Pizza as Easy as Pie

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Budgets are tight now for North Texas families with jobs lost or paychecks reduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local cooking instructor Carol Ritchie understands what that's like.

Years ago when she and husband moved to North Texas, there were times when all they could afford was $20 in groceries a week. Still, there was always food on the table.

"We ate wonderfully. I would get a round steak and make stroganoff one day, then stir fry the next. colorful vegetables. We did a lot of BLTs. And, of course, who doesn't love pizza and nachos and tacos?" she said.

Pizza is the go-to food for a lot of families, and even more so during this pandemic. So, why not try your own as we "Stay Home. Stay Safe. Eat Well."

Culinary consultant Carol Ritchie ate a lot of pizza to help stretch the budget in lean times. Photo Credit: Carol Ritchie

Ritchie's recipe for Build Your Own Gourmet Pizza starts with a make-your-own or store-bought crust. Do what's easy, she says, then pile on the toppings.

Ritchie also likes the idea of getting the family involved in meal prep. She remembers the time she spent in the kitchen with her grandmother cooking and connecting.

"I interviewed her for a school project with a tape recorder about what it was like during the depression. I had a great time with her and I learned so much, and I'll l never forget what she said, and she loved spending that time with me," Ritchie said.

Build-Your-Own Gourmet Pizzas by Carol Ritchie — Cookin’ with Carol
Serves 4; makes 2 small pizzas


2/3 cup warm water (105°–115°F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more, if needed
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil


8 ounces tomato sauce
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 Italian plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Extras: pepperoni, cooked Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions

Measure warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over warm water, add sugar, and stir well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups of the all-purpose flour and the whole-wheat flour, salt, and olive oil with the yeast and water. Stir until mixture forms a smooth dough. Turn dough out onto a floured board. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to form a dough that is smooth and elastic, about 7 to 8 minutes (the dough may be a bit sticky, but try not to add too much flour to this dough). Divide dough into two portions. Place dough in two, separate, lightly greased bowls (olive oil is recommended for flavor), turning to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (After this point, you can cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours—bring dough out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you assemble the pizza.)

Punch dough down and let rest for 5 minutes (so crust will be easier to shape). Preheat oven to 475°F. Roll out each dough ball to about 8 to 10 inches round or oval (don't worry if the shape is not perfect!). Place one dough circle on a pizza peel that has been dusted with cornmeal (or use a lightly greased pizza pan), and top with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese slices, plum tomato slices, and fresh basil leaves (or any choice of extra ingredients you prefer). If using a pizza peel, transfer dough to a baking stone in the oven (or place pizza pan in oven). Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crispy. Enjoy!

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