Simple pizza packs a puffy punch

Homemade pizza is our go-to dish around here almost every Friday night when we’re too worn out to come up with anything that resembles a meat-vegetable-starch dinner. Over the years, we’ve come up with some unusual combinations, and have used all kinds of items as crust. We’ve made pizza with pita bread, foccacia, flour tortillas, crescent rolls, ready-made pizza dough, English muffins and naan.

We even tried mini pizzas on won-ton wrappers only too find that the wrappers needed to be baked or fried first, or you end up with soggy, saggy pizza.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have pizza for dinner, ever. Dad didn’t like it, and when Dad didn’t like it, it just didn’t get made, bought or ordered in. But my mother, true to her contrary nature, found a way around the dilemma. She would sneak one of those Chef Boyardee pizza kits into the grocery cart.

It was up to my older sister, Nancy, and me to make the pizza for lunch on Saturdays while Mom made a sandwich for Dad. He got what he wanted and we got what we wanted – cheap, hot pizza. It didn’t matter that the sauce was watery and the parmesan tasted more like chemicals than cheese. We had fun making the dough and piling the pies with sliced green olives. That’s the only ingredient all of us could agree on.

Nowadays, I still enjoy a small thrill of rebellion against authority when I make pizza at home.

Lately, we’ve taken yet another detour and are using puff pastry as our crust. Thaw it out for 30 minutes, stretch it gently and you’re ready. Due to its delicate nature, we keep the ingredients light and fresh. Instead of tomato sauce or tons of cheese, we spread a thin layer of mascarpone cheese over the crust. This slightly sweet, thick Italian cream cheese melts into the crust, providing a creamy, mellow backdrop for the less-is-more toppings, perfect for balmy summer nights. You can find mascarpone at larger grocery stores, or you can whip up a substitute in your own kitchen. Because it is light and more like yogurt than cheese, any remaining mascarpone makes a great topping on fresh berries for a satisfying dessert or breakfast.

Mascarpone substitute

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 1/2 Tbsp. sour cream

Use an electric mixer to thoroughly blend all ingredients.

Summery Puff Pastry Pizza

Serves 2

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

4  ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup fresh basil, torn into pirces

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup shaved parmesan, asiago or romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Coat a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.

Unroll pastry, place on pan and stretch slightly.

Spread cheese on pastry with the back of a spoon.

Top with basil and tomatoes and sprinkle cheese over all.

Bake 15-20 minutes until pastry edges are browned and puffed.

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