Fathers can be difficult to buy gifts for, but they are easy to please. Leave them alone to do their thing, make them a good meal, and they are happy. Delicious, nourishing food never fails as the perfect gift for anybody, so this year why not make your dad a lunch on Father’s Day centered around a home-made pizza? You may need mom’s help with shopping and baking the pizza, but kids can do most of the prep, and of course help with the cleanup. (No one likes to clean up after others, not even mom.)


Most Indian Americans are open to trying out new foods, especially in California, where we have a huge variety of ethnic cuisines. Back in India, I find that people are less experimental when it comes to “foreign” food. This is especially true of us Gujaratis, who it seems are always looking for a “thali” no matter where we go. However, all over India, everyone loves pizza. This Italian savory pie is so popular throughout India that even in Gujarat, fancy markets cannot stock enough pizza. Many Indian housewives have adopted pizza with creative versions.

Pizza is colorful, tasty, healthy, and portable. Pizza can be served hot or cold. It can be vegetarian, or even vegan. Moms approve of it, Dads like it, and kids love it. And, best of all, pizza is very easy to make from scratch. So if this is your first time at baking, do not be intimidated.

The easy to follow instructions below have been adapted from a book entitled The Cheese Board Collective Works, which has many good recipes for pizza, pastry, and bread.
Preparing your pizza for Father’s Day will require some preparation. Read the recipe and buy all ingredients ahead of time. In fact, try out your first pizza before Father’s Day to get acquainted with the process. The sauce can be made ahead of time. The cheese can be grated the day before and refrigerated.

Plan to get up early on Father’s Day (Sunday, June 19, 2011) because the dough for the crust needs to rise for at least an hour. While the dough is rising you can prepare the toppings, so when your Dad is ready for lunch you can assemble and pop the pizza in the oven.

Here are recipes for three pizzas. One is a classic and simple Pizza Margherita, which has tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella. The second adds vegetables to the Margherita pizza.The third is a vegan Punjabi version with a potato and spinach topping.


Three pizzas that will cheer up dad on Father’s Day

Ingredients for the crust (makes three 10” to 12” pizzas)   

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons good quality virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt 3 ½ to 4 cups unbleached white flour
(or bread flour)

Ingredients for the sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup each finely chopped onion and red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh herbs such as oregano and basil, minced salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

Ingredients for Margherita Pizza

½ cup or more prepared tomato sauce
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
fresh basil and parsley leaves, stems removed
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
pepper flakes for topping

Ingredients for Margherita Pizza with Vegetables 

½ cup or more prepared tomato sauce
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup sliced olives
¼ cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
pepper flakes for topping

Ingredients for Punjabi Pizza

4 cups baby spinach, rinsed,
thoroughly drained and finely chopped
4 yellow or red potatoes, cut into halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon salt
a few pinches of cayenne for topping

Preparing the Crust

In a mixing bowl combine the yeast with warm (not hot) water, Whisk for a few minutes until the yeast dissolves and the mixture forms bubbles. Let stand for 5 minutes.

If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook and a paddle, by all means use it. Transfer the dissolved yeast and water mixture into the bowl of the mixer. Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Using the paddle, mix for 5 minutes on low speed to form a wet dough. Remove the paddle and attach the dough hook. Add 1½ cups of the flour and mix at medium speed for five minutes. If needed, add a few more tablespoons of flour to achieve a soft and sticky uniform dough with a shiny surface. Form the dough into a ball, oil its surface and place into an oiled deep bowl. Cover with a clean plastic bag or a damp kitchen towel, and place it to rise in a warm place, away from a draft, for an hour or longer, until it doubles in size.

If making the dough by hand, add the olive oil, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture, and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients. Stir in a circular motion for several minutes to form a puree-like mixture. Then place 1½ cups of flour in a shallow bowl or a wok and form a well in the center. Pour the wet flour mixture into the well. Rub some oil in your palms and work the dry flour into the wet mixture, kneading for 5 to 8 minutes to get a soft and sticky but not too wet dough mixture with a shiny surface. As above, form the dough into a ball, rub some oil on and place into an oiled deep bowl. Cover with a plastic bag or a damp kitchen towel, and place it to rise in a warm place, away from a draft, for an hour or longer, until it doubles in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a counter or table top surface that has been sprinkled with flour. Oil your hands lightly and mix the dough briefly to make it smooth, adding a bit of flour only if the dough is excessively sticky. Divide the dough into three parts and form each into a loose ball. Cover the three balls with a damp cloth and set them aside for 20 minutes.

Arrange two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450° F. Oil three shallow (lipless) thalis or two inverted cookie sheets and sprinkle some corn meal on the surface. Now you are ready to shape and assemble your pizzas.

Preparing the Sauce:

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cook the mixture for approximately 20 minutes at moderate heat. Keep stirring the sauce as it cooks, breaking up any lumps, until the mixture is thicker than a spaghetti sauce. You will only use a small portion of the sauce for pizzas; the rest can be refrigerated for future use.

Topping for Margherita Pizza

Grate the cheese and prepare the other ingredients as listed for the Margherita Pizza and the Vegetable Pizza. Set them aside.

Topping for the Punjabi Pizza

Parboil the potatoes for a few minutes until they are easy to peel, but still firm to slice. Peel the potatoes after they are cooled. Slice them into ¼”discs, and set aside. Sautee the onions in oil in a pan for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cumin. Stir-fry the mixture for a few minutes and add spinach. Cook briefly until the spinach wilts but is still green. Set the spinach aside.

Assembling the Pizzas:

Oil your hands and pat each ball of dough into a 4” disc. Using your fingertips firmly as though you are typing on an old typewriter, stretch each disk all around to make it a few inches larger. Place each disc on a thali or cookie sheet, and pat gently stretching further into a 10”-12” circle.

Spread a thin layer of sauce (about ½ cup) over the two crusts, leaving ½” clear along the edge. Sprinkle grated cheese on each. For the vegetable pizza, arrange the sliced vegetables over the cheese. Save the basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese for later.

Cover the third pizza crust with the Punjabi spinach mixture, after draining any excess liquid. Then arrange the potato slices on top of the spinach.

Baking the Pizzas

Now the pizzas are ready to bake. Restaurants have special pizza ovens to get a nice crust. At home, similar results can be achieved by baking pizza on a preheated pizza stone. Presuming you do not have either, pizzas need to be rotated in the oven on the two racks to get a crisp crust. Cook the pizzas with cheese first and the Punjabi pizza later. (Once you get more experienced at baking pizza, you can rotate several pizzas in a rhythm from rack to rack to save time.)

Place the two assembled pizzas with cheese on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Using the oven mitts, transfer them to the upper rack and bake them for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Take the pizza out of the oven and close the oven door. Working quickly, slide the metal spatula carefully between the crust and the thali (or cookie sheet) to separate them. Open the oven and slide the pizzas off of the thalis (or cookie sheets) one at a time, directly onto the lower oven rack. Close the oven and bake the pizzas for 5 minutes until the crust is crisp. Remove the pizzas from oven and cool them for a few minutes.

Bake the Punjabi pizza using the same baking directions and top it with a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper before serving.

Arrange basil and parsley on the pizzas with cheese. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and pepper flakes on top.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of  Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health-food store.