Mention pizza, and most of us come running. There’s something about the chewy crust, melted cheese and toppings combining with the flavor of the sauce.
Pizza has a long history. Flatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. The Greeks preferred a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia. But Naples, Italy, (in Italy’s Campania region) is thought to be the birthplace of pizza. The early pizza, sold by street vendors, featured tomatoes, cheese, garlic, oil and anchovies.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that pizza become popular in America. Italian immigrants brought their pizza to New York, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis.
Most of us have our favorite pizza joints that we admittedly frequent all too often — after a game or a meeting, or just for a quick dinner. Unfortunately, pizza isn’t known for being all that healthy. It can be high in calories, fat and sodium.
But you can alter that by making your own.
Homemade pizza is especially satisfying, with its made-from-scratch crust. When you take the time to do this, you can make a healthier pizza. Use a food processor or mixer for the dough, and it’s not even that hard or time-consuming.
The key to a healthier pizza is in the toppings — more veggies (spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions) and lower-fat and -sodium meats (Canadian bacon, chicken, half the usual amount of sausage). You can also add fiber to the crust with a cup or two of whole wheat flour. For a healthy pizza, it is important to stay light on the cheese and bread. Attempt to keep your crust thin.
A tomato-based pizza sauce is also a win. A tomato-based sauce can help you absorb the antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes. Lycopene helps to lower blood pressure and bring down high cholesterol. It's also more easily absorbed from cooked tomatoes as opposed to fresh ones.
Here are a few more tips:
• Load up your pizza with veggies for extra nutrients.
• Opt for a thin-crust pizza to cut down on calories.
• Limit saturated fat by choosing cheese carefully.
• Go for a whole-wheat crust for extra nutrition, or a veggie crust like cauliflower for fewer carbs.
• Choose lean proteins like chicken over high-sodium, high-fat pepperoni.
Try this pizza crust the next time your family wants a pizza. It’s no-fail, and it’s the go-to recipe for Saturday night pizza at our home.
SATISFYING: Step by step, here’s how to make the very-best-for-you homemade pizza. From left are the finished dough, the crust in the pan ready for its prebake, the complete pizza ready to bake and the baked pizza.
Homemade Pizza Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup instant dry milk powder (optional)
3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine, divided into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
⅔ cup lukewarm water (you may need up to 1 cup of water here)
Position knife blade in food processor bowl. Add flour, dry milk powder if using, butter, sugar and salt. Process until mixed, about 5 seconds. In a measuring cup, add yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar to ¼ cup water. Stir and allow to dissolve for about 10 minutes.
With processor running, add yeast mixture through food chute to flour mixture. Then, in a slow, steady stream, add just enough of the remaining water to make the dough form a loose ball (it will run around the bowl). Stop processor (all of the water may not be needed). Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; toss or fold over 9 or 10 times by hand. Shape into ball. Place dough in greased bowl; rotate dough in bowl to grease entire surface of dough. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Turn dough out onto well-floured surface. Using rolling pin or your hands, stretch dough over pizza pan. Prick dough with a fork to deflate any air bubbles.
Prebake crust (without toppings) for 10 minutes.
Top with pizza sauce, plenty of veggies, Canadian bacon and mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield. Send recipe ideas to her at [email protected].
The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.