As I’ve stated before, I grew up in an impoverished family in little towns all over East and Southeast Texas. Going out to dinner was something we rarely could afford and when we did, we dined at the cheapest places available. Pizza Hut was among one of the more upscale restaurants my family dined in and I remember being so excited, like Christmas morning excited, when my parents took us to Pizza Hut. Not only did Pizza Hut have a jukebox, but they also had an arcade game or two I could play for a few quarters, if I was lucky. Seeing that red roof popping up in the distance ahead of us, steadily getting closer and closer used to send my heart into a race and have me bouncing around in my seat like a Mexican jumping bean. Sometimes Pizza Hut even had special toys that came with the pizzas and I think I had most of The Land Before Time puppets and Beauty and the Beast toys at one point. Oh and I almost forgot about the Book It Program Pizza Hut had. You finished a book, got a sticker, and once you had enough stickers you got your own personal sized pizza. I loved to read and I think I went through quite a few free personal pizzas back in the 90’s.
Inside Pizza Hut wasn’t like other fast food chains either, as there were booths and decorations and mood lighting. I always begged my parents to order a thin crust meat lovers pizza with a salad bar add on. Of course I don’t think it was technically a salad that I would build for myself but more like a bowl of ranch dressing with peas, croutons, cheese, bacon bits, and sunflower seeds with a small garnish of iceberg lettuce. When they’d deliver our pizza to the table I couldn’t wait to shower my slice with the red pepper flakes they set out at every booth along with the little glass jar of grated Parmesan. Every memory I have of eating there was as much fun for me as being at an amusement park. It seems that the most positive memories I have of my family are of us out at a restaurant together. Maybe that’s why I’m such a foodie today. Although I can’t remember the last time I ate a Pizza Hut pizza, the cravings of course are still there. So, I got the hankering for one and decided to build a healthier version for myself but no matter how unhealthy I think their pizzas are today, I will always hold the memories of dinning under that red roof with my family very dear to my heart.
Meat Lovers Pizza with Mushrooms and Black Olives
Homemade or fresh pizza dough
1 pkg Detwiler’s Hot Italian Pork Sausage
1/4 pkg good quality Pepperoni, such as Applegate, or whatever is available
1/2 pkg Sargento Shredded Mozzarella & Smoked Provolone cheese
about a 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Pizza sauce
about 1/2 cup sliced Button Mushrooms
few tablespoons finely ground Cornmeal
1 tablespoon course ground Cornmeal
1/4 cup sliced Black Olives
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to at least 475 degrees. In a cast iron skillet or saute pan, cook the sausage until all the pink is gone. Turn off heat and set aside. Roll out the dough with the finely ground cornmeal (or flour) until it is large enough to cover your pizza pan. If using a cast iron pizza pan, pre-heat your pan at least 1o minutes. Sprinkle the bottom of the pizza pan with the course cornmeal and carefully lay the rolled dough on the pan. Flash bake the dough about 10 minutes. Remove dough from oven and top with the pizza sauce, cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives. You can top the pizza in whatever order you like best. Bake the pizza in the oven about 15 – 20 minutes or until the crust is crisp and the cheese is golden and bubbling. Allow the pizza to rest a few minutes before slicing it. Top with red pepper flakes, if using.
Note: sometimes I dip my pizza in ranch dressing…this is totally optional