From-scratch Make-your-own Pizza Night!

I can do dough and sauce in less than 1-1/2 hours--this is how I've gotten it down

My family has been doing weekly pizza night all through the pandemic, and I have it down to system. I can do two batches of fresh dough and make a quick sauce and have everything ready to go in less than 1-1/2 hours, which is not bad, and 4-6 people get to make their own pizza and put whatever they want on it.

Overview of the Process, and Tools

So, I've run through this many times. The dough takes about 45 minutes to rise, so you do have a little free time in the middle, but some of that is for making the sauce and getting all the toppings out and ready to go

The five key enabling kitchen tools I use for this are:

  1. A pizza stone, for the pizza making. Also, preferably, a pizza peel for transferrng pizzas in and out.
  2. A surface to make pizza on, like a clean, dry counter-top or a big cutting board.
  3. A 2-cup graduated measure, because you can deal with the yeast blooming in one cup.
  4. A food processor (you can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook, it takes a little longer), for the dough.
  5. An immersion blender, for the sauce!
  6. A couple of timers, so you do stuff at the right time.

Obviously, you need an oven to put the pizza stone in, as well. And a pizza peel that maybe came with your stone?

Task 1: Make the Pizza Dough

You are going to go through the following recipe twice. You don't need to clean the food processor bowl in between, but maybe you want to rinse out your 2-cup measuring cup. Oh, you should also have other measuring cups, because you'll be using the 2-cup one for the yeast.

This is the Cusinart Food Processor Pizza Dough that was in the manual that came with it. It's available in a lot of places, but on their site, they've changed the default one to make less dough. Here is the one you should look at, for 3 pizzas. This is from my old printed-out version, with my notes. I also used the Food Substitutions  Bible (love that book!) to figure out other things to use besides plain sugar:

Ingredients for the Dough

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast (or one of the small packets)
  • scant tsp barley malt (best), or 1 tsp honey (next best), or 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (105-115 F or 40-46 C)
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour plus a ittle extra to spinkle on top
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided


  1. In a 2 cup measure, add 1 1/4 C of warm water from your tap. It should be warm-warm on your hand, but defintely not as hot as your hot water can get. It just makes a difference on how long you have to wait for the yeast-food to dissolve and the yeast to foam up, but you don't want it too hot for the yeast, I guess?
  2. Add the teaspoon of barley malt or honey. You are going to have to stir it a bit to get it to dissolve off the spoon. Alternately, stir in the teaspoon of sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Add the yeast and stir lightly so it gets mixed in, it's going to want to be in these hydrophopic balls on the surface.
  4. Set a timer for 6 minutes, and do the next step while you wait.
  5. Get out your food processor, lock the bowl in, and put in the dough blade if you have it, otherwise the regtular one will do.
  6. Add the 3 1/3 C flour and the 1 1/2 tp of salt to the food processor bowl. Lock the lid on and spin it to mix.
  7. Add 2 tsp of oil in through the top of the food porcessor lid, and spin to mix that in with the flour and salt
  8. When your timer goes off, turn on the food processor, and with the machine running, pour the contents of the 2-cup measuring cup with the yeast into the feed tube as fast as the flour will absorb it. Continue to process as the dough should start to clean off the sides of the work bowl and form into a ball. When you see the ball, count off 30 seconds (I count to "30 alligator" as I watch it go). You may have to hold the machine down here, there gets to be a bit of momentum with that ball of dough spinning around.
    1.  Fix if the dough is just sticky  or watery and won't form a ball: First, just stopping the processor and stirring the sides of the mixture with a spatula, sometimes it doesn't mix right and you'll have a soupy lake surrounded by dry ingredients stuck to the side of the food processor bowl. If that doesn't work by itself, add a tablespoon of flour and see if it balls up, add more slowly until it does, then count your 30 seconds
    2. Fix if the dough cleans the side of the bowl but is just getting shredded and doesn't form a ball: add a couple of teaspoons of water, see if it balls up, add more very slowly until it does, then count your 30 seconds
  9. Take out a work bowl with room for the dough to rise. Pour in the 3rd teaspoon of olive oil into the bowl. Grab the dough ball, it may be slightly sticky, and put it into the bowl and flip it over a few times to coat it with oil.
  10. Put plastic wrap on the top of the bowl and put it in a warm place.
    1. If it's not summer, I usually put a chair over a heat register, put the bowl under the chair, put a blanket over the seat of the chair to make a tent out of it, and click the thermostat up a degree so the heat comes on.
  11. Set a timer for 25 minutes. It will take almost double that time to rise, but we need to know when to start the oven and the sauce.
  12. Put the dough blade back in the food procesor bowl (mine always comes out with the dough ball and I have to separate them), rinse out the 2-cup measure, and follow the same recipe again, steps 1-11, putting the dough ball in a new work bowl, and putting it next to the first one when you are done. Remember to make pizzas out of the first bowl first when you get to that step (or use another timer if you have one).

Task 2: Intermission and Oven Setup

Whew! You now can start prepping your pizza toppings, or take a quick break.

When your timer goes off:

  1. Arrange the oven so the rack you will be putting the pizza stone on is in the middle and there are no racks above it. Your less-frequently burned hands will thank you for this. You may need to just take out the top rack and put it off to the side. A hassle, but super worth it.
  2. Put the pizza stone on the rack you have positioned properly, then close the door.
  3. Set the oven to at least 475 degrees. Mine doesn't like more, but I think 500 would be better.
  4. Set your timer for 20 more minutes. It's time to make the sauce!

Task 3: Make the Pizza Sauce

Here is the pizza sauce recipe. It is based on a recipe I found on, and is what they call "30 Minute Tomato Sauce". The changes I make is that a) I use a bit less tomato paste, just so I can make two batches from  one of the small tomato sauce cans, and  b) I call it good after about 15-20  minutes instead of 30. To help it along I use another tool, a stick blender, to blend it up before it simmers, so it's smooth enough fo pizza sauce. Oh, I also add a bit of sugar.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients

for 6 servings (way more than 6 pizzas)

  • 3 Tbsp  olive oil
  • 1/3 of a big red onion, lazily diced  (or 1/2 of a small one)
  • 2 gloves garlic, sliced short way (or minced)
  • 3 ounces of tomato paste (1/2 of the little can tomato paste, or about 4 Tbsp)
  • 28 oz can crushed/ground tomato
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher sallt
  • black pepper


  1. Cut your 1/3 piece of red onion, and dice it. It can be a rough dice, because we'll just blend it up in a later step.
  2. Chop up the garlic cloves.
  3. Put a pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil, onion, garlic and tomato paste.
  4. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently (you can use the second timer), or unitl the tomato paste/onion/garlic mixture has carmelized.
  5. Take pot off heat.
  6. Add the canned tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, sugar, and salt to pot.
  7. Put in the immersion blender, blend, moving the blender around the pot untill it looks smooth. You should at some point see very little red bubbles or foam circling the blender stick when you are blending, and the sauce should be more orange-colored.
  8. Add ground pepper to taste, and blend it in.
  9. Put pot back on the heat, set heat to simmer, put a lid angled on the pot so it blocks spatters, and set your second timer to 10-15 minutes, so the sauce can simmer and get thicker.

Don't forget to come back to the sauce, but it's okay, you have a timer going.

Task 4: Set up the Pizza Station

While the sauce is simmering, you should set up your pizza station. You'll need the following:

  • a cutting board or surface for rolling or stretching out dough. I use a big cutting board with a silicone pad underneath for grip.
  • small bowl of flour and another small bowl of corn meal, both for putting on the surface and for the pizza peel.
  • rolling pin, or you can use your hands
  • A pizza peel ,or otherwise you can struggle with moving the cutting board to the oven and pushing with spatulas
  • toppings!
    • The usual: cheese, meats, preserved and fresh vegetables:
      • shredded mozarella cheese or "pizza cheese" mixes, mozarella balls for making pizza margherita, smoked gouda
      •  meats like pepperoni, salamii, italian sausage
      • preserved vegetables like olives, sliced pepperoncini, roasted red pepper slices, roasted tomato slices, Mama Lil's peppers, etc
      • fresh vegetables like tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, basil leaves for pizza margherita

You're Ready! Punch Down the Dough and Make Pizzas

When the timers both have gone off, you're ready to go! Turn off the buner under the sauce and pour into a bowl with a big spoon and put at the pizza station. Wash and dry your hands. Fetch the dough from its warming place, dust the top of the dough balls with flour and punch down, flip over in the bowl and dust the other side with flour. Place dough at the pizza station.

Have folks dust the pizza-making surface with flour, pinch off a piece of dough, and either finger-pat and stretch, or roll out the dough pinch-ball, sauce then cheese the toppings then cheese again, or whatever you'd like to try.

Transfer to the pizza stone in the oven using the peel, cook until the cheese is well-melted and the bottom of the pizza is cooked blonde and rather crusty, and the edge of the crust is crisp. Thicker pizzas will take longer so they aren't doughy in the middle. Pull that pizza out, it's done! Repeat until everyone's got pizza or you run out of dough.

If you end up with extra dough, you can coat it with a little olive oil and put in a quart ziploc or other container and freeze. You can later thaw it in warm water (I double-bag ziplocs because sometimes they get holes in the freezer and if you get water on the dough, it's not going to work).

Hope you try it and enjoy a family pizza night!

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