Monday, December 28, 2020

Pizza at Home - A look-back at a year of making unique pizzas each week

We love pizza day. Back before the pandemic hit, Sunday was always pizza day at the Flowers' house. We stopped eating out and started making all our foods at home, but I was really missing pizza. 

It was Theresa that suggested I make my own pizzas at home, and make them in all the different styles. That turned into a challenge for me to come up with a new pizza every week for as long as I could. It started in June and just about every week since, I've made something different. To finish out the year, we're going to take a look back on all the pizzas I've made at home and then for dinner I'll be making everyone's favorite. 

The first pizza I wanted to try right out of the gate was a Chicago Deep Dish style pizza. Of all the pizza styles out there, I have fond memories of my college days eating deep dish pizza from Papa Del's. And so 

1. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

For my next pizza, I was feeling ambitious. I was determined to make my own mozzarella cheese. It was a learning process but eventually I had some fresh mozzarella to make a Margherita Pizza. I used fresh basil from the garden, and if I'd had waited a few more weeks, could have used from tomatoes too. 
2. Margherita Pizza

Pizza number 3 was an attempt to go in the opposite direction of the Chicago Deep Dish. I was attempting to make Thin Crust pizza, but something didn't quite go right. The recipe still had yeast in it so it puffed up a bit. It was also my first (and only) time cooking on the grill. 
3. Thin Crust Pizza

Whenever we visit Theresa's family in Michigan, we get pizza from Jet's Pizza. They have what's known at a Detroit style pizza with toasty cheesy crust going around the outside. 
4. Detroit Style Pizza

Our next pizza was right around July 4th. It's got to be New York pizza for that, right? With those giant slices that you fold in half to eat. 

Making so many pizzas from other places, I wanted to make something that was more familiar. Pizza nights before the pandemic were often Little Caesars, so I looked up everything I could find about how to recreate the pizza they make. In the end, I thought it was really close. 
6. Little Caesars made at home

I even made one of those big cardboard trays and paper sleeves like they used to have. 

Now I'm starting to think outside the (pizza) box. I remember having Bagel Bites growing up and decided with all my new-found baking skills that I could make bagels and then turn them into little pizzas. 
7. Bagel Bites made at home

Sticking with the frozen pizza theme, the next week, I decided to make French Bread pizzas. I baked a few wide french bread loafs, split them in half, and then turned them into pizzas. They were delicious, especially the 5 cheese white pizza that Stouffer's doesn't manufacture anymore. 
8. French Bread Pizzas made at home

Up to this point, I had been making pizzas only on Sundays. This next one was a mid-week pizza because we decided to have our very own Belmont Shore Stroll and Savor at our house. The Stroll and Savor is on a Wed/Thurs so we had ours on a Thursday. 
One of the pizzas I always love getting is a Ground Pepperoni Pizza from Domenico's. It took some searching at a few stores to finally find some pepperoni sticks that I could grind myself to get it just right. 

Just three days later, it was Sunday and time for pizza again. This time it's a pizza with no sauce inside. It's a pocket pizza in the form of a Calzone. Everyone got to pick their own toppings to put inside for a special calzone made just for them. 
10. Calzones

This next pizza was on my mind the very first week I started doing this series. One of my favorite pizzas ever is the Signature Pizzetta from the Napa Rose restaurant at Disneyland. This pizza has lots of bold flavors, and everything comes together on it so well! I was hoping I'd be able to make it half as good. To my delight, my homemade version was every bit as good as the pizza I'd buy at Disneyland. 
11. Napa Rose Signature Pizzetta with red flame grapes 

For my next pizza, I'm wanted to change things up. So many have been red-sauce based. This one is a white sauce pizza. Classic toppings for the white sauce pizza are grilled chicken and spinach, so that was great for me. I also decided to make a Meat Lovers pizza with ground pepperoni, regular pepperoni, ham, and sliced sausage. Yum!
13. Meat Lovers Pizza

Depending on what time of the year you go, the Napa Rose Signature Pizzetta can have different toppings on it. Some months it has Red Flame Grapes. Others it has figs. I figured I should give it a try with the figs and it was just as tasty as the first time. 
14. Napa Rose Signature Pizzetta with figs

The Belmont Shore Chocolate Festival is in February, but we didn't feel like waiting. We made 15 different chocolate item that day, and among my contributions was this Chocolate Pizza with a hazelnut spread, white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chips. 
15. Chocolate Pizza

I've got to do something from my own state of California. The BBQ Chicken pizza was developed by the California Pizza Kitchen. Using a BBQ Sauce base instead of a tomato sauce, this came out deliciously tangy and sweet. 
16. BBQ Chicken Pizza

When I was polling people for new ideas, my sister-in-law suggested that I needed to make a stuffed-crust pizza. Extra cheese inside the crust? Yes please!
17. Stuffed Crust Pizza

A favorite local spot that Theresa and I have gone to it Pizzeria Mozza. They offer a pizza that reminds me of breakfast based on the toppings. 
18. Potato, Egg, Bacon, Cheese Pizza

There was a lot going on this week, and I was rushing to get something new. Even when I have to resort to frozen pizza I like to fix it up. Adding pineapple and goat cheese to a frozen pizza makes it taste so much better!
19. Frozen Pizza with pineapples and goat cheese 

By this point we were in the new house, and there's still a lot of things going on, but I found time to make something interesting. One of the sites I visit for a lot of recipes suggested this next pizza as their favorite. We made it but it wasn't our favorite. 
20. Apple Gorgonzola Pizza

This next pizza is a Sicilian style pizza. It's something I remember having while walking around the streets of Italy. It's a lot of bread compared to the sauce and toppings. 
21. Sicilian Pizza

For National Sausage Day I made a pizza with crumbly sausage and link sausage. Sausage is tasty!
22. Sausage Pizza

It took a few months, but I was ready to retry the thin crust pizza. This time I found a recipe with no yeast, no rise time, and you roll it very flat between two pieces of parchment. It's described as Cracker-style Thin Crust, and it certainly is that. This is what I think of when I think of Thin Crust. Must better!
23. Cracker-style Thin Crust Pizza

It's nearing Halloween and so I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate something to do with the holiday into the pizza. I decided to make a pumpkin pizza in the form of a Japanese Pumpkin known as a kambocha. The adults liked it. The kids did not. 
24. Pumpkin Pizza

The next week when I told the kids I was making Pumpkin pizza again, they weren't too thrilled. It was a nice surprise when they saw I had changed things up. These pizzas were pumpkin shaped instead of pumpkin flavored. 
26. Jack-o-lantern shaped pizza with orange cheddar cheese

As part of National Pizza with the Works day, I made Richard a pizza that he specially requested. A combination pizza with lots of veggies.
27. Combo Pizza

BJs Pizza offered a Cheeseburger pizza that Theresa loved. They took it off the menu and we stopped going. I can make it at home though! The pizza they made was a cheeseburger style pizza with hamburger, pickles, and burger sauce. I decided to make another one I would like too in the form of a cheddar bacon burger and a mayo based sauce. I even added sesame seeds to the crust!
29. Bacon Cheeseburger pizza

All this time and I haven't dedicated a night to my favorite style pizza, the Hawaiian! We're fixing that tonight, and I'm making it two different ways. The first is your typical Hawaiian pizza with pineapple, Canadian bacon, and bacon. For the second, I dipped pineapple rings in brown sugar and caramelized them on the stove for my sweet component. Then I fried some spam for my savory component. 
31. Fried Spam and Caramelized Pineapple rings

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, what is there to do with all the Thanksgiving leftovers? Why, make a Thanksgiving Leftover pizza of course! Using the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and brown gravy as the base, I made a really delicious Thanksgiving pizza. Ian ranked it as his third favorite overall!

Our next pizza is inspired by Korean dishes. Using a bulgogi based sauce, I added Korean beef bulgogi, red onions, and olives, plus some green onions once it was done baking. This pizza was a hit too. Alli and Theresa loved it and want it to be in the regular pizza rotation. 
33. Korean Bulgogi Pizza

Now that it's the end of the year and the holidays are upon us, taking inspiration from the Jack-o-Lantern shaped pizza I made for Halloween, I knew I wanted to do something similar for Christmas. To start, I made a Frosty the Snowman white pizza with olives and a carrot nose. For the wreath pizza (my first pizza with an intentional hole in it) there are pepperoni ornament, spinach greenery, and a red bell pepper bow. 
35. Christmas Wreath pizza

The next week just a few days before Christmas, there were a few more holiday shapes that I still wanted to do. High on my list was a Christmas tree. I used a green pesto sauce for the first time this year as the green base, which the adults loved. To go along with that is a Santa hat with a red pizza sauce stocking and alfredo sauce bobble and band. For the last pizza, I'm making a Candy Cane with red and white stripes. Since it was thin crust, it was a big hit with the kids. 

In all those weeks of making pizza, I learned a lot about pizza dough, eventually coming up with my own favorite version of crust. I tried a lot of different recipes, but this one with its tweaks is the one my family likes the most. 

If you've stuck with it this far, congratulations! That's a lot of different pizzas! I knew it was a bunch, but 38 unique pizzas surprised even me! 

And so to round out the year, I asked everyone what their favorite pizza from the year was. Luckily for me, it was only 3 different pizzas. 
For Theresa and I our favorite is the Napa Rose signature pizzetta. I made the dough ahead of time, making sure to give it 24 hours for the flavors to develop. I also got a couple onions in a pan to caramelize. 

Mmm, they taste so good, and give a wonderful smell to the house. 

The toppings tonight include the red grapes, caramelized onion, cambozola cheese, and prosciutto. 

Every Sunday this is where you'll find me. In the kitchen, putting together some new form of pizza. 

For the kids, they both decided on a thin cracker-crust pizza with pepperonis. Nothing fancy. Just plain pepperoni. Their dough comes together a lot quicker, needing just 30 minutes or so before baking. 

For Richard and Chi, while all the variety pizzas are good, their favorite this year has been the Combination pizza. And because Richard likes pineapples, go ahead and add some of those too. 

Everyone posing in front of their favorite pizzas from the year. 

Between the two of them, the kids can eat an entire thin crust pizza. 

Richard and Chi loved their combination pizza, especially since it had pineapples added. They love the crust I make too because it's not greasy. 
Theresa and I thought the Napa Rose Signature Pizzetta was fantastic! 

Well it's been about 31 weeks since I started this challenge back in the beginning of June. I've made more pizzas this year than I've made in all previous years combined. I didn't ever think it would go this far, but every week there's been something interesting and new to try out. 

What will the new year bring? Stay tuned! I've already got some ideas for things to come!


  1. Such an amazing pizza-making journey to look back on...lots of creative ideas mixed into the recipes...enjoyed following along each week, and even began looking forward to "Pizza Sunday", myself! It's wonderful, too, that after all those different pizzas you perfected a family-favorite crust you can call "Joe's special no-knead pizza crust!" Will look forward to the new cooking/baking surprises planned in the new year :-) EOM

    1. Thanks! It's been a journey and I've learned a lot. Theresa is ready for me to go back and remake some more of our favorites, but I just keep finding new things I want to try!