Mangia Bene!

Making pizzas and flatbreads at home can be a delicious way to share time with family members and friends.

When I was growing up, my small family did not have pizza as a meal very often, but that certainly changed when I married an Italian man!

For many years, my husband John and I invested our money back into our business, which meant that eating out was a luxury. Our big night out in the 1980s would be a once a month visit to Ciccio’s Pizza in Silver Springs Shores. Two brothers, Sal and Eppy, owned the pizzeria and treated us like family.

As our own family grew to include children, one of our best-loved traditions became movie night every Friday at home—and it always included homemade pizza.

After I would pick the kids up from school, we would go to the local video store and they would choose two or three movies for the weekend and their favorite candy to enjoy, once they had devoured the pizza. Many times, their friends would join the fun. Now, with all of the online streaming services, it is even easier to host a movie night at home.

To help you prepare restaurant quality pizza crusts—nice and crispy—I recommend investing in a good pizza baking stone, or more than one if you are planning on serving several people. I have two that have served us well for more than 20 years.

If you don’t want to make your own, you can  purchase premade pizza dough at most grocery stores. I now prefer to make pizza crust from cauliflower, which I think is a bit more friendly on the waistline.

Whether you create traditional pies or change it up a bit, just have a fun and creative time with it and let your family members and guests be involved in the process. That might mean altering your recipe to suit a variety of palates, for example by adding figs to the flatbread recipe shared here or sliced black olives to the veggie pizza.

I like to say that pizza is perfect no matter which way you slice it, and, as Italian mothers will tell their guests, “Mangia!” or eat up!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Roasted Veggies

For the crust:
1 small head of cauliflower
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I prefer part-skim)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:
1/3 cup fresh broccoli florets
1/3 cup fresh baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 small red onion, sliced
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (also part-skim)
1/4 cup pesto
Sprinkle of salt

Place a pizza stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees. › Remove the cauliflower florets from the stem and put them in a food processor or blender and pulse to achieve a sand-like texture, which should yield about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cauliflower. › Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl and cover and microwave for 4 minutes. › Let cauliflower cool completely, then place the granules in a towel and wring tightly to remove as much moisture as possible. (I recommend doing this in two batches to get the cauliflower really dry.) › Place the cauliflower in a mixing bowl and add the egg, spices and cheeses. › Mix well (I use my hands) and form the dough into a ball. › Place one piece of parchment paper on a cutting board or other hard surface and spray the paper with nonstick cooking oil. › Put the dough ball on the parchment paper. › Spray a second piece of parchment paper and place on top of the ball. › Roll the dough into a circle about 1/6 inch thick. › Remove the top sheet of parchment and set the pizza dough aside while you prepare the vegetables. › Place the broccoli, bell peppers and onions on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt. › Take the pizza stone from the oven and carefully transfer the pizza dough to the stone. › Place the stone back in the oven, along with the sheet of vegetables, and bake for 8-10 minutes. › While those are baking, sauté the mushrooms in 1 teaspoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. › When the pizza dough is golden brown, carefully remove it from the oven, along with the vegetables. › Spread the pesto (or other sauce) over the pizza dough and sprinkle with an even layer of mozzarella. › Top with the roasted vegetables, sautéed mushrooms and crumbled goat cheese. › Return the pizza to the oven for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is bubbling a bit. › Let the pizza cool for 2-3 minutes so the crust will hold together when you slice it.

Arugula, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Flatbread

2 premade naan-style flatbreads
3 cups arugula, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
1 red onion, sliced
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Optional: Four slices of prosciutto, cut or torn into small pieces, and balsamic glaze

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. › Put the oil and onions in a medium skillet and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes. › Adjust heat to medium and add the arugula and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. › Season with salt and pepper. › Place the flatbreads on a baking sheet and top each with a light coat of olive oil and some of the arugula/onion mixture. › Crumble goat cheese on top. › Add prosciutto if desired. › Bake for 10 minutes. › Allow to cool for a few minutes and cut each flatbread into pieces, either squares or diagonals. › Add glaze if desired

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

2 premade pizza crusts
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped or torn into pieces
2 cup cooked chicken, shredded (I use rotisserie chicken from a store)
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup hot sauce brand of your choice
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 stems green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. › Place butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and melt, about 20 to 30 seconds. › Whisk hot sauce and garlic powder into the butter to create the Buffalo sauce. › Pour half of the Buffalo sauce over chicken and toss until coated. › Place the pizza crusts on two baking stones. › Add half of the Buffalo sauce to each crust and spread it out (leave the outer rim bare to avoid burning). › Divide the chicken mixture, mozzarella, blue cheese and red onion evenly between the pizzas. › Bake the pizzas until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 15 to 17 minutes. › Garnish with green onions and an extra drizzle of hot sauce (if desired) and serve immediately.

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