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TODAY

Saturday, May 25

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Airbags

The world of pizza is wide and varied. I was once a guest at a party where I was served pizza that had tuna fish and I swear to God some kind of pine needle, which I ate and of course complimented my host on. (Never mind my politeness, it was foul.) It was a change from the monotony of Tombstone pizza but still gross.

Fortunately frozen pizza doesn't come with pine cones. But it still isn't very good. It's just easy and available and really, there's something about warm gooey food that is nice. But after more than 25 years of Tombstone, Jack's and Jewel pizza, I am so sick of it.

Fortunately there's a pretty easy way to make a pizza that tastes better than home made but takes roughly the same time to make. Oh wait, you might have to spend a whole FIVE MINUTES chopping and arranging things, but the better taste is worth it, right?

There are three secrets to better homemade pizza that I'll share with you.

First, skip the tomato sauce. (I'd give the same advice for pasta too by the way.) Most of the tomato sauce that bills itself as pizza sauce is terrible. Same goes for tomato sauce. Leave it in the can and dear God do not put this on your pizza.

Second, don't overdo it on the cheese. When making pizza at home, people will often make Mount Mozzarella in the middle of the pizza. This is a bad idea because all the moisture will make the crust soggy. Put enough to mostly cover your pizza, and not too much more.

Third, make your own crust. Want thin crust? Want thick crust? Just take the white bread recipe I wrote about in August and use it for your dough. Instead of rolling the bread into a bread pan, cut it into shapes and roll into the shape of a circle or square, depending upon your pan. If you have extra, freeze it for your next pizza.

(Nit-pickers among you will be quick to point out that I promised this pizza would be as fast as a frozen one. Fine. If you don't have the time to make your own crust, pick up a pizza crust from the grocery store. Most stores have the Bobili pre-cooked crust, which is fine. You can also get Pillsbury Pizza Crust dough in a canister near the dinner rolls.)

To prepare your very own frozen pizza:

1. Gather your vegetables. I use vegetables because they take the least amount of time to use when preparing your pizza -- just chop what you have available. A tomato often suffices for the base. Then you add what you like and have available: red pepper, onion, mushrooms, olives (canned are fine), broccoli, corn. Usually the more colors you have, the better your pizza will taste.

2. Chop the vegetables. Take the veggies that you have around and dice them into small pieces. They should be about 1 square centimeter -- small enough that you won't take half of your pizza with you into your lap when you take a bite. It'll also let the pizza cook faster.

3. Take the crust you've made or bought and put it in the pizza pan. It's better to use a pan for getting the pizza in and out of the oven, but if you don't have one, don't stress.

4. Take a tiny dab of olive oil and spread it over the top of the crust. Only a tiny coating is needed -- the oil helps add body to your pizza.

5. Toss the vegetables onto the crust. Do your best to evenly distribute them to make the meal look appetizing. Observe your beautiful creation.

6. Shred some cheese and put it over your vegetables. I'd recommend only putting half as much cheese on this pizza as you think you need -- it'll spread out when it melts. Covering the vegetables with cheese will make the whole thing soggy. Just a light sprinkling of shredded cheese should do the trick.

If you have cheese to spare, consider adding a few other types of cheese, for diversity's sake. Asiago and Parmesan in limited quantities are good, but so are Fontina, Romano and even Feta.

7. After you've added the cheese, add a few spices to your pizza. The obvious ingredients are a very light amount of basil and oregano, but thyme can be nice too. Contemplate pepper, or perhaps a secret hot sauce you love.

8. Bake in the oven at 350 until it is done. I realize that I'm cheating you here by not saying "Wait 30 minutes". But it's your pizza. I don't know what you did to it. It's done when it's done. You're a smart kid, you'll figure it out.

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