Pizza on the Cheap

A cure for a passion for pizza and no pennies

A large pizza with pepperoni, olives, mushrooms and extra cheese please! Oh, the thought of it alone makes your mouth water, doesn't it? How we all love pizza! In the United States alone, over $20,000,000,000 (yes, all those zeros add up to 20 billion) was spent on pizza in 1994.

It all began in the year 1522 in Italy, when the peasants of Naples mixed then-unpopular tomatoes into their simple flat bread to somewhat stretch their short rations. (Yes, pizza was once poor folks' food.) From this humble beginning, we have the single most popular food in America.

The first known pizza delivery was made by the owner of a pizzeria in Naples, Italy, around 1830. High society did not customarily go out to take their meals, but the king and queen were curious and ordered in. The pizza chef fixed three different varieties for them. The queen chose a pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil as her favorite. This combination still takes the ribbon with a variety of pizza lovers.

Pizza's popularity continued to grow in Naples and throughout Italy. When Italians migrated to New York City and Chicago, they brought pizza with them. Italian bakeries sold pizza along with their other breads and pastries. Soon pizzerias were opening everywhere. By the 1950's and 1960's, pizza had made a leap into nationwide popularity.

All this talk of pizza and now you want one, right? But like me you are pinching pennies so you can be in the home. So make your own! It is simple and economical. There are many recipes with varying degrees of skill required but none of them are difficult if you have even scant cooking experience. It requires only about 20 minutes in total for some recipes.

I started making pizza once a week about 15 years ago. I have tried different recipes for the dough and sauce and think I have finally found the best recipe for my families taste. The dough I use was featured in an episode of Reading Rainbow on PBS television. It contains no fat and is simple to make.

1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2-3 cups flour

Mix all ingredients together and knead for two minutes. Let the dough rise until double (optional). Spread dough on lightly greased pan, top with sauce, cheese and other favorite choices. Bake in preheated oven 500 degrees for 8-10 minutes. This recipe makes enough dough for one large pizza (either a 16 inch round pizza pan or the more probable large rectangle baking sheet).

My favorite sauce is made with one part tomato paste to one part tomato sauce. I add garlic, basil, oregano, paprika and pepper to taste. I small can of tomato paste and one small can of tomato sauce is enough for two pizzas, or in other words, a double recipe of dough. Now, quit reading and go make a pizza!

A.G. Zahn is a 36 year old mother and wife. She has three sons ages 15, 13 and 12 and a daughter age 3. She says, "My husband and I both feel strongly that children should be parented rather than 'warehoused' in day cares. This commitment means living on his teaching salary and being very frugal. I have never regretted this decision and truly admire others who make this sacrifice."