DIVAS ON A DIME: The iron-clad secret to the best pizza at home

By Patti Diamond

Pizza night just got a whole lot better. (www.JasonCoblentz.com)

Most pizza lovers agree: What sets pizzeria pizza apart from homemade pizza is that glorious crispy, crackly crust. That’s because commercial pizza ovens cook at temperatures between 700 F to 800 F. Yeah, well, that’s not happening in most home kitchens. But we can achieve a similar effect by using a pan made of cast iron. This will act as an oven within your oven, yielding a temperature high enough to get that irresistible crispy, yet tender crust (cue the angel chorus).

Safety warning! This technique is not for the kiddies or the faint of heart. We’re going to get that cast-iron skillet screaming hot. Use caution and protect your skin and your surfaces from the heat.

The ingredients I used are below, but feel free to make substitutions. Use this guideline, no more than 2 cups shredded cheese and 1 1/2 cups assorted toppings (vegetables and meats) or you risk your pizza becoming soggy and not cooking completely through the center.




Yield: 2 to 4 servings  Time: 45 minutes


1/4 cup olive oil -– divided

6 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed

1/3 cup onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup bell peppers, green and red, thinly sliced

1/3 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

12 to 16 ounces pizza dough — store bought or homemade equivalent

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

8 ounces pizza sauce — purchased or recipe below

2 tablespoons olives, sliced


  1. Bring the dough to room temperature and have your ingredients sliced and ready before you begin. If you’re using my pizza sauce recipe, make that now, as well. Prepare the dough by placing on a lightly floured surface and shaping into a 14-inch round.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 F. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on the stove top on medium-low heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and cook the sausage, breaking into crumbles. Drain on paper towel and set aside. Place the onions, peppers and mushrooms in the skillet, cooking enough to soften. Set aside.
  3. Now, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, using a brush to spread the oil up the sides of the pan. Carefully place the dough round into the pan. The dough starts cooking the moment it hits the hot pan, so work quickly to avoid the bottom burning. Evenly sprinkle half the cheese over the entire crust. It’ll act as a barrier, preventing the sauce from seeping into the crust making it soggy. Dollop the sauce over the cheese layer, using the back of a spoon to spread it out. It’s OK if it’s not perfect.
  4. Next, add the sausage, onion, peppers and mushrooms. Top with remaining cheese and olives. Brush any exposed crust with remaining olive oil.
  5. With caution and heavy oven mitts, place the skillet into the hot oven. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. The cheese should be bubbling and slightly browned, and the crust should be golden.
  6. With extreme caution, remove skillet from the oven and place on a heat-protected surface. Run a knife around the outside edge of the pizza to prevent the cheese from sticking. Post a picture to impress your friends. Let cool for 10 minutes before devouring.




1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 teaspoons sugar


Drain tomato sauce through a coffee filter set in a strainer over a bowl for 15 minutes to remove excess liquid from the sauce. Into the drained sauce, stir in garlic powder, Italian seasoning and sugar.

Pizza night just got a whole lot better. Drool. Eat. Repeat.


Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com


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