Kitchn Love Letters

The Budget-Friendly Recipe My Family Makes Every Friday Night

published Mar 8, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

My weekly meal plans change with the seasons of the year and seasons of life. The only thing that remains constant is the Friday night menu: pizza. Staying consistent with that comfort food means that I never have to decide what is for dinner at the end of a busy week. As an added bonus, pizza is one of the few meals that everyone in my house agrees on. After school and work, we’ll often head over to our favorite pizza place and leave the cooking and cleaning up to the restaurant staff, or turn on a movie and order a pair of pies for delivery. 

But on weeks when we need to tighten what we’re spending, I opt to make pizza at home instead. Kitchn’s homemade thin-crust pizza has been a family favorite since I made it for the first time 5 years ago. We love it so much that even when the budget allows for eating out, we often opt for this pizza pie instead. 

Why I Love Kitchn’s Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza 

Sometimes budget is the most important ingredient in a meal. To me that means I need to get creative with the ingredients I always have on hand. Pasta and beans are the obvious building blocks for budget-friendly meals, but then I realized that no matter the time of the month, I always have flour and canned tomatoes in the pantry and yeast and cheese stashed in the fridge. Those staple ingredients are the building blocks for many meals, but this easy (and riffable) thin-crust pizza is the budget meal I make on repeat. 

The pizza dough is simple to make and the classically crunchy thin crust can be ready in minutes — not hours. Alternatively, I can let the same dough rise longer to produce a puffier pizza crust. There is rarely a need to shell out for a round of dough from the deli (or local pizza place) because the dough comes together in minutes with just four ingredients: water, yeast, all-purpose flour, and salt. I buy diced and whole canned tomatoes in bulk, so there’s always a base for sauce on hand. And although it is normally used for pasta, my favorite marinara also makes a flavorful pizza sauce in a pinch.  

Once the dough is mixed and pizza sauce is made, it’s time for the toppings. While my entire family loves pizza, we can never agree on the toppings. When we get pizza from a restaurant, this means we’re always charged more for extra sausage on one part, veggies on another, and double cheese on the next pie. When we make pizzas at home, everyone can add as many (or as few) toppings as they want at no extra charge. Adding interesting toppings keeps pizza night fresh, plus it’s the perfect opportunity to clear out the fridge of leftovers before the weekend begins. After all, reducing food waste is essential to keeping a tight grocery budget. 

I crunched the numbers and it cost me just $6.43 to make 2 (10-inch) pizzas with this recipe — a fraction of what it costs to eat out or order in.

How to Make Kitchn’s Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza 

Prepare the dough by sprinkling active dry yeast into a bowl filled with lukewarm water. After about 5 minutes, the yeast should appear foamy. Add all-purpose flour and salt, stirring with a spatula until a loose, shaggy dough forms. Dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out of the bowl. Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball that springs back when you poke it. This should take 5 to 8 minutes. If the dough is quite sticky, you can add a tablespoon of flour at a time. Cover the dough, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Make a simple pizza sauce in the food processor. Pulse garlic until coarsely chopped, then add a can of diced tomatoes, olive oil, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Process until mostly smooth, 20 to 30 seconds. This makes about 1 1/4 cups of sauce, although you will need just 1/2 cup for the pair of pizzas. Freeze leftover sauce in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or ice cubes for later use. 

Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. While the oven heats and the pan preheats, divide the dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, stretch the dough into a 10- to 12-inch round. Flip the preheated baking sheet upside down and place the dough directly onto the baking sheet. Brush the dough with olive oil, then thinly spread sauce onto the dough. Add cheese and other toppings, then bake until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden-brown. Repeat with the remaining dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

If You’re Making Kitchn’s Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza, a Few Tips 

  • Make dough by hand, not a machine. It takes less time to knead the dough by hand than it does to clean my stand mixer. Skip the middleman and knead the dough by hand until a soft dough forms.
  • Don’t force the dough. If the dough shrinks back when you try to shape it, let it rest for another 5 minutes before trying again. 
  • A little sauce goes a long way. You need just 1/4 cup of sauce for each pizza. Adding more sauce can leave the crust soggy and waterlogged. 
  • Pizza stones and steel also work well. Pizza stones or steel can take the place of the upside-down baking sheet. Make sure to preheat your equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions before baking pizzas.