Kitchen Skills

Making pizza to your liking takes a little practice. Start with the dough, add sauce and toppings of your choice, and bake to perfection.

The “best” pizza is in the eye of the beholder. There are those who love the classic cheese pizza, those who like pies piled high with vegetables, and pizza lovers who like unusual ingredients such as fish, mashed potatoes, or chocolate. Although preference for pizza is subjective, there are key components that can take any pizza to the next level. Chef Jason Strotheide gave step-by-step instructions on how to create the perfect pizza during a recent Kitchen Skill Drill, a Health4U program in partnership with MSU Culinary Services. He thrilled the audience with 6 different combinations to sample.

Chef Jason stressed the importance of two key ingredients in a pizza, no matter the toppings: great pizza dough and the perfect sauce. Starting with the dough, it’s important to decide whether the crust be thin or thick and then crispy or chewy. He provided his favorite pizza dough recipe that features bread flour and honey. He also provided a pizza sauce recipe that he believes is the best sauce that anyone can find. His recipe uses San Marzano tomatoes and fresh herbs. If an alternative sauce is preferred, consider pesto, BBQ sauce, or Alfredo sauce to change things up.

When it comes to pizza dough, the recipe is important, but so is the technique. There are various ways to construct a round pizza: hand stretching, hand pressing, rolling or hand tossing. Hand pressing may be the easiest technique, but still requires a bit of practice. Hand stretching, rolling, and tossing require expert technique--like any skill, you get better the more you do it.

To hand press a pizza, have the ball of pizza dough ready and prepare a floured work surface. Flour the ball of dough and then mold the dough into a flat, round shape. Starting in the center, use your fingers to push dough out, making the disc size bigger and forming an outside ring about one-inch thick. Pick dough up with fingers, holding it up with the ring edge and slowly spin. This will cause gravity to stretch the pizza dough. Once it’s the size you want, it’s ready for sauce, cheese, and toppings!

Chef Jason's pizza topping combinations

  • Roasted chicken, golden beets, granny smith apples, rosemary, and goat cheese on hand stretched dough and baked on a stone.
  • Pepperoni, provolone, mozzarella blend cheese, and tomato sauce on hand pressed dough and cooked in a cast iron skillet to make it a deep dish pizza.
  • Roast sirloin, russet potatoes, garlic asparagus, sundried tomato pesto, and MSU dairy curds, on hand pressed dough and cooked in an aluminum deep dish.
  • Roasted Pico de Gallo, grilled zucchini, salsa verde, queso fresco, and mozzarella blend cheese, hand stretched, grilled, and baked.
  • Portabella mushrooms, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, ricotta cheese, on rolled dough and baked on a sheet tray.
  • Roasted tomato, marinated mozzarella, and olive oil on hand tossed dough and screen baked.

What’s your perfect pizza? Experiment and keep experimenting. Perfection may change from time to time.

By Abi Smith, Dietetics Student, Class of 2018

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