Old-School Pizza Recipe

When I was a kid, my mom, who is of German and Norwegian descent, used to make homemade pizza. It was a very mom kind of pizza. It was rectangular and topped only with sauce, cheese, and seasoned hamburger meat. You wouldn’t really call it spectacular, but it ranks way up there on my comfort-food scale, somewhere near homemade mac & cheese and peanut butter cookies.

As a teenager who was starting to learn how to cook, I made my own version of mom’s pizza. I always made the same mistake back then — I added way too much of everything to the sauce. It took me a long time to figure out that the sauce should be delicately seasoned. If you want to go hard on anything, make it the meat — or, in my case now, the vegetarian meat substitute.

Now that I have Ben, who makes the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life outside the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due locations (Not the chain Pizzeria Unos!), I rarely make pizza. Once in a while, though, I get a craving for my old-school mom pizza. Here’s how I make it.

Old-School Pizza


The crust recipe is adapted from “Thin Crust Pizza with Fontina and Mozzarella” from The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook by Pasquale Bruno, Jr. This is my default pizza crust recipe.

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + a little extra for brushing on the crust

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and stir well. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir until the dough sort of forms a ball. Take dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as necessary if the dough is sticky (mine always is). Sprinkle a little flour in a large ziplock plastic bag, place the dough in the bag, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough, and seal the bag. Leave it in a warm place for an hour and a half (we stick it in the microwave so no animals or children can get to it). Punch down the dough, knead lightly for a couple minutes on a lightly floured surface, and roll out to fit a 15.3″ x 10.2″ cookie pan (if you have a set of 3 cookie pans, the middle one is probably the right size). Place the dough in your pan, squishing the ends up the side of the pan to make edges. Poke several holes in the crust with a fork. Brush a sprinkle of olive oil over the crust. Let it sit while you prepare the fake meat and sauce.


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 12-ounce package Morningstar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saute or frying pan over medium heat. Add everything else and stir well. Continue cooking over medium heat for a few minutes. You just want the crumbles to be thawed out and seasoned to your liking. *Note: If you follow my directions, the crumbles will be pretty heavily seasoned. You might want to add a little less of everything at first and then add more if you want.


  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

In a medium bowl, mix everything together. Even if you’re total sauce fanatics like we are (our default pizza order is cheese and extra sauce), this is way more sauce than you’ll need. The thing is, we only find crushed tomatoes in 28-ounce cans. So, when making pizza, we usually just prepare the whole can of crushed tomatoes, use what we need, and freeze the rest. The next time someone (Ben) plans to make homemade red sauce for pasta, he pulls the leftover pizza sauce out of the freezer, lets it thaw in the refrigerator for a day or two, and adds it to the sauce. This has never been a bad idea.


  • Parmesan cheese (the kind in the canister)
  • grated mozzarella cheese (I used approximately 10 ounces)


Put as much sauce as you like on the dough you’ve already placed in the pan. (We like a lot!) Distribute the prepared crumbles as evenly as possible over the sauce. Cover the crumbles with a light to medium dusting of Parmesan cheese and then the mozzarella, getting as close to the edges of the crust as possible.

Bake 6-8 inches from the bottom of your oven (this is the second-to-lowest rack setting for us — Ben says this is always a good idea when baking homemade pizza) at 425F for 15-20 minutes (our pizza was perfect after 17 minutes). Enjoy!

old-school pizza

ready to go in the oven

old-school pizza

ready to enjoy