National Pizza Day

...already happened, I know. But do we really need a national holiday? Who decides these things anyway? I obviously participated, and will continue to observe the holiday on a lot of days out of the year.

I like pizza in all forms, shapes, types, and sizes. I'm not above ordering Domino's on a lazy (maybe hungover) Sunday. I like going to the greasy New York pizza place that used to be by my dad's house with the rolls soaked in butter with large chunks of garlic. I really enjoy a "gourmet" pizza with thin crust, prosciutto, and arugula. (Sidetone: I recently went to Via Tribunali on Capitol Hill for the first time and I'm salivating just thinking about it. True Neapolitan pizza that they bake at 1000 degrees and that you cut with scissors. But bring a flashlight because it's very dark in there). 
And one of my favorite ways to do pizza is at home with friends and a bottle of wine. A few years ago I discovered Trader Joe's pizza dough, and it is a game changer.

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature. Mine is 550. (Do they go higher that? Unsure).
Take your dough out of the bag and let it sit on a lightly floured surface for about 20 min. (Trader Joe's has a whole wheat dough, as well as a white one with garlic and herbs). 
Once you do that, you can stretch it out with your hands to the desired thickness and shape, but I'm not that talented, so I use a rolling pin. Put a little olive oil on your pan or for best results use a pizza stone. (I used to have one, but I've somehow misplaced it. How you misplace a pizza stone, I'll never know, but I did). Put your rolled/stretched out dough on the pan.

I like to bake my dough a little before adding the toppings. Whenever I don't, it doesn't seem to be cooked to my liking, but you might have to experiment with this part. I probably pre-bake it for 5 or 6 minutes.

This is where the fun begins. I don't ever seem to shop specifically for toppings. I kind of just pull out whatever is in my fridge and cut it up. You're putting it on thin bread with melted can you go wrong? In this case I used broccoli, mushrooms, sweet & hot cherry peppers from Trader Joe's, jalapeños, tomatoes, pepperoni, and prosciutto. 

First you want to put a thin (or thick) layer of your desired sauce on your partially baked dough. I really like to use Trader Joe's pesto. (Are you seeing a trend?) But you can use traditional marinara, or whatever you feel like.  Next comes the best part...the cheese. You already know I like my cheese. Sprinkle some good 'ol mozzarella over the sauce. If I feel like going the healthier route, I put the veggies/toppings on first, and then just sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top to hold everything together.
Toppings time. You can meticulously place them in a strategic manner, evenly spaced. Or you can get crazy and just toss 'em on there and let them fall where they may. 

Now you can bake your masterpiece. Timing on this varies. The dough package says 8-10 minutes, but I find it usually takes less. My dough is already almost cooked, so it usually only takes about 6-8 minutes for the cheese to start to bubble, and maybe even get a little brown for good measure. It's your pizza. Your call.

And voila! Pizza.