Pizza Sauce

Time saver: whip up a fresh-tasting pizza sauce in no time.

I’ve been making a lot of pizza recently, and as a result I’ve been running out of the tomato paste I’d normally use for the pizza sauce. So, to save a trip to the supermarket I figured I’d make my own. It takes a little longer (not too much longer once you know what you’re doing), but tastes great and is definitely worth it.

This works really well on the New York Style Pepperoni and Mushroom, Blue Cheese and Pesto pizzas. I make this in a large saucepan since the bigger surface area leads to faster reduction.

Pizza Sauce (makes enough for two 12-14″ pizzas)

  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove or ½ tsp crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • (optional) freshly cracked black pepper to taste (crack over sauce once it’s spread on the pizza base)
  • (optional) 1 small onion, peeled, cut in half along equator OR 2 celery stalks cut in half lengthwise, chopped into 10cm lengths – these are used to imbue a bit of flavour, but are removed from the sauce before it’s used
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan, then add garlic and onion/celery if using. Saute briefly, then add tomatoes, sugar, oregano and salt.
  2. Stir frequently to prevent the sauce from catching, and keeping on a high heat, reduce down to about a quarter of the starting volume.
  3. Remove saucepand from heat, and then remove onion/celery from sauce and discard.
  4. The sauce may still have a few bigger chunks of tomato in it – I like these, but you could mash/blend/stick-mix them out.
  5. Spread 3-4 Tbsp over each pizza base, then season evenly with freshly cracked black pepper.
  6. If you’re only making one pizza you can freeze the leftover sauce, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Time saver: Phil gets cold, busts out the soup.

Two bowls of spicy pumpkin soupIt’s been a few days between posts, but never fear – I haven’t stopped cooking. In fact I have a bit of a back log of recipes to write up, so hopefully my ambition is matched by motivation.

We’ve had some pretty bad weather over the last few days, and winter seems to have really set in. When it gets cold there’s nothing quite like a bowl of hot soup, so bust out the stock pot and let’s get cracking.

Just a quick note about the pumpkin. I’m really sorry, but I’ve never weighed it. If you think a large pumpkin is one that wins prizes at country fairs then you’ll probably want to go with half a small pumpkin. Also, if you’ve got the time and the inclination, you’ll get a richer flavoured soup if you roast the pumpkin first. If you’re short on time or just can’t be bothered, then don’t worry about it. Note that if you do roast it, the actual time to prepare the soup will be less. So you could roast the pumpkin the night before, and then make a fresh hot soup pretty quickly the next day. If that’s your thing.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup – serves 4-6

If roasting the pumpkin, heat oven to about 220°C-230°C. Put pumpkin chunks in a roasting dish, pour in a couple of Tbsp of oil (I used peanut oil for a bit of flavour, but olive oil or whatever you have handy is fine) and mix the pumpkin around to get it evenly coated. You can season it if you like, but you’ll need to adjust the soup seasoning accordingly. Roast for 15 minutes, then give the pumpkin a bit of a stir around, reduce heat to 200°C and roast for another 15 minutes.

  • ½ medium-large pumpkin, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced into crescents (if you don’t have celery handy, just use another onion)
  • 1 tsp or 2 cloves crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 1 litre liquid chicken or vegetable stock (if you don’t have it you can use powdered stock, 1 tsp per 250 ml) + additional stock/water if required
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 Tbsp oil/butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • sour cream/unsweetened plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat oil/butter in large stockpot over a medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, celery and garlic to pot and cook till clear (around 3-5 minutes).
  3. Add pumpkin, stock, cumin and spice and stir thoroughly.
  4. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the pumpkin is soft and cooked through. (If using roasted pumpkin, simmer for 5-10 minutes, if using raw pumpkin this takes around 30-60 minutes.)
  5. Blend soup till smooth, either by blending it in batches or (carefully) with a stick mix/hand held blender. If the soup is very thick you can add more stock or just add water.
  6. Season with ground black pepper and salt, to taste.
  7. Serve with toasted/warm bread. Add a generous dollop of sour cream/plain yoghurt to each bowl, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.

Bowl of spicy pumpkin soup

Mushroom, blue cheese and pesto pizza redux

Time saver: Phil repeats himself, cat still isn’t interested.

Cooked pizzaMy wife’s back, so I told her about this pizza and then tried to impress her by making it. This time around I used home-made pizza dough, and rolled it out to a 12″ base, then scaled the recipe up to fit. I think this size is probably more practical (well, it fed two hungry people, the 9″ base wouldn’t) and the home-made dough gives a much better pizza. I’m planning on writing a post to fill you in on the wonders of five minute artisan bread, but basically, it’s a dough you can make really quickly, then keep in the fridge for when you need it. Unlike most other bread doughs, it requires no kneading whatsoever, you literally pull a lump of dough out of the bowl/container you’re keeping it in, shape it, let it rise a little, then bake it. One of the other wonders of this dough is that you can grab a lump of it, roll it out and use it as a pizza base immediately, and it delivers a great result. That’s what I did this time around. Conveniently awesome.

Pizza baseI took a few photos this time, so you can check out the end result. One small note, we didn’t have any pesto this time around, so I used a few pine nuts instead and I’ve updated the recipe to include those. (I think the pesto is better, but we make do.)

Mushroom, blue cheese and pesto pizza – 12″

  • 12″ pizza base (preferably hand-made – I recommend 5 minute artisan bread)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove or ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt
  • 1-2 c grated cheese (125g is roughly 1 cup when grated) (this time around I used 2 cups, but for a more stylish contemporary pizza you could use less. As before, I used Edam cheese, if you’ve got mozarella by all means use it)
  • 125g mushrooms, sliced (could use more if you can fit them on)
  • 30-40g blue vein cheese (I used Kapiti Kikorangi if the cheese is not very strong you could use more)
  • 3 Tbsp basil pesto or 10g pine nuts
  1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C (about 450°F). If you’ve got a pizza stone, use it, otherwise just put one of your trays in to heat.
  2. Roll out pizza base to a 12″ circle, then place on a sheet of baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, olive oil and garlic, mix well.
  4. Spread tomato paste over pizza base, going right to the edges.
  5. Crack some black pepper and salt over the base, then cover with cheese.
  6. Spread mushrooms over the cheese – they’ll shrink a lot, so cover the whole thing.
  7. Crumble the blue vein over the pizza, distributing in small pieces. If you’re a fan, feel free to use more.
  8. With a teaspoon, dollop some basil pesto around in a stylish fashion. Alternatively, sprinkle pine nuts over pizza.
  9. Put the pizza in the oven (with baking paper) on your pre-heated tray/pizza stone. Cook for 14 minutes or so, until the base is cooked and the cheese is melted and golden.

Pizza slice