The most important thing to know about pizza is that the toppings should be nearly fully cooked before you put it on the pie. The Pizza won’t be in the oven long enough to cook most toppings, especially meats, but also tougher vegetables like potatoes, carrots, broccoli, etc…
Prepare toppings so that 10-15 mins in the oven will finish them. All meats should be cooked to temp before building the pizza. Soft vegetables like spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant can be cooked on the pie in 15 mins if you layer the denser vegetables on top and spinach under the cheese. Onions and peppers cook partly if they are thin and/or placed on top of the cheese. If you want them softer, precook them. Garlic can be used raw, but will still have a green taste, roasted garlic paste is a great alternative. In a pinch, we have used dried minced garlic by re-hydrating it in warm water for an hour.
Leftovers are great for pizza. Freeze anything you can, we frequently freeze leftover chopped vegetables like peppers and onions… the texture gets a bit softer, but it still works for pizza. We also freeze leftover sauces, gravies and cooked meats (like sausage, chicken, ground beef, taco meat). Some raw vegetables do better in the freezer by blanching them first, especially if you plan to freeze it longer then 2 weeks.
Crust– For a tough, crispier crust, form the shape and precook the crust at 450 for 10 mins (this is how I do it, dough recipe)
For softer crust, take the raw dough, top it and put in the oven at 450 for 15-20 mins
(until cheese browns)
If the pizza cheese isn’t browned and the crust is looking almost done, switch the broiler on high, and finish the cheese (takes 2-3 mins)
Pizza Sauce– It takes at least 8oz of a thick sauce for a 16″ pie, thin sauces (like olive oil or pesto) take as little as 4 oz, but the heaviest sauces (like chili) can be as much as 12 oz. On our chili-dog pizza, we use 10 oz of cheese sauce as well as 12oz of chili. I usually aim to make the sauce flavorful and a little salty so that it adds a salt flavor once spread thin on the pizza.
Cheese– We use anywhere from 6oz to 12oz per pie. Any cheese that melts should work, and if it’s got a strong flavor or doesn’t melt easily you can combine it with mozzarella . We frequently put the mozzarella on first, then sprinkle with a second cheese (pepper jack, cheddar, parmesan, romano, feta). Also consider Fresh Mozzarella, it’s a milder flavor but very smooth and thins out more then the regular stuff.
Herbs also make a nice topping. On a plain red pie or a plain cheese pie, I like to lightly sprinkle dried oregano on top. Some people prefer dried basil.
Meat and Vegetable Toppings– I like my toppings either finely chopped, or sliced thin enough to break easily with the teeth.
We use anywhere from 4-8oz of most vegetable toppings, stuff like broccoli, eggplant, onions. Use less of the lighter or stronger flavored toppings, like 2-4oz of spinach, 4-6 cloves of garlic. Plan to use more of the heaviest toppings, as much as 12oz of chili or french fries.