Pizza is a big deal at my house. Every Friday my son, Jonathan, and I make a homemade pizza for lunch with all his favorite fixings that we affectionately call Pizza Giovanni (recipe below). Sometimes we invite good friends or family to join us, but many days it’s just the two of us and one of the special ladies in his life who babysits. This week we are making this family treat on Sunday instead so that Daddy can join in the fun.
Jonathan loves vegetables, so we pile them high in a bounty of color. We both like a lot of contrasting textures and flavors. We pair crisp, raw white onions with supple, sweet roasted red peppers. Baby mozzarella the size of pearls yield all the benefits of fresh buffalo with the kid-friendly edge of not needing a knife. Italian chicken sausage is just like its pork counterpart, but far more healthful. We favor raw mushrooms to cook with the pizza, thus avoiding the need to sauté them in advance. Homemade sauce is wonderful, but in a pinch I use Muir Glen’s organic fire roasted tomato sauce.
The crust, of course, is key (so, too, is going light on the sauce). And we have a special field trip for that piece of the pie. My son loves that he has a role to play in the preparation by walking around the corner to the pizza parlor each week. It’s something he looks forward to almost as much as the 50 cents change he gets to throw in his piggy bank from paying for the $4.50 dough with a $5 bill. Our local New York pizzeria, Arturo’s, makes excellent dough and happily sells it to us each week.
Feeding my family is something really special. The memories we are making—and the skills my son is learning —are priceless. I love sharing what I do with my son, and I am always pleased to see his enthusiasm for the food he loves begin with its preparation.
There are two books I highly recommend for anyone who wants to cook not only for their children, but with their children. I recently had the privilege of styling TV segments for both authors on their respective appearances on CBS’s The Early Show:
1 large pizza dough
¾ cup tomato sauce
1 pound fresh mozzarella (in baby balls or sliced)
2 Italian chicken sausage links, fully cooked and sliced
2 roasted bell peppers, sliced
6 large button mushrooms, sliced
1 small white onion, sliced
freshly grated Parmesan
Basil leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400˚F and place the oven rack in the middle.
Stretch the pizza dough to fit a half sheet pan (a jelly roll pan of 18 x 13). Place the dough in the pan, making sure that it is fully stretched to every corner. Pinch excess dough within the pan to create a border.
Spread the tomato sauce over the base of the dough, then evenly place the mozzarella on top. Next add the sausage slices, roasted peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and onto a cutting board. Let the pizza rest for two minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings.