What’s Up, Hungry People?
So, the grind never stops, huh? While juggling a move and some blog upgrades, I’ve managed to keep my weekly recipe challenge streak alive—clocking in at a solid 92 weeks, thank you very much! This week’s challenge was all about crafting homemade bottled sauces. Talk about timing!
I just harvested a bounty of tomatoes and peppers from my garden. Oh, did I mention this was my first time canning? Stick around to see how it all turned out!
The Joy of Canning (and Sauce-Making)
You read that right, folks. Your girl here dabbled in canning for the first time ever, and let me tell you, it was a smashing success. What did I make, you ask? A rich, flavorful pizza sauce that I can enjoy for months to come, all thanks to some extra jars I had lying around.
A shoutout to my co-worker who gifted me fresh basil and thyme, making it possible for me to create this killer margherita pizza.
Here’s What You Need
- Fresh Basil: Provides aromatic depth to both the pesto and pizza sauce.
- Pine Nuts: Adds texture and nuttiness to the basil pesto.
- Olive Oil: Helps emulsify the pesto and adds richness.
- Romano Cheese: Gives a salty, umami kick to the pesto.
- Salt: Used for seasoning the pesto and the pizza sauce to enhance flavors.
- Pizza Dough: The base of your pizza; choose canned or homemade.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: Melts beautifully, giving your pizza that classic gooeyness.
- Tomatoes: For the sauce and optionally as a topping for fresh, acidic notes.
- Red Onion: Adds mild sweetness and complexity to the tomato sauce.
- Tomato Sauce: Adds body and volume to your homemade pizza sauce.
- Tomato Paste: Thickens the sauce and intensifies tomato flavor.
- Garlic: Adds a strong, aromatic flavor to the sauce.
- Thyme: Introduces a subtle, earthy flavor to the tomato sauce.
- Butter: Adds richness and body to the tomato sauce and garlic butter.
- Garlic Powder: Used for the quick garlic butter that’s brushed on the dough.
- Parsley: Adds color and a light, herby note to the garlic butter.
- Pepper: Seasoning for the pizza sauce; balances out the flavors.
- Brown Sugar: Used to balance acidity in the sauce.
- Onion Powder: Used in garlic butter for a slightly sweeter, milder onion flavor
Sauce Like a Boss
The sauce journey began with a simple puree of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and thyme. Aim for a smooth consistency, folks. Once you’re there, melt some butter in a large pot over high heat and toss in that gorgeous puree, along with a dash of brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
Let it simmer for about 45-60 minutes. Keep an eye on it; you’re looking for a thick, darker sauce. No burning allowed!
Pro tip: keep the pot covered unless you’re in the mood for a volcanic red mess on your stovetop.
Old School Canning 101
Since I was in the experimental phase and didn’t own specialized canning gear, I opted for the water bath method. First off, sterilize those jars and lids in boiling water. Carefully transfer the hot jars into a water bath that submerges them halfway. Pour in the sauce, cap ’em up tight, and let them soak until they’re fully sealed, which is about 20 to 40 minutes. Done right, these jars will stay good for a couple of years!
Time for Pesto and More
For the pesto, I blitzed together basil, Romano cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts until the mix was smooth as Sinatra.
Next up, garlic butter—just melt some butter and blend in garlic and onion powder, along with some dried parsley. Brush this heavenly mixture over your entire pizza dough, paying extra attention to the crust area.
Assembling the Pizza
Here comes the fun part. Slather your DIY sauce over the dough; no worries if some spots remain bare. Top it off with mozzarella slices and any extra basil leaves you’ve got lying around. Tomato slices are optional.
Seriously, I can’t stand whole tomatoes, despite the absurd amount of tomato plants in my garden. Go figure.
The Grand Finale
Bake that bad boy until the mozzarella is melty and the crust is golden. I used a preheated pizza stone for that extra crispy bottom and softer center. Once out of the oven, drizzle the basil pesto over the top. The blend of sweet and tangy flavors it adds is the cherry on top.
Margherita Pizza & Homemade Sauce Tips
- Choosing Tomatoes: If you’re picking tomatoes from your garden, go for ripe, juicy ones. They make a big difference in the quality of your sauce. The redder and less mealy, the better.
- Cooking Time: Pay attention to your oven; all ovens are not created equal. Start checking your pizza at the 15-minute mark. You’re looking for a bubbly cheese surface and a crispy bottom crust.
- Canning the Sauce: If you’re new to canning like I was, it’s okay. The water bath method is pretty foolproof. Just make sure your jars and lids are sterilized, and that the lids “pop” to ensure they’re sealed.
- Herbs on Hand: Don’t worry if you’re missing fresh basil or thyme. Dried versions can work in a pinch, but remember, they’re more potent. Use about a third of what the recipe calls for when substituting dried herbs for fresh.
- Pizza Stone: I swear by a preheated pizza stone for a crispy crust. If you don’t have one, a preheated baking sheet flipped upside down will also do the trick.
- Cheese Choices: If fresh mozzarella isn’t in the budget, regular shredded mozzarella will do. It won’t be as gooey but it’ll melt just fine.
- Leftover Pesto: If you find yourself with leftover pesto, it’s awesome as a pasta sauce or even as a sandwich spread. Just remember to store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Alright, Hungry People, if you’ve been following along, your kitchen should be emanating an aroma that makes you want to fist-bump yourself. We’ve navigated through the intricacies of homemade sauce and basil pesto, and let’s face it, we’ve knocked it out of the park.
This isn’t just another margherita pizza; this is your margherita pizza, made from scratch, exuding flavors that commercial joints wouldn’t even know how to spell. It’s the kind of meal that makes you wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along.
So here’s to you, the chef, the artist, the creator of this incredible piece of edible art. May your pizza stone always be hot and your mozzarella forever stretchy. Now go ahead, take that first bite and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Enjoy!
Margherita Pizza with Homemade Pizza Sauce
FOR BASIL PESTO:
FOR PIZZA SAUCE:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a pizza stone in the oven and let it preheat for at least one hour.
- In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, red onion, 2 tablespoons of basil, 2 tablespoons of thyme, and garlic until smooth. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over high heat. Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir in brown sugar and simmer. Keep simmering until the mixture starts bubbling and thickens—this should take about 45 minutes to an hour. If necessary, adjust the temperature to prevent the sauce from burning.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool until it's no longer steaming. While the sauce cools, combine all the pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Preserve any unused sauce for future pizzas!
- In a small bowl, melt the remaining butter. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and salt. Unroll the pizza dough onto a pizza board or onto the preheated stone. Brush the garlic butter across the entire crust.
- Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce over the dough. Slice the mozzarella cheese and arrange it on top of the pizza. Sprinkle any remaining basil leaves. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until the pizza dough is cooked through and the mozzarella is bubbling.
- Drizzle the pesto over the pizza as desired. Slice and serve hot right away. Enjoy!