Rat-Uh-Who-We What?

I’m pretty sure that pizza is the perfect food. Yeasty, crunchy crust, gooey cheese, tangy sauce, and scattered toppings of choice...what’s not to love? Pizza is like a bare canvas waiting to be composed and spoiled with endless embellishments, as long as you have a great crust to support it.

This pizza crust recipe is made in a mixer, rises in an hour, and stretches, rolls, or, ahem, flies in the air easily. I don’t have the time or the talent for rising and punching and rising and punching, especially when it comes to dinner. The rim of this crust is crispy yet has a chewy & inflated center and the foundation becomes crunchy while staying soft, but not soggy, under the sauce and cheese.

I used to use bagged shredded mozzarella cheese, but have recently switched to fresh, sliced mozzarella. We don’t use it all the time, but lately we have very much enjoyed its melted, bouncy strings that cling to our chins and the giggles that come with its sticky embrace.

We make homemade pizzas now just about every other weekend. Small ones, baking-sheet-size rectangle ones, and we even turn the dough into bread sticks or knots for sinking into pizza sauce. The kids usually make cheese-only pizzas with an occasional sprinkle of bacon, but we grownups go for a combination of bacon, mushrooms, pesto, jalapenos, feta, and spinach. This is a version of our favorite pizza called the Magical Mystery Tour at Mellow Mushroom (I’m so glad we don’t have one in Memphis because I would surely weigh more than 300 pounds).

Recently I made a huge batch of ratatouille and decided to scatter some of it on our last homemade pizza, along with some bacon, spinach, and roasted tomatoes. Man...I love bacon…anyway…I might have a new favorite pizza!

Ratatouille Pizza
Yield: Four 8-inch crusts or Two 11x16 crusts

For the dough:
6 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 packages of active dry yeast (1/2-oz. total)
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups warm water

Mix together the water, oil, honey, and yeast; set aside. Meanwhile, in a standing mixer with a dough hook, mix together the four and salt. Add the water-yeast mixture and mix with the hook for 7-10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down and form into desired size/shape. Once the pizza is assembled, bake on a preheated pizza stone or a parchment-lined baking sheet in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on size of pizza and amount of toppings used.

For the sauce (optional):
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and add the garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant but not browning. Add the tomato sauce, basil, and oregano. Simmer for 10 minutes on very low heat.

For the ratatouille (optional):
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 zucchini, cut into half-moons
1 small red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch squares
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and cut in half again
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
Salt and pepper, to sprinkle
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450. Toss all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Place in a greased roasting pan or on a lined/greased baking sheet. Cook until the vegetables are soft and fully cooked. Move them around a bit while cooking to promote cooking evenly. It may be left as is, or 1/4 of the mixture may be mashed a bit then mixed with the other veggies. If it's too dry, add a bit of the pizza sauce.

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