Making pizza at home sounds fun, but homemade pizza dough can be finicky, even if you’ve had a lot of practice. Still, that doesn’t mean delivery is the only way to satisfy a craving.
Solution: French bread. Squishy supermarket French bread is a ready-made vehicle for your favorite pizza toppings. Sure, you could just buy a box of Stouffer’s, but with a little planning, homemade French bread pizza makes a great meal after a day’s work.
Store-bought French bread can vary pretty widely in size. The measurements offered in these recipes should cover larger 16-ounce loaves, but trust your gut when topping: Smaller loaves may require a thinner layer of sauce or slightly less cheese. Dig out some of the soft interior of the loaf as well. Toss it into a food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs, or tear it into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake at 350 degrees until dry and golden for croutons.
Here, you’ll find three versions: pepperoni lover’s, four-cheese, and pesto and mozzarella. Feel free to mix and match sauces and to play around with different cheese combinations. Then, top as you like. Thinly sliced red onion adds bite, hot chile or a pinch of red-pepper flakes cut the richness of the cheese in almost every case. Dried oregano and grated Parmesan lend pizzeria vibes, while fresh basil brightens things up.
The most important step — and this is crucial — is letting the pizza cool before cutting and eating. There are few things hotter than the marriage of molten sauce and cheese atop a steaming slice. Searing the roof of your mouth is almost guaranteed if you aren’t patient, so wait at least five minutes before digging in.
Whatever direction you choose to go with your French bread pizza, what you’ll get is a little bit sophisticated (it’s French, after all!), crowd-pleasing meal or snack perfect for game days, Fridays or any day when you might need a reminder that home cooking can be as fun and delicious as it is easy.
And to Drink …
My general position is that pretty much any good wine with lively acidity goes with pizza. Champagne and riesling are both great. So is Lambrusco. The question is not so much whether to change your tune depending on whether a pizza is topped with mushrooms or pepperoni. It’s more basic than that, as in whether the pizza is made with cooked tomatoes. For these French bread pizzas, the four-cheese and pesto toppings call for lively whites. It could be any number of Italian whites, like Verdicchio di Matelica or vermentino from Liguria, or aligoté from Burgundy or a sharp sparkling wine, whether Champagne or a pétillant naturel. For the tomato-and-pepperoni pizza, Lambrusco, Chianti, dolcetto or barbera would be my choices. Then again, Champagne would be delicious, too. ERIC ASIMOV
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