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To make a pizzeria-quality pie at home with no special equipment, start with the crust.
Pizza is comfort food for the ages: Flatbread made of flour, water, and (maybe) a little olive oil has existed in the Mediterranean region for millennia. But residents of the Italian peninsula embraced the simple dish and, ultimately, made it their own. Tomatoes weren't added until the 16th century, when explorers ferried the fruit back from the New World.
Italian immigrants brought pizza to our shores in the 19th century. New Yorkers favored a thin crust, while deep-dish pizza became a Chicago icon. Pizza became a nationwide favorite in the 1950s, when GIs returning from World War II brought foods from around the globe to small-town U.S.A.
Homemade pizza is a special treat because you control the ingredients, from what goes into the dough to the cheese sprinkled atop, and your pizza will be lower in fat and sodium than store-bought or pizzeria pies, yet every bit as delicious. With just a little practice, you can master preparing the dough and toppings.

01.jpgGather the Equipment

1. You'll need two rimless baking sheets, a rolling pin, and a spatula. If you don't have two rimless baking sheets, roll out the dough, and place it on the backside of a jelly-roll pan. Then, use a rimless baking sheet or a pizza stone to cook the pizza. Insulated baking sheets are less-efficient heat conductors, so bake the pizza about four minutes longer for a crisp crust if your baking sheet is insulated.
Use the rolling pin to punch down, roll out, and shape the dough. The rolling pin also doubles as a handy tool to transfer the dough from your work surface. Use the spatula to guide the dough onto the preheated baking sheet.
02.jpgPrepare the Dough

2. When Test Kitchens professional Kathryn Conrad set out to develop the recipes for this cooking class, she wanted to re-create pizzeria-quality pizza in a home setting without special equipment like a pizza stone or pizza peel. The biggest challenge was that pizzeria ovens run at about 900°, which makes for a delightfully crisp crust. Home ovens only go up to 500°. After experimenting, Conrad found the best way to replicate pizzeria results was to preheat a baking sheet at 500°, place the raw dough on the hot baking sheet, and prebake the crust. She also used a second baking sheet as an impromptu pizza peel to transfer the dough to the hot baking sheet.
We wanted to find out what would happen if you skipped these steps, so Conrad conducted a side-by-side experiment. She prepared the Cheese Pizza as directed by the recipe and a second version for which she loaded all the toppings onto the raw, shaped dough on a baking sheet that hadn't been preheated. The verdict: Most preferred the prebaked pie, but we all agreed the other was a darn good pizza.
03.jpgShape the Dough

3. Once the toppings you select are on the crust, put the pizza back in the oven on the middle rack and bake just until the cheese melts and the top and bottom crust are golden brown. Moving the pizza to the middle rack after toppings are added ensures the bottom of the crust does not overcook.
Add fragile toppings like herbs or salad greens after removing the pizza from the oven and just before serving so they don't wilt. Then, slice the pizza with a pizza wheel, a large knife, or kitchen shears, and dig in.
Make the Sauce

4. Before adding any toppings, bake the crust for a few minutes on the lowest rack in the oven. Use the cornmeal-coated baking sheet as an impromptu pizza peel to transfer the dough onto the preheated baking sheet. The layer of cornmeal under the dough helps it to slide more easily. Then, prebake the dough as directed.
Preheat the Baking Sheet

5. Place your second baking sheet on the lowest rack in the oven while the oven preheats. This is similar to using a pizza stone, which is preheated so the raw dough hits a hot surface and becomes crisp and sturdy to support the toppings. If you don't preheat the baking sheet, that's OK. Just know that you will end up with a slightly softer crust.
04.jpgPrebake the Crust

6. You can use a commercial pizza sauce, as we do with our Cheese Pizza, or prepare sauce from scratch. You can cook the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze, or simply prepare it while the dough rises. Another option is to doctor a bottled sauce by adding sautéed fresh vegetables and meats, a strategy we use for our Deep-Dish Pizza. Or you can forgo sauce altogether.
05.jpg Add the Topping

7. If you're preparing a sauce from scratch or want to cook vegetables or meats before adding them to the pizza, be sure to do so during the dough's first rise. The idea is to have all the toppings ready to go before the pizza goes into the oven so they're ready to add after the crust prebakes but while it's still hot. Add hearty toppings, such as sauce, cooked veggies, cheese, or meat to the prebaked crust.
Finish Baking and Serve

8. After the dough rises, use a rolling pin to roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about a 12-inch diameter (See Step 3a). The objective is to roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness so the crust cooks evenly. You may end up with a 12-inch circle, a 12-inch square, or some amorphous shape in between—it doesn't matter as long as it's an even thickness. (Another option: Shape smaller pizzas to serve as appetizers or individual portions.) Then, gently drape the dough over a rolling pin to transfer it to a baking sheet sprinkled with a little cornmeal. (See Step 3b) Crimp the edges of the dough to form a rim to corral the toppings on the surface of the pizza, cover, and pop it into the refrigerator while the oven preheats. (See Step 3c.) Refrigerating slows the growth of the yeast so the dough doesn't continue to rise.
Notes from the Test Kitchens

9. Pizza dough is a bread dough, so it requires the use of yeast. Yeast is a living entity, which you'll observe when you combine it with warm water and honey. As the mixture stands, you'll be able to see tiny bubbles form on the surface as the yeast blooms. Then, stir in flour and a touch of salt to form a soft dough, which you turn out onto a lightly floured surface to knead.
Kneading is a process that develops the dough's gluten—long strands of protein that make the dough pliable and act as balloons to trap gas emitted by the yeast, which helps the dough rise. When kneading the dough, be sure to follow the visual and tactile clues ("soft and elastic") to know when it's ready. Avoid overkneading the dough, or you'll end up with a tough crust (dough is overkneaded when it becomes rough and breaks into pieces rather than feeling smooth and stretchy). Then, put it in a bowl, and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size.