good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit, practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it much easier in future. If you want to go the traditional round pizza route, of course try that. Moving the raw pizza into the oven is a tricky part, though personally I have found a square one in a sheet pan works.

IMG_0003READY TO ASSEMBLE (I am using smoked mozz and a little provolone) 
Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Very hot! Real pizza ovens are much hotter than your home oven can go but we can work with just longer baking. TIP: I have started to put the pan on the oven floor for 7-10 mins then move it to the middle or top rack for the rest of the baking time. This really bakes the bottom (if you don’t have a pizza steel or stone). If moving it sounds too complicated, just use the middle rack.

Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pan after 10 minutes, to even the baking. The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut up pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

IMG_0002Before and After. The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes for the pizza to come out of the oven.

IMG_0004

The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really not that hard to make, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself.

Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

UPDATE / TIP: I have been experimenting with “aging” the TJ dough in the fridge and let it sit for a few days before use. It will ferment slowly and will get sourdough-y taste this way as the dough ferments. Try this aging for 1 (or 2 days) past the “sell by” date. Experiment with the aging of the dough tip and see if the crust and flavor is improved. I find it so.

Personally I have found the regular dough is the best version TJ has  – I have found the whole wheat version too tough, and the herbed version too off-tasting and bitter. Your mileage may vary. If you really want great pizza, eventually you may even make your own dough!

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

Homemade Pizza (Recipe) with TJ dough


Here’s a Pizza I made for dinner last night. For the base, I used Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough, in the refrigerated section. The bag of fresh dough sells for the super price of just 99 cents (for 1 lb). Thats correct, 99 cents folks. Whole Foods has pizza dough too- however  they sell it (frozen) for almost double or triple TJ’s price.

Trader Joe’s has three varieties of Pizza Dough – Regular dough, Herb and Whole Wheat. I amost always buy the “regular” (ie, “white”) dough. Why? Well I have tried the herb dough but found it a bit bitter and off tasting. You would be better off adding your own fresh garlic and fresh or dried herbs.  As far as the Whole Wheat dough, while noble in thought as “healthier pizza” in reality I found it came out with a too tough crust compared to the regular dough. You can try them all over time and see what you think.

I find a package of dough makes a very nice sized pizza for two people with leftovers (maybe). The 1 lb bag of dough could easily feed three. It might feed four with some side dish and/or a big salad. As pizza dough is after all “bread dough” of course one can use this to make a loaf of bread or some breadsticks (see below). This is a good idea too. So this is one of those TJ items I ALMOST NEVER LEAVE THE STORE WITHOUT. If you Freeze it, you have this handy stuff on hand whenever you want. It can defrost overnight or in a pinch  you can leave it out in the morning to defrost by  dinner time.

HOME-MADE PIZZA

Ingredients:
This time, believe it or not I did not use tomato sauce though I usually do. Today I was a bit unorthodox and did use some fresh tomatoes. Plus a ton of other vegetables: zucchini, mushrooms + peppers (I cooked both before with oil and garlic), more fresh garlic, olive oil, Mozzarela, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, hot pepper flakes, more fresh tiny red peppers I had on hand, plus anchovy paste… oh yeah and a simple homemade pork sausage with peppers and garlic (which I browned up first) and crumbled on top. It was “almost” a vegetarian pizza, and you could easily make it that way. Maybe use some TJ Soy Chorizo, perhaps for the sausage component…Or not.

(READY FOR BAKING)

Method:  Its will take a little practice but this is do-able. Take the Pizza Dough out of the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour to 1 hr beforehand! It needs to not be super cold to work it. Turn the dough out of the bag on to some flour. Flour your work surface and gently stretch out your dough to your pan. I used a non-stick half sheet pan. Put some olive oil in the pan first and spread it with your fingers. Put some more on top of the dough. I stretched the dough to fit the whole pan and used my fingers to build up the edges. Then add your sauce and toppings and cheese.

I dabbed some anchovy paste all around the body of the pizza, and gently smushed it in with my fingers with a good dollop of Olive Oil (TJ’s Spanish EVO). I cut my zucchini into paper thin slices and laid them out all over in neat rows, laid tomatoes sliced thin all over, added my cooked mushrooms and peppers I made the night before, laid out the Mozz (shredded) all over, hit it with red pepper, sliced garlic, Italian seasoning, a little arugula, and more olive oil which I brushed on the edges with my fingers. Some more tomato on top which got “roasted”, some more fresh red peppers, a pinch of salt, plus lots of black pepper.

Baked it at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes (The TJ dough package says bake 9 minutes, thats sounds crazy short unless you have a very very hot pizza oven) In the style of my idol, Dom DeMarco (of Brooklyn’s DiFara’s Pizza) I tossed on some grated cheese (Parmesan or Grana Padano as Dom uses) AFTER it comes out of the oven. This gives your pizza some extra zing for sure.

OUT OF THE OVEN

Also like Master DeMarco, I was liberal with the Olive Oil especially on the pan for this squarish rendition, as I wanted that crust to get really crispy and brown -which it did thanks to that oil. After it was ready, I hit it with more fresh arugula on top (was tempted to use lemon juice like Paulie Gee too but didn’t…next time. Lemon juice on pizza? Trust me, with the arugula, its fantastic. Paulie Gee has some real pizza chops).

Result: Due to all the veggies honestly I felt the center was too thin and came out too wet  with all too many veggies I had loaded it with. If I did it over, next time I would not stretch out the dough quite as much and leave it much thicker all over to hold up to the veggies. The zucchini and fresh tomato produce a lot of moisture. In the center it was too moist. However other than the center the pizza came out perfectly. The outside edge crust (aka cornicone) was really crunchy and good, especially for something made in a regular home oven. Would it be better with a pizza stone? Maybe, I just don’t have one, nor do I have a Pizza Peel so would be a bit hard to get in the oven, without using the sheet pan I felt. I’m a very adaptable cook. Taste-wise? EXCELLENT. I got a high five from my Mrs, who deemed it one of the best pizzas I’ve made. First time I used the anchovy paste, which added a wonderful undernote of flavor. And the homemade sausage was fantastic on top. So basically I made the “sauce” right on the pizza in the oven. It does look tasty, no? I hope this picture inspires you to make a pizza at home; Its easy and delicious.

Oh and I tested out making a few breadsticks with a bit of the extra TJ’s dough. They were good! Try doing some of those too with this dough. You could of course even make a fresh baked bread with it too. I am now buying at least 2 packages of TJ’s Pizza Dough, and throwing one in the freezer to have on hand at all times. I do make my own dough on occasion but it requires some thinking ahead.

Now I know this isn’t exactly a “recipe” but to me, Pizza is a basic idea, that is improvised depending on your mood, ingredients, etc. So for the most basic “recipe” buy this dough, stretch it out on to a half sheet pan, add some homemade or good jarred marinara or tomato sauce, some mozzarella, olive oil, fresh garlic, etc. (add preferred toppings here). Bake it in a HOT oven. Check it at 15-20 minutes and make sure its brown and bubbly. Cook for another 5-10 minutes if not. When done, take it out and toss on some (fresh I hope) grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese. Remove from pan to a surface you can cut on and slice it up. Once you do this, you may never go back to “ordering in pizza”.

TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH =

RAVE