No New Yorker is ever more than a few blocks (or one GrubHub order) away from the best pizza in the world at any given moment. But even in a town where Carrie Bradshaw famously only used her oven for storage, DIY pizza is a dependable, satisfying and — most of all — feasible home-cooked meal for even the most culinarily inept New Yorker.
Kenny Bollwerk, Instagram’s proud pizza aficionado @NYC_KB, knows good pizza (and isn’t afraid to ask). In honor of the upcoming National Pizza Day, we asked him to share his tips on how to make the most of a pizza night at home.
“I opt for pizza at home when it’s a snowy or cold day in New York City and all you want to do is make the temperature warmer by hanging out near the oven.”
The good news for aspiring at-home pizza chefs is a lot of the hard work is already done, in most cases. Your local grocer (or fancier bodega) will have a freezer stocked with frozen crusts, including gluten-free, wood-fired and even cauliflower-based varieties. Ambitious Great Boro Bakers can easily prepare their own dough. Bollwerk recommends using all-purpose flour for a softer, chewier crust.
The real secret ingredient for the perfect crust, turns out, is time.
“My good friend Dave Acocella at Philomena’s Pizza taught me to let the dough sit for 24-72 hours prior to baking it so you can get a little more flavor from the fermentation process,” Bollwerk said.
When it comes to cheese, he opts for a low-moisture mozzarella. The reduced moisture content enhances the ooey-gooey melt in high-heat baking. For optimal coverage, skip the bags of pre-shredded cheese (the coating that prevents clumping also yields a less satisfying melt). Instead, grab some slices of BelGioioso’s new Baking Fresh Mozzarella log to give your pizza a little classic margherita feel.
According to Bollwerk, the key to a good sauce is a little less straightforward.
“There are many different styles of pizza sauce, and it’s all about preference. Do you prefer sweet or unsweet? Herbs or no herbs? Basil or oregano?” he said. “When I’m in a rush at home, I use Pomi pizza sauce; there’s an acidic and fresh taste to it.”
The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings, but if you need some inspiration, Bollwerk’s favorite flavor combo these days includes crispy bacon, Italian sausage, basil and light olive oil. If that’s a little too pork-forward for your personal taste, he’s also got a veggie pizza alternative that will please even the carnivores at your table.
“My favorite pizza hack if you’re looking to eat healthy for the new year is to use a giant mushroom instead of dough,” he said. “Just put pizza sauce on top followed by cheese and other toppings, then bake!”