Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
As a warm-blooded, oxygen-breathing being, I rarely need an excuse to eat pizza. For me to dedicate the time to actually make a pie, however, it takes a bit more convincing. A New York resident with access to the best slices in the country—sorry, Chicago—I typically turn to my local joints rather than the oven to quell my cravings. But when inspiration hits, I'm always reminded of how tasty, simple and satisfying a DIY pie can be.
Most recently, motivation arrived as I unwrapped a pristine, high-quality pizza stone on Christmas morning. The gift, a clever ruse devised by my marinara-and-mozzarella–loving sister, sparked a post-holiday frenzy of pizza concoctions. She and the rest of my family became the well-fed beneficiaries of my quest for at-home pizza fulfillment.
For this experiment, I forewent time-intensive homemade dough and picked up a trusted premade fresh pizza dough from a local grocery store, removing it from the refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking, as it's more malleable at room temperature.
Though stretching the dough to the desired thinness takes practice, getting that coveted crispy yet chewy crust was my biggest obstacle. Pre–pizza stone, I relied on upside-down baking sheets and cast-iron pans to achieve varying degrees of crunchy success. The trick, I learned through trial and error, is getting the oven and the baking stone devilishly hot. My most successful pies emerged from ovens set to the maximum temperature and preheated for up to an hour.
Transferring the prepared pie to said blistering inferno is no task for the skittish. It takes a steady hand and some strategic shaking to place it onto the preheated baking sheet or stone.
The rest of the preparation for this pizza is quite simple. I squirreled away some prosciutto and fresh Italian burrata cheese—a mozzarella ball filled with cream—from my Christmas dinner's charcuterie spread and made a simple sauce from canned San Marzano tomatoes and drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When purchasing the dough, I also grabbed a bunch of basil to add freshness to the rich pie.
In pairing wine with the pizza, I looked to the sauce and toppings for direction. With the high-acid tomato sauce and salty prosciutto, I surmised that white could be the way to go. I went rogue with my first choice, selecting an Austrian Grüner Veltliner for my Italian dinner staple. On paper, I thought it had a chance. It was refreshing and zippy, with herbal notes to accent the basil and a snap of acidity to cut through the molten cheese and meat. But after tasting the Grüner with the pizza, my family and I decided that it was too spicy, too floral. It just didn't feel right.
I made my way back to Italy and selected a white from pizza's homeland. A Falanghina from the Campania region in the south had the brightness I'd been seeking, plus it was easy-drinking and fleshier than the Grüner. A touch of minerality accented the prosciutto and sold me on the match, but some relatives wanted to try a red with the creation. So we also sampled a Barbera d'Asti, a high-acid Italian red with expressive fruit flavors. Light in tannins, the red didn't clash with the pizza's salty freshness; rather, its supple texture melded well with the velvety burrata and satisfied all my pizza tasters.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Approximate food costs: $20
1. Place upside-down baking sheet or pizza stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 500° F or as high as it will go.
2. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature for approximately 20 minutes.
3. In a blender, combine tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.
4. Prepare a smooth flat surface (a cutting board, baking sheet, etc.) with generous amounts of flour and cornmeal. Flour hands and roll or stretch dough as thin as possible without overworking.
5. Brush the edges of the dough with olive oil and spread a thin layer of sauce on the rest. Break up burrata with hands and evenly distribute. Do the same with prosciutto.
6. Carefully open oven and slide prepared pizza onto hot stone. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown and cheese is lightly bubbling. Remove from oven and top with sprigs of fresh basil. Serves 2–4.