Reducing Acidity in Tomato Pizza Sauce

A big factor in making a pizza great is the sauce! Sometimes the sauce doesn’t stand out at all, sometimes you notice it’s really great, and other times it’s quite bland or not quite to your liking. Is it thick or thin, sugary, sweet, tomato-y, spicy, bland, or just the right amount of spices? Many are concerned with counter-balancing the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce. I sometimes have a hard time telling if a sauce is too acidic, but comparing it to a sauce I really like, I can tell a difference – it can be a little tart. Some people have acid reflux and acidic foods cause a lot of heartburn. So when making spaghetti or pizza sauce, how do you balance out the acidity and tomato taste?

Mask the Flavor

One method is to add sugar or carrots to counter-balance the acidic taste. You cook the carrots down and remove them at the end if you don’t want to keep the carrots in the sauce. But adding these things won’t change the actual pH of the sauce so won’t help with acid reflux or heartburn. The sugar will make the sauce taste sweet, which I don’t prefer. Adding water will dilute the sauce so the acid isn’t detected as much, but it will dilute all the other flavors as well.

Spaghetti sauce

Acid vs. Base

The first way to counter act the acid in the sauce is to add an alkaline (basic) ingredient, like baking soda. Just add a small amount at a time and stir it well, until you get the taste you want. You won’t be able to take any out once you put it in, since it will react! A little milk may also work. Cheese has also been suggested, since the calcium can react with the acid. Try a little grated Parmesan. This will add its own flavors though, so make sure you taste it to make sure it’s satisfactory. Reducing the acidity and not just masking the flavor with others is the best way to go for those that have heartburn. The pH of tomatoes is about 4.6, carrots about 6.0, and water 7.0.

What do you do to balance acidity in tomato sauce?

Mellow Mushroom Pizza Review

We tried a new pizza place yesterday – the new location of Mellow Mushroom in Dublin, OH. It’s one of the few sit-down get-waited-on pizza restaurants that I know of, but it also has carry out. There are locations all around the country, from Florida and Texas to Colorado and Arizona to Indiana, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The decor seemed pretty unique and ‘groovy’, and they have a Beer Club for those who want to try all of their beers to get some discounts and prizes. Their website seems pretty neat, but it’s all flash which can be annoying.

Mellow Mushroom - Large size house pizza

Large size house pizza

Mellow Mushroom - Personal Size House pizza

Small size pizza

Unfortunately we were not impressed with the food… we may forgive them this time since the location is so new. We ordered a large House Pizza (16″ for 8 slices, $25), garlic bread, and 5 hot wings. We got there at the lunch hour and the place got pretty busy. It took maybe 25-30 minutes before our food came out. The garlic bread and wings arrived just a short while before the pizza. The pizza seemed OK at first, but the crust was a little burnt. It was hard to cut a slice into pieces. The manager came out to check on it and apologized and offered another one — we ordered a small (10″) of the same pizza. When it came out the color was nice but it had anchovies on it! The House pizza was not supposed to have them, so it may have been a different pizza. But besides that it tasted OK. The manager gave us the meal on the house and also gave us a gift card for next time. Some of our friends say Mellow Mushroom pizza isn’t bad, and I’ll still go again, but probably not in the near future.

Have you tried Mellow Mushroom?

Homemade Pizza in March

I’ve attempted a few more homemade pizzas so far this month. The latest ones I tried using a greased pizza pan rather than the stone and the dough was too soft and doughy. The stone allows much more moisture to escape, making the crust crisp and slightly crunchy. The crust also becomes browner with a pizza stone I think.

pizza cooked in greased pan
Pizza cooked in greased pan
(transferred to stone after cooking)
pepper shaped pizza
Pizza cooked on stone

Cooking on a pizza stone is definitely the way to go. But the only problem is figuring out how to roll it out. The elasticity of the dough makes it shrink back whenever you try pressing or rolling it out, hence the weird, non-round shapes (a pepper shape may be desired in some circumstances, but I prefer my pizza to be as round as possible). It was much easier to press out the dough into a greased pizza pan:

Raw dough rolled out
Raw dough pressed out

So I guess I have some more testing to do to find the best way to roll out and cook a pizza! Do you have any comments, tips, advice? How do you roll out a pizza?

Pizza Paradise Around the United States

The other day I watched Pizza Paradise on the Travel Channel. Apparently it is repeated throughout the year. They describe the type of pizza found in several popular pizza cities across the nation. Basically I would consider three distinct types. New York has a thin crust that you fold in half. Chicago has a thick, pie-like crust that you may need to eat with a knife and fork. California is all about the exotic toppings on a smaller personal sized pizza. It’s neat to think about the pizza places in each area that were the birthplace of each distinct type. And the first pizzaria in the US was Lombardi’s Pizzeria in New York in 1905. Of course there are variations in pizza within each city, and there can be fierce loyalty by the patrons and fans of a particular type. I think most people have a preference of either New York style or Chicago style. I like a thicker crust, but not necessarily so thick that you need to eat with a knife and fork and get full after one or two slices. I didn’t realize that there was a pizza in New York with caviar that costs $1000! Wild stuff.

A lot of the customers preferred their particular pizza joint not only from the food but the atmosphere as well. Most of them were small, cosy and intimate places. I think it would be great to own a pizzeria where people come with their families and friends for fun and conversation while they eat.

Here’s a link to a summary article on the Travel Channel.

Science of Pizza Dough Rising


Fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide, by yeast or other bacteria. It happens in alcoholic drinks, bread, and pizza dough! It gives breads and doughs the light, airy texture and a slightly sour taste. So what happens to pizza dough during this process?

  • Mixing/Kneading
    During this stage, you mix together ingredients such as water, flour, yeast, and salt. Two proteins in the flour (gliaden and glutenin) begin to connect together and form an elastic network called gluten. Some flours have a higher ‘gluten’ content which supposedly make for a great texture and taste in the dough. But it also means it is very elastic and hard to roll or stretch out.
  • First Rise
    After kneading, the dough is left to rise for about an hour. This is when fermentation occurs, creating carbon dioxide bubbles, and the dough may double in size. The gluten network continues to develop.
  • Second Rise/Proof
    The dough can be punched down and shaped into a ball or loaf for a second rise time. This allows fermentation to continue and gluten structure to develop further. This process should take place in a cold place such as a refrigerator, because higher temperatures allow the carbon dioxide to develop too quickly and produce undesirable flavors. Although you don’t need a second rise for a basic pizza recipe, it may result in a more floury or bread-like taste. This process of placing the dough in a cold environment is called retardation.
  • Baking
    The dough is then rolled out and put in the oven. When it hits the warm temperature, the air bubbles start to expand, making the dough inflate. At some point the dough reaches maximum expansion and the structure solidifies and you can see the bread-like structure.

Source: Slice Serious Eats – how long to let dough rise

As there are so many variables to consider, it can be hard to get a consistent pizza every time you make one. I think the biggest challenge for me is the variable temperature of my electric oven. It’s also frustrating to try to roll out the pizza when it shrinks back so much. What are your suggestions?

Browse Pizza Recipes, Pizza Reviews

I recently changed the theme of the Open Source Pizza website, and added several new pages that will hold great content and discussions.

Browse and Submit Pizza Recipes

On the Recipes page you’ll be able to browse, comment on, and submit pizza related recipes! You’ll be able to browse by category (pizza, stromboli, calzone, pasta, Hoagie/Sandwich, sauce, dough, etc) or search by tag. You can comment on recipes: mark them as Like or Dislike, specify the positives and negatives of the recipe, and suggest improvements. If you haven’t tried the recipe yet, you can specify if you are ‘interested’ or ‘not interested’ in trying the recipe and post your comments rather than a review. The highest rated recipes will be listed in a section on the Recipes page. You can also submit your own recipes. I’ve implemented an Open ID login system so you’ll need to log in with your Google account before commenting or submitting a recipe.

Pizza Reviews in Columbus, Ohio

On the Review page I’ll have reviews of pizza places in Columbus, OH. I’ll probably try to integrate with other reviews sites rather than have additional or separate reviews for the businesses. What review places do you use? I’ll definitely pull from Yelp and Google Places. I’d like to post some profile information about all the different pizza places in Columbus, Ohio as well, to have a comprehensive list.

Social Media and Discussions About Pizza

On the Connect page I’ll have all kinds of discussions and trends relating to pizza that can be found on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, other cooking and food websites, etc. Wherever possible, I’ll try to pull data from feeds and use third-party APIs to integrate the content directly on the Open Source Pizza website. If that’s not possible, I’ll just post links to the external websites. But you won’t be able to post your own comments on this site directly. Let me know if you have a suggestion of a good website that has discussions about pizza related dishes.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas of what you’d like to see on the website!

Homemade French Bread Pizza

French Bread Pizza

It’s time to make a few more pizzas at home. I wondered what type of bread can be used to make ‘french bread pizza’ like you see in the frozen food section at your local grocery. I also wanted to try out my toaster oven we bought several years ago but never used. So I bought a long loaf of french bread and looked for some recipes or tips. I simply cut off 8″ of the loaf and cut it lengthwise. One recipe mentioned scooping out some of the bread if you find it too thick, but I didn’t do that. Just loaded the inside of each half with some pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I think I baked it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for maybe 10-12 minutes, I don’t quite remember. The toaster oven has a clear front window so I was able to check when the cheese was melted.

french bread pizza

French Bread Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

I also made a traditional pizza using a recipe I found in a book we had lying around: The Totally Pizza Cookbook by Helene Siegel. It called for corn meal in the dough, and I thought that might give it a pretty good flavor. The first one I made had a very thin crust and it was OK. Unfortunately the second half of the dough I put in the freezer since I wasn’t able to make it within a day. I think that made it really elastic and it was really hard to roll out. But the final product wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure if I like the crust that much though. I think pictured below is the first pizza.

pepperoni pizza

Pizza at Roosters’ in Columbus, Ohio

Tonight I just tried a Meat Lover’s pizza at Rooster’s in Columbus, Ohio. This was the location on Olentangy River Rd. It was the first time I tried one of their personal size pizzas, and it was pretty good. They all start with a 9″ thin crust and you can get meat/cheese toppings for $.59 and veggie toppings for $.29. I got the Meat Lover’s one, which included pepperoni, sausage, ham, and bacon for $6.49.

Meat Lover pizza at Rooster's in Columbus, OH
Meat Lover’s pizza at Rooster’s in Columbus, OH

We had a Nachos Deluxe for an appetizer, so I couldn’t eat the last two pieces of the pizza.

Usually I get a Big Bob burger at Rooster’s with the Works; I think it’s a great burger for a great price. My husband really likes their hot wings, but I don’t really care for them, or hot food in general. But the chicken tenders with BBQ sauce are pretty good. I’m not sure if the pizza is a better deal than the burger, but it wasn’t bad. What do you think about Rooster’s food?

Little Caesar’s Pizza in Michigan

We were visiting relatives in Michigan over the holidays and had Little Caesar’s pizza and crazy bread. Boy was it good!! The deep dish crust was soft and almost buttery or greasy. Is it cooked in oil? The cheese and sauce are great too. I think this pizza may be my goal for making pizzas at home. The Crazy Bread (bread sticks) were good too.

Little Caesar's Deep Dish

Image source:
I thought the number of Little Caesar’s locations were decreasing, almost going out of business, but looking at the store locator on their website, I see that there are plenty of locations in the mid-west and from coast to coast. I remember having one close to where I grew up, in a K-mart. So I always associated it with that store and not as an independent pizza chain. There actually isn’t a location that is very close to me, otherwise I might have to start eating from there more often! It’s probably good that I don’t, since that soft oily crust is surely not good for your health!

The website has product info, nutritional info, news about Little Caesar’s, kid’s games, a shop to buy Little Caesar’s merchandise, franchise information, and links to connect on Facebook and twitter.

Difference Between Calzone and Stromboli

I always forget the difference between a calzone and a stromboli. Google-ing the issue reveals that there is quite some confusion on the issue.

A calzone is basically a pizza dough folded over, half moon-like, that is stuffed with meat(s) and cheese(s). It’s common to have ricotta cheese instead of mozzerella, and sauce served on the side. They can also be called ‘inside-out’ or ‘turnover’ pizzas.

Etymology – Calzoni (plural) means “pants” or “trousers” – since one resembles a pant leg of the wide, billowing trousers that were worn in the 18th century.

Calzone seen on Seriously Good website
Calzone Source: Seriously Good website

A stromboli is stuffed with meat(s) and cheese(s) but rolled, resulting in more of a tube or loaf shape. They can also be called pizza rolls.

Etymology — Stromboli is a volcano and an island in Sicilia in Italy. (Not sure how that relates to the dish)

Stromboli available at Dominick's Pizza
Stromboli Source: Dominick’s pizza in NJ

From what I gather, it’s the shape of the dough rather than the ingredients that make the difference between the two. You can usually use whatever ingredients sound good, however flatter ingredients will work best. Forum posts indicate that the dishes and terminology are particular to a certain areas of the US, and of course can differ from the original Italian versions of the dishes. A good discussion with pictures of stromboli can be found on the forum. Some restaurants serve one or the other.

I attempted to make a calzone a few months ago, and didn’t realize that it needed to be cooked differently. I think it needs to be at a lower temperature (maybe 450?) for longer than a regular pizza. It turned out kind of dough-y. I’ll have to try again and post some pictures.

What are your opinions on a calzone vs. stromboli? Post links to your own pictures!