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Perfect Family Pizza Night

Recipes and Tips from Chef Mom

Looking for a great way to bring the family together? Declare a pizza night! Pick a night when you will have some extra time. Next, find age-appropriate tasks – from helping with the dough to cutting the toppings to doing the dishes. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t making everything from scratch; there are great grocery store alternatives, like pre-made pizza dough or Naan breads that are already baked. Get creative! When I was a kid, my family had a stoplight pizza tradition with red, yellow, and green bell peppers in a deep dish crust. Have fun and make the tradition – and the pizza – all your own! 

Dough 

2 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
5½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the sugar, yeast, and salt in lukewarm water (and olive oil, if you’re using it). Start with 5½ cups flour and add more if necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.

Knead the dough (use your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle) until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes. 

Kids love to knead dough, so cut into two to four parts and let them help here.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container. Cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours. Or make the night before and leave in the fridge to develop flavor, whatever fits your schedule. Makes 8 personal pizzas.

Tomato Sauce 

12-oz tomato paste
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
(or 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
2-3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix everything well in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt or sugar if desired. Set aside until ready to top pizzas. This is a very thick sauce we spread very thinly to cover 8 personal pizzas.

Toppings 

sliced pepperoni
sausage crumbles
ham
bacon
mushrooms
thinly sliced red onions
roasted red bell peppers
sautéed spinach
pesto
kalamata olives
green olives
fresh mozzarella
grated shredded cheese
crushed red pepper flakes

Making the Pizza

Gently deflate the dough and divide into eight pieces. Have each family member use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a circle (or other shape) to place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. During the process, let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Your kids can get creative and stretch the dough how they want. Circles aren’t mandatory. 

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. While it’s heating, remove prepared toppings and brush each crust with a bit of olive oil. Spread pizza sauce thinly over the surface, and let your kids add their favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

Bake the pizzas for 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven. Slice and serve.


Caesar Salad

Dressing

1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
(1 ½ lemons or 1 juicy lemon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of romaine lettuce
homemade croutons (recipe follows)

In a blender, combine the grated parmesan cheese, garlic, mustard,
mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until well mixed.

With the machine running on low, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until emulsified. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning,
if necessary.

Pour the dressing into a large glass jar or a few smaller ones, if you’re not using it right away. Makes 1½ cups dressing (more than you need for one salad). The dressing will last for a week after it’s made, as long as it’s stored in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator.

Croutons

2 cups day-old or stale bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 8 slices of bread)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix everything in a bowl and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven 10 to 12 minutes.

To assemble the salad, tear the romaine leaves and put them in a salad bowl. Add the croutons and dressing to taste. Toss well to coat all of the romaine generously and evenly. Add more dressing as needed.


Lemon Lime Soda 

16 ounces sparkling water
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 to 2 limes)
4 tablespoons simple syrup, honey, or agave

Mix gently in a medium pitcher. Fill cups with ice, pour over, and serve.


Photos: Jenny Tremblay West

Jenny Tremblay West
Jenny Tremblay West began her career as a pastry chef and currently teaches cooking in Richmond. Jenny, her husband, and their two young boys live in Church Hill. She has worked in food for more than twenty years and is part of the team at Mise en Place.
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