A pizza party is the best party. How to crank out the pies at home

By Evan Kleiman

This before-and-after sequence shows pizza cooked in Evan Kleiman’s toaster oven. Photos by Evan Kleiman.

I’ll say it. Pizza is the perfect food. The crust comes in a million varieties. You can top it with anything or sometimes practically nothing. You can cook it in a thousands-of-dollars handmade outdoor pizza oven or a toaster oven. The dough takes under 20 minutes to make and rises beautifully in the fridge without you watching. It stores in the freezer for months. You can even buy dough ready-made for you. 

So what’s stopping you? With the cost of going out or even ordering out higher than ever, make your favorite food at home. We are not looking for the apex of perfection. We are simply creating a practice that will feed everyone with delight. That’s the party. Not a million friends, but even one happy person.


There are a few tools that will make banging out those pies much easier. For me, the most useful tools are: 

- A wooden pizza peel — if you’re using a pizza stone or steel, or cooking in an outdoor oven. 

- A round perforated pan (aka pizza screen) — Use it to slide, top, and bake the dough in the home oven. 

- Peels (aka giant spatulas) come in two types: wood and metal. Placing your stretched or rolled dough circle on a lightly-floured peel and topping it there makes sliding the pizza on a preheated stone or steel as easy as, well, pie. I’ve seen and used all the other hacks, and believe me, they’re not worth the trouble. Just buy a peel. Metal peels are for turning the pies and for removing them from a very hot (think outdoor) pizza oven. Remember, if you don’t have a very deep oven, you don’t need a long-handled peel. I have a couple and I never use them inside. I use tongs to turn my pizzas (gasp!) and to remove them from my home oven. But by all means, splash out if you must.

- Which is better: a pizza steel or stone? Steel heats faster and holds onto heat longer, so I prefer it. But it is also more expensive, so if a stone is in your budget, that’s fine too. What if you can’t afford either, or you don’t want the headache of cleaning or moving a stone in and out of the oven? You can just bake your pizza on a perforated metal pan created for that purpose. It’s what I use 90% of the time. I stretch the dough, place it on the pan, add my toppings, and slide it into the oven. To turn the pie, I only need to give the pan a spin. I was at Surfas the other day and saw several types of these pans, along with peels and stones. They sell frozen dough too.


Alexandra Stafford describes several doughs in her book “Pizza Night.” Photo by Eva Kolenko.

This isn’t a deep-dive dough tutorial. If you want one, I recommend working through the five different doughs in Alexandra Stafford’s Pizza Night. She walks you through making different types of dough — with variations on how quickly you want to eat it, and if you’re using a home oven or outdoor pizza oven. If you are besotted with the idea of making pizza in an outdoor oven, here is a great video from her.  

There are many good dough recipes you can find online. Here are a few of my favorites: 

- The Sourdough Pizza Dough from The Perfect Loaf.

- For years, I’ve used the recipe from Jim Leahy of no-knead fame. 

- You would be very happy with Roberta’s Pizza Dough.

This is an exhortation to get you moving toward pizza one night a week. The dough will be made in advance to enable you to cook with little fuss. I tend to make at least four dough balls at a time, and freeze them after they are balled up and have their second rise. They defrost in minutes on the countertop. 


Instead of thinking that your kitchen is a standard pizza parlor offering cheese or pepperoni (although there is nothing wrong with those), think seasonally. It’s summer. So yes, I will be having tomatoes on my pizza. 

Actually I love making a plain garlic pizza. You have to remember to cut slits all over the dough so it doesn’t bubble too much. Apply a slick of olive oil, copious sliced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, then slide it into the oven. 

Think of the garlic pizza as an edible plate for your favorite tomato salad. I love a caprese salad featuring tomato, fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. Then spoon it on the garlic pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven. Oh, slice that pizza up before you top it with salad.

It goes without saying that at least one pizza you make will feature tomatoes and mozzarella. There are arguments in favor of both fresh and low-moisture, whole-milk mozzarella. One is super tender and gives off its whey, the other will give you that cheese pull you crave. 

But why stop at mozzarella? There is a world of cheese out there. Put what you like on the pizza. I like using fontina. It melts beautifully but has more flavor than mozzarella. The Bel Gioso brand that’s in every supermarket is fine for this purpose. Are you into smoky flavors? Pair your tomatoes with smoked mozzarella for a change. It stands up well to the assertive piquant flavors of briny olives and capers.

Alexandra Stafford’s recipe for Summer Squash and Squash Blossom Pizza is in her book “Pizza Night.” Photo by Eva Kolenko.

Alexandra Stafford organizes her pizza toppings by season. I’m partial to her recipes for Roasted Hatch Chile Pizza with Corn and Oaxaca Cheese and Summer Squash and Squash Blossom Pizza (see below).