How to successfully entertain your friends without being overwhelmed, breaking the bank and still enjoying yourself – Homemade DIY pizza

SERVES: One pizza is enough for 1 – 2 people
PREP TIME: 20 mins
COOK TIME: 90 seconds in a wood oven; approx. 10 mins in a conventional oven
DIFFICULTY: Easy (if you’re not me – read my post)
IDEAL FOR: Family and friends – it’s fun and gets everyone involved
BUDGET: £ – ££ (depends on your toppings)

Welcome to Part I of III posts and ideas to help you entertain a crowd and keep your sanity and your wallet in check.

I will be tackling two evening meals and a big brunch. So, if you ever have friends or family visiting from time to time, I can recommend these tried and tested recipes.

Spring arrived but the heat of summer turned up for a weekend – true bliss – so we went al fresco mad!

Friends made their way down from London (The Aston’s… and if you’ve read an earlier post of mine on Sausage Meat Cheats, you’ll remember my dear friend, Steph), and all our bonkers village friends (the usual suspects – Alex, Seanie, Charlie, Nick-the-Chef-Trant’) were also drifting around – happy days.

BUT, before all that happened, we had jobs to do!

Job 1: Garden. It was looking rather sad and a bit broken from the winter so it was time to give it a bit of TLC. Part of that mission is to fight and tame the rose hedge’s brutal fine thorns.
Job 2: Lawn. Convince ‘The Teenager’ to mow it.
Job 3: Wood oven. Remove winter cover, cobwebs, old ash and stack my special 20% dry wood ready for its first cook. (*don’t question the ‘special wood’, it’s a real thing and my family spend most of the winter/summer winding me up about using it on other non-wood oven fires)
Job 4: Badminton net. Unroll and reinstate into the garden for the ongoing, extremely competitive, tournaments we have over summer.
Job 5: Fill the fridge. Beer, rose (always makes me feel very summery), tonic etc – this is usually classified as Job 1, tbh.
Job 6. Clean house. Make the house look like everything has its place and is always pristine i.e. hide stuff

Entertaining’s easy, right?! (I have to admit to a little 20 min snooze after checking all these off…)

Truth is, entertaining is exhausting. But it is a lot of fun.

And if you’re organised, pick the right cut of meat, the right recipe, get everyone involved; it can be pretty simple, easy and not so stressful* (*alcohol can help here as well – note the importance of Job 5).

So, here’s my Bank holiday menu:

PART I: Friday night – homemade pizza night – DIY.
PART II: Saturday morningthe big One-Pan Brunch. Sets everyone up for the day at the beach – quite an impressive way to feed a group with a bit of a ‘wow’ factor for the humble full breakfast.
PART III: Saturday evening – Leg of lamb with yoghurt and turmeric marinade, slow-cooked Bloody Mary brisket, salads. BTW, if you’re stuck on what sides to do with meals, check out my ‘Sides’ posts for ideas.

So, let’s start with Friday night pizza night

What a disaster! Omg.

I could tell you how amazing and seamless it was but the truth is, we made a real mess of it – big wood oven fire failure, the village covered in a thick low hanging wood oven smog, timings all wrong, too much semolina, too little semolina…

…I even caught one of the pizza’s on actual fire but we did laugh – a lot!

A bit of on-the-spot-thinking turned some pizza’s into calzones (*the kids thought it was delicious and I was a complete genius-pizza-chef)

Looks are deceiving but one must smile through any cooking disaster. Never give the impression you have ‘lost your wheels’…

Lessons learned.

  1. Extreme heat: If you’re using a conventional oven, the same goes and make sure the pizza hot plate is piping hot or you’ll have a ‘Great-British-Bake-Off-soggy-bottom’ and no one likes a soggy bottom whatever the context.
  2. Toppings go on sparingly. Kids and friends want to pile on the sauce and the meat lovers go crazy but less really is more. Trust me on this one.

So, here is how to actually make a great pizza…

Making dough.

I’m very lucky to have my friend and neighbour, Nick Trant,  –  amazing chef and who used to run the local bakery, work with Keith Floyd, Jean-Christophe Novelli, the list goes on… –  come over and make the dough (recipe here).

But if Nick isn’t’ around to help me (and if you don’t have a ‘Nick Trant’ of your own) and I’ll be straight up, I cheat and buy frozen dough.  Don’t judge. I have made dough before but it’s just not my thing. For me, it’s about ease and everyone getting involved and people and kids love it!

Toppings and Baking.

Go crazy with your own ideas but here’s a little number we all enjoy inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe (ref. below) who also inspired me to get his wood oven.

Give it a go!

What are your kitchen disasters?!? Come on, let me know… and any tips on how to avert them next time?

P.S. Here’s a photo of a more successful evening, so it can be done.

Cooking with #Italian Mama Steph


Course Main Course
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 21 minutes
Servings 6
Cost £-££


Tomato Sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh Basil
  • 3 x 400 g tins of tomato
  • salt and pepper to season

Topping Idea (but make them up!)

  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 fresh or dried chilli
  • 3 pork sausages
  • sliced salami
  • 150 g Taleggio or mozzerlla cheese
  • 1 tblsp fennel seeds


Tomato Sauce

  • Add to a medium heat pan the olive oil and fry the garlic, then add the Basil and tinned tomatoes.
  • Additional step for smooth sauce: I often don't bother but you may want less texture so; pour through a sieve and mash through any large tomatoes. Discard any bigger bits of garlic and Basil.
  • Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and then you have your sauce!

Pizza Base

  • As mentioned, I use frozen dough (not frozen pizza bases) or I have my friend 'Nick-the-chef-Trant' knock up a batch (lucky I know).
    If you want to make your own, take a look at Jamie Oliver, he always has simple recipes.
    Either way, you're best to roll out your pizza bases at least 10 minutes before and then once you begin building your pizza, just keep the flow going.

Pizza Topping Idea

  • Take the broccoli and roughly chop up then flash boil for a couple of minutes.
  • Take your pork sausages and cut/squeeze the meat out of their skins, then roll it into little meatballs (no need to make them perfect).
  • Chop up the fresh chilli or have your dried flakes to hand. And crush the fennel.
  • Construct your pizza!
    Place your rolled out pizza base onto an oven tray – ensure you've sprinkled semolina or flour onto it or your pizza won't come off!),
    Take your tomato sauce and smooth over base and throw the broccoli, salami and sausage meatballs evenly on.
    Rip the Taleggio or mozzarella cheese over it and sprinkle with chilli and crushed fennel seeds.
    Get it into the over ASAP. Should take approx 10 minutes in a conventional oven or 90 seconds in a wood oven.


It’s best to place the topping ingredients where the sauce is thinnest. This will reduce the final weight and make it easier to transfer into the oven in one piece.
Remember, you need heat. Don’t make my mistake and don’t put your pizza in while the oven is still getting up to temperature.
Semolina (or flour) is key to getting your pizza off the tray for those hungry mouths.


Jamie Oliver