It turns out that I'm not the only one who likes to make pizzas for Academy Awards night--my younger sister does it too. Anyway, it is sort of a tradition and my other sister once wondered how to make the sauce and George claimed that he really really loved the pizzas, so even though it kind of feels like a junk food entry, I'll write about it a little.
The sauce really does change depending on what I have around. The one I made this time was a little thinner than usual and probably not my best work. Whatever. Sauteed 1 small, minced yellow onion in olive oil until soft, then added 5 minced cloves of garlic. Stirred all together until well cooked and fragrant but not at all burnt (sometimes you can get away with a little carelessness, but a sauce will have a nasty taste if your garlic burns). Added red pepper flakes, a half-can of those whole, peeled roma tomatoes that I like (they come in a big, jumbo 48 ounce can but I always use half), one small can of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons sugar and about 1/3 cup of red wine. Simmered it all together, stirring frequently, and allowed it to get somewhat reduced and thick. After about 30 minutes, took it off heat and put it through a food mill to get a nice, smooth thick puree. Set aside until pizzas were ready to bake.
Toppings: Chopped one small bell pepper and sauteed in olive oil until soft and slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Removed from pan and set aside ina little bowl. Melted 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pan (you could, of course, use as many pans as you felt like washing up afterwards for, but I am lazy and like to see how few pans I can use) and added a 1 package worth of sliced cremini mushrooms. Sauteed over high-ish heat until golden and a little crispy. Took out of pan, laid out on cutting board to cool off (don't pile them up when warm or they get soggy and all your mushroom crisping work is for naught), then set aside in a little bowl. Sliced 5-6 cloves big cloves of garlic into thin slices, then crisped those slowly in a mixture of olive oil and butter until they were golden little chips of heaven. Set aside in a little bowl, after cooling them off (much like the mushrooms). Using kitchen shears, I cut up sun dried tomatoes into thin slices and put them in a little bowl--probably about 1/3 cup's worth total. Brian cut up a pineapple and sliced about 1/2 cup into teeny little 1/2" chunks for me, which also sat and waited in a little bowl. I rolled about 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves into a tube and sliced them thinly to make a chiffonade, and dumped them in a prep bowl too. Minced a bunch of parsley and set aside. I had some pepperoni from the grocery store and some pre-shredded mozzarella ready as well.
Here's the truly lame part--I don't make my own crust. Nor do I use really decent pepperoni or good cheese. My mother's eyes would be rolling and she would shake her hand at me and say "Hey, keeed! What ees theeese?" but I'm like, that's OK. I'll make the dough by hand one of these days and use good, fresh cheeses, omit the garlic and aim for less schizophrenia in my topping choices...and that will really probably be a true and good pizza. But I was raised here in the USA and that means I like a too-sweet sauce, gooey cheese, crackery crust and a lot of crap on top of my pizza. A lot of fidelity to true Italian cooking shows up in my day-to-day cooking, but for some reason I've never cared to do right by pizza. Anyway, I use a Martha White mix. It costs 79 cents per package at Publix. You dump it in a bowl, pour 1/2 cup hot water over, mix it, shape into a ball, drizzle over olive oil and cover it with a dishtowel for 5 minutes. That's it. Stretched it out over the greased back of a cookie sheet (yes, Brian, the BACKS of the cookie sheet. Why? Because no one wants to scoop it out of a ridged pan and it is too hard to spread out. If you have a flat pan with no edges then it don't matter which side you use. And I lost the pizza stone my sister gave me once, which is sad), pricked it all over with a fork and stuck it in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for five minutes. Now it was ready to be covered with a thin layer of sauce, then what ever toppings sounded good in combo, red pepper flakes and a mess of cheese. Threw it back in the oven, kept a good eye on it and pulled it out when all the cheese was golden and bubbly and everything looked good (maybe 10 minutes?). A particularly successful combination was pineapple and lots of pepperoni with red pepper flakes and parsley.
Melanie and I drank a bottle of wine and we bet on Oscar winners with George and Brian. George won. Melanie lost. Brian and I were somewhere in between, but I suspect Brian did better than I did.