Pizza — NOT as Easy as Pie

August 20, 2009 at 12:46 am 7 comments


This isn't just a pizza ... it's a pain in the you-know-what

I think it’s time to do away with the expression, “easy as pie.”  I’ve made all kinds of pies before, and trust me — they’re not so easy.  As of tonight, the latest pie to land on my shitlist is pizza.

You know what’s easy as pie?  Picking up the phone and ordering a pizza for delivery.  You know what’s not?  Coming home from work and attempting to make a pizza from scratch — the dough, the cheese, the sauce, the whole shebang.

Now, looking at this picture, it’s hard to tell what (if anything) went wrong.  This looks like a perfectly fine Sicilian pizza with ricotta cheese, right?  Well, it wasn’t supposed to be Sicilian, and that cheese was actually a sad attempt at making mozzarella.

Say Cheese
It all started when Jon mentioned he was going out for pizza in Seattle tonight.  Granted, I’m a New York pizza snob, but even the thought of hot, melty cheese on a Seattle pizza got my mouth watering. So naturally, I decided to make some.

Rennet & yeast -- 2 ingredients most Americans never buy

Rennet & yeast in their '60s-chic packaging

The chaos started with the cheese.  When I went to make the mozzarella, I realized I was missing a key ingredient — rennet.  Rennet is basically made up of enzymes from animal stomachs (you can get vegetarian rennet), and it’s extremely important in the cheesemaking process.  For some reason, I thought I could stroll into any grocery store and buy rennet.  Yeah, you know what else isn’t as easy as pie?  Trying to find rennet.

After an hour, I finally managed to get my hands on some rennet tablets at Metropolitan Market.  I raced home to find Jeff feverishly making a fabulous tomato sauce based on a recipe by Jacques Pepin (Jeff LOVES Jacques).  While the dough and sauce process went pretty smoothly, the same can’t be said for the cheese.

Maybe I just had trouble following the directions for this 30-minute microwave mozzarella because I was too busy daydreaming about vacation…  Or maybe the milk I used was ultra-pasteurized, or I heated it too quickly on the stove.  Whatever it was, I made ricotta/paneer/cottage cheese.  It was nothing that Tony Soprano could identify as mozzarella.

But by 9:30, we were hungry, tired, and maybe even a little delirious.  So, we decided to use the cheese … and you know what?  Delicious.  By 10pm, we were enjoying dinner and already plotting about how to make the next pizza even better.  I guess some people never learn. 🙂


Entry filed under: Bread, Dairy, Italian Food, Preparation. Tags: , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. amy  |  August 21, 2009 at 9:47 am

    pizza at home definitely takes longer than it seems necessary! I had a question about what you were doing in terms of using canned tomatoes or not? I find pizza sauces taste the best with canned tomatoes, unless you are doing something with fresh tomato slices. Just curious where the canned veggies fell 😉

    • 2. shiwanis  |  August 21, 2009 at 10:17 am

      ugh, for real. but i think the real problem is that i didn’t plan ahead (i.e. the rennet fiasco). so yeah, jeff actually made the sauce using real tomatoes! i usually prefer canned, but this sauce was divine. i think it’s because tomatoes are pretty much in their peak season, which gives them that sweetness right now. but you’re the real expert … thoughts?

    • 3. jeff  |  August 25, 2009 at 12:09 am

      fresh tomatoes only. I think the trick is to skin and seed them; i’ve read that leaving the skins and seeds in imparts a slight bitterness to the sauce. It is kind of fun to crush them by hand (i did put the seeds into a strainer in order to catch the excess juice).

  • 4. amy  |  August 25, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I’ve seen sauces made without the skins on the tomatoes as well–did you boil them first?

    • 5. shiwanis  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:31 pm

      Jeff’s saying he skinned and seeded the tomatoes using a peeler, and then just sauteed and simmered them on low…

  • 6. Fromagette  |  September 12, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Ugh! I’ve been trying to make my own cheese as well, but I have had no sucess. I found rennet tablets at Fred Meyer and I have even purchased two gallons of organic milk that had not been ultra–pasturized, and each time I end up with ricotta.
    I wonder if it is the rennet. Supposedly many people have had success with it, but I’ve also read that it is not as strong as cheese making rennet. Blah. (But then I also don’t learn. I still plan on trying again as soon as I can get some other kind of rennet.)

  • 7. Ryan Sanders  |  November 8, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Thanks for the cheesy story 🙂 I’ve been a bit nervous about making my own cheese too, but it sounds as if I need to just jump in and get on with the science experiment!

    If you ever need any tips on pizza dough and making, check out my pizza blog:



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