This is another incidence of me combining homemade bread with pork products. If it happens again, I might just have a problem. I can admit that.
While it’s not necessarily a fast thing to cook (you need a few hours to let your dough rise), this pizza is really easy to make. It feeds a crowd and is great reheated the next day.
About my method
Because the crust is thick, I prebake it until it’s almost done. Then I pop it out of the oven, drop on the toppings, and stick it back in until they’re golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.
A note on my sous chef
As I was frying the pork sausage for the pizza topping, Dexter, my Barking Sous Chef, went over and started nosing around the canister of pig ears we keep for him as a special treat. Call me crazy, but this beast knows his pork products. (Reeni, this one’s for you…on the subject fabulous four-footed kitchen assistants).
A note on rolling out the dough
The key to making this without making a huge mess is to roll it out on your pan. I use a 12-inch, straight rolling pin (the kind you’d use to roll out wonton skins), which just fits inside the edges of my sheet pan. You should be able to pick one up at any reasonably large Asian grocery store in the kitchen section.
Thick Crust Sausage & Cheese Pizza
1 Tbls. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. mild ground Italian sausage
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
ground, peeled tomatoes
shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
Start the dough
Add the yeast and sugar to a large mixing bowl.
Pour in the water (it should be warm but not hot) and give it a swish with a wooden spoon to mix.
Walk away from the bowl for 5 to 10 minutes to let the yeast bloom (so you know it’s happy and alive). When it’s ready, it should look about like this:
The yeast will bubble up and rise to the surface of the water, forming a little raft of sorts.
Add the flour to the yeast and water in your bowl.
Stir to combine well until it comes together and forms a dough.
Your dough will be really, really wet. That’s OK. (It’s exactly what you want.)
Cover the bowl up with a few warm, moist paper towels. Let it rise, untouched, for about an hour, or until it has about doubled in size.
Fry the sausage
While your dough is rising, deal with the sausage. Put it in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Use two forks or a wooden spoon to break the sausage up as it fries, so it’s crumbled into small pieces.
Sprinkle on the garlic powder and stir to coat the sausage fairly evenly. Fry it until it’s nicely browned, stirring occasionally.
When it’s ready to take off the heat, it should look about like this:
Set the sausage aside to cool.
Roll out your dough
After an hour, your dough should have about doubled in size, and should be bubbly and look about like this:
Stir it around with a wooden spoon to get the air out of it and knead it a little.
Pour the dough out in a blob onto your prepared pan.
Flour your hands, then toss a little bit of flour onto the top of your dough blob.
Using your hands, spread the flour around on the dough and pat it down so it’s sort of flat. If your hands are getting sticky, add a little more flour until the surface of your dough is relatively dry.
Then, with a small rolling pin, roll the dough out so that it stretches to fit your pan.
If your rolling pin starts to stick, toss a tiny bit of flour onto the dough.
Your rolled dough should look about like this. Set it aside for approximately an hour to rise until it’s roughly doubled in size.
Prebake your crust
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. When your dough is ready to bake, it should look about like this:
Put your pan in the oven at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and makes a hollow noise when you thump on it with a finger. Take it out of the oven (but leave your oven on) when it looks like this:
Add the toppings
This part is approximate and is totally up to you, depending on your taste. Crack open your can of tomatoes and add 5 or 6 big soup spoons of tomato onto your crust.
Spread the tomatoes around with the back of your spoon fairly evenly.
Crumble on your browned sausage.
Sprinkle on the basil.
Add the two cheeses evenly to taste. (For thick crust pizza, I like a medium amount of cheese.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Go lightly if you’re not sure if you need more salt. Between the cheese and the sausage, you’ve already got plenty in there.
Finish baking and serve
When you’re happy with how the toppings look, put your pizza back in the oven at 425 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted, gooey, and browned the way you like it.
When you take it out of the oven, slide the pizza and parchment paper off the pan onto a large cutting board. Slip a spatula in between the crust and the parchment to loosen it. Toss the paper.
Slice your pizza with a butcher knife. Cut large squares for dinner-sized portions, or thinner strips for appetizers that’ll feed a crowd.