As anybody who has stumbled into the warm glow of a late-night, dollar-slice joint can attest, pizza is a work of art. Unfortunately, just as Vincent van Gogh would have struggled to craft Starry Night without oils and canvas, it’s nearly impossible to craft an Italian masterpiece in one’s own kitchen.
The fact is, home ovens simply cannot get hot enough to make the perfect pizza. Sure, there’s pizza stones; but they can be expensive and hard to maintain.
You don’t need an unwieldy pizza stone or gigantic brick oven in your backyard to make fabulous pizza. VinePair has partnered with Cusumano, the ultimate pizza wine straight from Sicily, to bring you a pizza hack that will have you slinging pies like the pros.
Here’s how to build the perfect pizza oven for less than $25.
1. Locate Tiles
There are hidden gems waiting at your local big-box hardware stores. You’re looking for unglazed, untreated quarry tiles, sometimes also known as terra cotta tiles. You can also find these at a building supply warehouse, often for as little as $15. (This way you have a lot of tiles, so if they break, they can easily be replaced — as opposed to that very expensive pizza stone.)
The magic behind these tiles is that they retain a lot of heat and give your pizza an amazing, crispy crust, even when you open your oven throughout the cooking process.
2. Build The Oven
Before preheating your oven, set up two oven racks close together to create a smaller, but still accessible space for your pizza. Lay the tiles on the two racks. The bottom rack will be the surface you cook your pizza, the top will radiate the heat downward to perfectly cook your toppings and brown the top of the crust.
3. Preheat and Prep
Once your oven racks are set up, preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible, usually around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Once your oven has preheated to the maximum temperature, wait an extra 45 minutes to allow the stones to get very hot.
4. Craft The Pizza
While the oven is preheating, whip up your pizza according to Cusumano’s foolproof recipe (below). And, in the meantime, why not get into the Italian spirit by cracking open a bottle of wine? “The Nero D’Avola is the perfect pizza wine,” Diego Cusumano, Cusumano co-owner, says. He suggests pairing it with a classic pizza Margherita, since the plummy spice flavors complement “the simple and classic ingredients used for the timeless dish.”
Cusumano’s Foolproof Pizza
- 1 store-bought pizza dough
- 1 24-ounce jar of store-bought tomato sauce
- 1 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 5 to 6 basil leaves
- 4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. Convert your stove into a pizza oven with your unglazed quarry tiles.
2. Preheat the stove to maximum temperature. Once the stove is preheated, wait at least 45 minutes to allow the stones to to reach peak temperature.
3. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to form a large disk, approximately 14 inches in diameter.
4. Drop a spoonful of sauce in the center of the dough. Using the back of a spoon, spread it out to the edges.
5. Top the sauced dough with cheese and basil, leaving about a half-inch around the circumference.
6. Place the pizza on a peel (or an upside-down baking sheet) to carefully slide your pizza onto the tiles in the oven.
7. Once it’s in the oven, bake for about five to seven minutes.
8. Remove pizza once the crust is brown and cheese is bubbling.
9. Enjoy with a glass of Cusumano Nero d’Avola!