I have a winner too!
Well, I know that everyone has their own idea of a successful pizza combo. I have done my latest iteration twice now, and it seems to be a winner. Last night I made pizza for a couple who own and operate one of the better restaurants on the island, and I got rave reviews. It was very gratifying to get such feedback from someone who cooks for a living. They even asked for the recipes for the sauce and dough.
The crust is just a very basic thin crust dough that I got by Googling "pizza dough", the basic recipe only has 4 ingredients (the basic recipe only makes 3 6" pizzas, so scale as needed):
2 C flour
3/4 C warm 110° water
1 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
I like to flavor my crust, so I usually add about one tablespoon of crushed rosemary and knead that in.
Dissolve yeast in water. Mix in flour until it's too thick to stir. Turn out on clean floured work surface and continue mixing and kneading until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and still just slightly sticky. Lightly coat with olive oil, cover and leave in warm place to rise for 1½ hours. From this point you can either make the pizzas or wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. I make the dough in the morning or a day ahead to get it out of the way. This is very similar to the crust that we had when having pizza with a family in northern Italy.
Sauce (from a recipe on Food.com, but with personal modifications)
14 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 C onion, small dice
1/4 C celery, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tb EV olive oil
1 tb butter
2 tb grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
( I have used the mixed Italian seasonings from the store when I didn't have the individual ones)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 small bay leaf
Hot pepper to taste - can be red pepper flakes, finely chopped habenero or other hot pepper - I don't use jalapeno because they aren't that hot and they had a distinctive flavor that I like in other foods, but not in pizza. The hot peppers are optional.
Melt butter and olive oil together. Add onion and celery and cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute just long enough to smell it cooking. Add tomato sauce and paste and stir until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat for 30-60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before spreading on dough. Like the dough, I make the sauce ahead and refrigerate.
I make 7 or 8 traditional toppings available, form small 6" rounds of dough pressed out about 1/8" thick, place on a square of parchment paper, and let my guests build their own pies. I transfer the pie on the paper directly to a stone in a well preheated (I preheat for 45 minutes) 500° oven (the hotter the better - the pizzas I had in Italy were cooked in a 650° wood fired pizza oven). Cook for 8½ minutes.