It’s that time of year for busy families to start thinking about school registration, back-to-school shopping, and getting back into the swing of things.  Make-Ahead Pizza is easy to pre-prep and can be served at a moment’s notice during the busy week.  Pizza dough can be made and refrigerated or frozen ahead of time.  Mozzarella cheese can frozen in advance and placed on pizzas just before baking.  Just add pizza sauce and your favorite toppings and you will have a delicious dinner in no time flat.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread flour for this recipe.  The malted barley gives this high-protein flour a rich, robust flavor.  The high protein content also is great for gluten development, which is especially desirable for pizza crust.

Make-Ahead Pizza

Makes two large pizzas

Make-Ahead Dough

1/2 cup warm water

1 envelope (or 2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cups (20 oz) Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

Measure the 1/2 cup water in a large glass measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand five minutes.  Add the additional 1 1/4 cup water and oil and stir to combine.

Process the bread flour and salt in a large food processor.  Pulse while pouring liquid ingredients through feed tube.  Dough should form into a ball as you are pulsing.  If dough is not forming into a ball, add additional water, 1 tsp at a time, and continue pulsing until ball forms.  Process 30 more seconds until ball is smooth and elastic.

With floured hands, knead dough a few times a form a smooth, round ball.  Place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise on countertop for two hours in a warm space.  From here, continue making pizza for dinner OR dough balls can be refrigerated in lightly oil misted plastic bags for up to three days or frozen in freezer bags for up to two weeks.  Thaw frozen dough completely in refrigerator before using.

Pizza dough recipe adapted from a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

Pizza Toppings

1 cup store-bought pizza sauce

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (can be frozen and added directly to pizza before baking)

Any toppings of your choice

Putting it all together

One hour before baking, place pizza stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Press down dough to deflate.  Tear out two large sheets of parchment paper that will each hold one pizza.  Shaping and baking pizzas on large sheets of parchment paper ensures that the dough will slide easily to and from the oven on a pizza peel.  Cover both balls of dough with clean kitchen towels.

Working with one ball of dough at a time (and keeping the other dough covered to avoid drying out), flatten the dough into a disk using the palms of your hands.  Starting at the center, work the disk outward with your fingertips until the dough is about 1/2″ thick.  Also, lift edges up and slightly stretch outward, rotating as you go.  If dough springs back, cover with towel and allow to rest a few minutes and continue stretching and shaping.

When pizza dough is at the desired thickness and shape, spread 1/2 cup sauce on each round.  Add cheese and desired toppings.  TIP:  Be mindful that certain toppings will release moisture, such as zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and mushrooms, potentially making a wet pizza.  I like to pre-saute those toppings in a hot skillet and sweat out the moisture beforehand.

To get your pizza into the oven, hold the pizza peel in one hand and rest the edge on a pizza stone.  Quickly slide the pizza-topped parchment paper onto the pizza stone, using your other hand to help, if needed.  Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the cheese is bubbling, about 10 minutes.  Then remove pizza from oven, cut into wedges, and enjoy!

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