To food editor Shilpa Uskokovic, when it comes to home cooking, cheap is the greatest compliment. Each month, in What a Steal, she’s sharing a highly craveable recipe—and showing us how to save some $$$ along the way.
Everything everywhere is expensive right now, but home cooking will always be cheaper than eating at a restaurant or ordering takeout. Just imagine if the McAllisters from Home Alone ordered 10 pizzas from Little Nero’s today. $250, easy. For that money you could buy 15 tiny pans, 16 bottles of associate food editor Kendra Vaculin’s favorite vinegar, or, uh, three-quarters of a Vitamix. We all love pizza but delivery can add up fast. To make it at home, you won’t need a specialty oven or fancy equipment, and the flavor possibilities are infinite. You can have your pie and some savings too.
Leftovers? We Don’t Know Her
Anything can be a pizza topping if you try. Crusty bits of three different cheeses? Add mozzarella and call it quattro formaggi. Last night’s saag paneer? Yum. Clamshell of wilted arugula from when you were feeling virtuous? Some dough and cheese will get you there. Anything saucy––not soupy––like green curry or pesto will work as a base in place of the usual tomato sauce. For even distribution, cut or tear larger foods into pieces no bigger than a walnut. With a weekly pizza night (doesn’t that sound fun?), you won’t have to waste odds and ends because fridge clearance is an art and pizza is the canvas.
Strong Flavors Stretch Further
Budget pizza doesn’t have to mean every ingredient is inexpensive. Include one powerhouse topping—just use it sparingly. When an ingredient is full of attitude, a little goes a long way. In this version, a mere cup of kimchi carries a whole tray of pizza to the finish line. Overachievers like this make homemade pizza taste restaurant-esque. Try cured meat (like diced pepperoni), pickled or fermented vegetables (like capers or sauerkraut), and sharp cheeses (like shaved Pecorino Romano).
In Season for a Reason
Yes, food in season is tastier (think of snappy spring asparagus or tender summer potatoes), but it’s also cheaper. Since there’s so much of it available at the same time, prices go down to keep things moving. Stores can also source locally, sidestepping the high fees of flying in produce from overseas. Use this guide to find out what’s in season in your region. And don’t waste any part of the vegetable either. Broccoli stalks and chard stems want to be part of pizza night too—just thinly slice them first.
Your Starter Kit
Use this formula for budget pizza that tastes like a million bucks:
1 sauce + 1 to 3 vegetables + 1 protein (optional) + 1 powerhouse ingredient + all the cheese
Here are some flavor pairings to get you started:
- Pesto + kale + chicken + pickled peppers + provolone
- BBQ sauce + corn + scallion + bacon + mozzarella
- Alfredo sauce + potato + sauerkraut + sausage + Gruyère