The secret to an easy homemade pizza? It’s in the bag

Making pizza at home sounds fun, but homemade pizza dough can be finicky, even if you’ve practiced a lot. Still, that doesn’t mean delivery is the only way to satisfy a craving.

Solution: French bread. Squishy Supermarket French Bread is a ready-to-use vehicle for your favorite pizza toppings. Sure, you can just buy a box from Stouffer’s, but with a little planning, the homemade French bread pizza makes for a great meal after a hard day’s work.

Store-bought French bread can vary greatly in size. The measurements in these recipes should cover larger 16-ounce loaves, but trust your instincts when topping: the loaves may need a thinner layer of sauce or a little less cheese. Also hollow out some of the soft interior of the bread. Blend it in a food processor and blend to make breadcrumbs, or tear it into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake at 350 degrees until dry and golden for the croutons.

Here you will find three versions: pepperoni lover, four cheese and pesto and mozzarella. Feel free to mix and match sauces and play with different cheese combinations. Then cover as desired. Thinly sliced ​​red onion adds bite, hot pepper or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes reduces the richness of the cheese in almost all cases. Dried oregano and grated Parmesan provide a pizzeria vibe, while fresh basil brightens things up.

The most important step – and it’s crucial – is letting the pizza cool before cutting and eating it. There are few things hotter than the marriage of melted sauce and cheese on a steaming slice. If you’re not patient, you’re almost guaranteed to burn the roof of your mouth, so wait at least five minutes before digging.

Whichever direction you choose to go with your French Bread Pizza, what you’ll get is a little fancy (it’s French, after all!), a crowd-pleasing meal or snack, perfect for game days, Fridays or any day you might need. a reminder that home cooking can be as fun and delicious as it is easy.

Four Cheese French Bread Pizza

(Ryan Liebe/The New York Times)

Four Cheese French Bread Pizza

Each cheese plays a particular role in this French bread pizza: a combination of parmesan and pecorino makes it particularly nutty and salty; the mozzarella melts evenly and a sharper deli-style provolone fills the gap between them. Once you learn how to make the classic white sauce (technically a Mornay, which is a bechamel with cheese added), you’ll find dozens of ways to use it beyond pizza: substitute it with an amount equal amount of shredded cheddar cheese and toss it with pasta for an easy stovetop mac and cheese, or use Gruyère, spread the sauce over ham on toast and broil until bubbling and golden brown . The sauce can be prepared up to 3 days in advance; keep tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Makes 4 servings

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano
½ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
A few black peppercorns

FOR THE PIZZA:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 loaf of soft bread, split lengthwise, interior mostly hollowed out
4 ounces mozzarella, lightly moist and partly skimmed, or fresh (drained and patted dry, if necessary), shredded or torn
4 ounces sliced ​​provolone (from the deli), cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Red pepper flakes or dried oregano, or both, for serving

Prepare the sauce: Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Whisk the milk, a few squirts at a time to start, until evenly incorporated. Bring to a full boil, reduce heat to low and cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture thickens slightly and mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.) Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan, pecorino, salt and pepper. Let cool.

Prepare the pizza: Combine olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to sizzle but does not brown, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from fire.

Place the French bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush cut sides with garlic oil. Bake until edges are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine cheeses in medium bowl. Spread the sauce on the two halves of bread up to the edges and top with cheese.

Return to oven and cook until melted, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to grill. Broil until cheese is bubbly and browned in spots (watch carefully!), 1-2 minutes longer. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve garnished with red pepper flakes and oregano, if desired.

Slices of French bread pizza with pesto and mozzarella lie on a plate.

French bread pizza with pesto and mozzarella

(Ryan Liebe/The New York Times)

French bread pizza with pesto and mozzarella

Basil is the classic choice for this red sauce alternative, but toss in some tender, flavorful herbs or greens like parsley, spinach, or arugula, depending on what you have around. This pesto recipe doubles easily and freezes well too: Transfer the finished pesto to an ice cube tray and freeze until firm. Put frozen pesto in a resealable bag and store in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw whenever a pasta or pizza craving calls, but you can definitely use store-bought pesto to make things even easier. Fresh mozzarella makes great cheeses, but feel free to play around with other soft cheeses: a crumble of feta or goat cheese would make delicious variations.

Makes 4 servings

FOR THE PIZZA:
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves or other soft herbs or vegetables such as parsley, arugula, baby spinach, or a combination
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup pine nuts or almonds
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan
½ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)

FOR THE PIZZA:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 loaf of soft bread, split lengthwise, interior mostly hollowed out
8 ounces mozzarella, lightly moist and partly skimmed, or fresh (drained and patted dry, if necessary) thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes, dried oregano or grated parmesan, or a combination, for serving

Prepare the pesto: Heat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Combine basil, 1 garlic clove and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Machine running, pour the olive oil. Scrape down sides of bowl, add Parmesan and salt, then pulse to combine.

Prepare the pizza: Combine ¼ cup olive oil and grated garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to sizzle (but does not begin to brown), 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from fire.

Place the French bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush cut sides with garlic oil. Bake until edges are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Spread pesto over both halves all the way to the edges and top with cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese is evenly melted, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to broil and broil (watch carefully!) until cheese is bubbly and browned in spots, 1-2 minutes longer. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with red pepper flakes, oregano and Parmesan, if desired.

Slices of Pepperoni Lover's French Bread Pizza lie on a plate.

Pepperoni Lover’s French Bread Pizza

(Ryan Liebe / The New York Times)

Pepperoni Lover’s French Bread Pizza

An easy no-cook sauce works as a zesty base for pizzas of all kinds. Draining the tomatoes before seasoning ensures that the sauce won’t create soggy bottoms, no matter what type of crust you build your pizza on. Use an equal amount of whole crushed or peeled tomatoes instead of diced if that’s what you have on hand. Just use your hands to break up the whole tomatoes a bit (and drain off any extra liquid). The sauce will keep well covered in the refrigerator for about five days. But feel free to use your favorite jar marinara in its place. Leftover pizza reheats beautifully in a 350 degree oven until piping hot.

Makes 4 servings

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 can (14 ounces) small diced tomatoes, drained
1 clove garlic, grated
½ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
A few black peppercorns

FOR THE PIZZA:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 loaf of soft bread, split lengthwise, interior mostly hollowed out
4 ounces mozzarella, lightly moist and partly skimmed, or fresh (drained and patted dry, if necessary), shredded or torn (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 ounces sliced ​​pepperoni, quartered (about ½ cup)
Red pepper flakes or dried oregano, or both, for serving

Prepare the sauce: Heat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Combine tomatoes, garlic, salt, oregano, olive oil and black pepper in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Reserve until use.

Prepare the pizza: Combine ¼ cup olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to sizzle but does not brown, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from fire.

Place the French bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush cut sides with garlic oil. Bake until edges are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni in a medium bowl. Divide the tomato sauce between the two halves of bread all the way to the edges and top with pepperoni and cheese.

Return to oven and cook until melted, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to broil and broil (watch carefully!) until cheese is bubbly and browned in spots, 1-2 minutes longer. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve topped with more Parmesan, red pepper flakes and oregano, if desired.

Recipes by Dawn Perry.

Perry is a freelance writer and the author of “Ready, Set, Cook: How to Make Good Food With What’s on Hand”. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.