Greg was recently out of town for a week. Gosh, just writing that sentence makes me tired. I don’t know how people single parent and survive. I’m horrible at it even for a week. Parenting, to me, can be a difficult journey on the best of days. When my partner in crime is gone, it’s downright lonely.
Friday nights at our house mean two important things, pizza and movies. I buy a ball of regular dough for the kids, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan and whatever toppings we crave each week. Greg makes a gluten-free dough for himself (which I greedily share with him because it’s scrumptious.)
And the sauce, that perfect marvel, I make from scratch. It tastes of rich tomatoes and garlic and a hint of oregano.
This has been our tradition for years.
Even though I love to cook, there are a few meals in our house that are signature Greg Ohlin. Pizza is one of them. Or, it mostly is. Although I make the sauce–my mom’s recipe–and the kids often roll out their own dough,
Greg coordinates everything. He makes his gluten-free dough, tosses and stretches the kids’ dough much farther than they can, layers on the toppings, and perfectly times the baking of both. And every single time I savor a bite of his gorgeous pizzas, my eyes practically roll back in my head with adoration. The man can cook!
It’s the end of the week; we make cocktails and I keep him company in the kitchen while the kids often start an early movie. Ultimately, after the grocery shopping and prep are done, it’s one of those meals I’m not responsible for. And I cherish those special meals.
The week Greg was on his work trip, the dishwasher was broken, the toilet started leaking, the dog was sick and it was in the nineties. (Plus, I had to get Jasper suited up for hockey camp each day. I think I’d rather make a soufflé from scratch than figure out how to get hockey gear on a seven-year-old!) We were hard core into paper plates, seriously easy meals, like toast and fruit, and vegging out on the front porch.
Of course, the kids still expected we’d have homemade pizza night. To them, my mini pizza snobs, there was no alternative. But when it came time to actually make the pizza, I mini panicked. Holy cow, I thought, it’s been almost a decade since I’ve made pizza. I hadn’t rolled out a pie since before Greg was diagnosed with celiac, way back when I used to make my mom’s dough from scratch.
First, I texted him, “Pizza question, can you talk?” Unfortunately, he was mid-flight from Salt Lake to New York and no amount of desperation on my part was going to change that. And I do actually mean desperation. This is pizza we’re talking about, people. Homemade pizza. Friday night tradition in our house, in many a household. If religion wasn’t so important to people, I suspect our different opinions about pizza could cause a war or two.
So, I made a gin & tonic, gave myself a pep talk and dove in. I remembered Greg usually rolling the kids’ dough out on a floured surface, tossing it into the air, and finally transferring it to a baking sheet. Since I was end-of-the-week exhausted, and can’t toss a dough to save my life, I opted for efficiency. I oiled up the baking sheet, and went to town stretching and spreading that dough.
Before I had a chance to wonder whether or not I was going to screw it up, I smiled at a memory of my mom’s hands stretching pizza dough. So many weekend nights in Denver, when I was a child, her long, graceful fingers pulled that dough toward the edges of the large round baking sheets, while her thumbs simultaneously rotated that pan around and around, until the dough was stretched just right. I could see her painted nails, the freckles on her soft skin. I could still hear her gold rings click against the metal pan.
I could do this, I thought. I have this memory to guide me. And you know what? Our pizza was awesome that night. The dough was a bit thicker near the edges than Greg usually gets it; there were a few holes where it had spread too thin in the middle. But nobody noticed, and if they did, they didn’t care because once you put it all together, a chewy, perfectly cooked dough, a rich pasty sauce, salty cheese and some super flavorful toppings, hot and bubbling, well, it’s simply mouthwatering.
I enjoy knowing this is Greg’s meal, and I’ll look forward to the Friday nights he’s home to make it, but every single time Lily takes a bite, she swoons over my homemade pizza sauce. “Mama, you make the best sauce ever.” Sometimes even before the pizzas are made, she’ll wander in and out of the kitchen, sampling tastes of the sauce as it cools on the stovetop.
I do make a mean sauce.
I believe we infuse love into the meals we make for others. I believe that’s why the pizza tastes so outstanding when Greg makes it, not just because he’s good at it, but because he’s making it for us.
Maybe that’s why Lily likes my sauce so much, because I make it for her.
Of all the techniques, recipes and advice my mom handed down to me in the kitchen, her homemade pizza sauce will always be one of my favorites. But even more than her sauce, the ability to show love through delicious meals is the skill I cherish the most.
Everybody has their own food traditions, Friday night traditions, pizza night traditions. This is ours. If you need the perfect, simple, rich-tomato-paste-flavored sauce to add to your pizza nights, enjoy! And if you are a single parent out there, make a triple batch of this sauce, freeze it in pizza night quantities, to make your life a bit easier, and know that every time you open a jar of this sauce, I’m sending you some love and support.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes until softened. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 min. Add tomato sauce, paste and water, and stir to heat and combine. You may need to turn the heat down if the sauce starts to jump out at you. You're really only heating it all together, not cooking it for any length of time. Add dried oregano and season with salt if necessary. Let cool. Spread on dough or freeze for later.
- I usually double the recipe so that I can freeze some of the sauce. Then Friday night pizza nights are even easier!