Takeout vs. homemade pizza smackdown: which wins for cost and health?

The Editors of EatingWell Magazine

By Matthew Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine

I've always loved cooking homemade pizzas. On weekends my friends will sometimes gather in our kitchen with a few cold beers and a mountain of ingredients, rolling out crusts with and arguing over toppings. It's a fun way to spend an evening and the results are always delicious.

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So I was really excited about Liza Nowak's story comparing homemade pizza to takeout in the September/October issue of EatingWell Magazine ("EatingWell's Pizza Smack-Down"). She put EatingWell's best kitchen-counter efforts head-to-head against delivery, using a variety of criteria-nutrition, flavor, cost and speed. The results were surprising.

When it comes to nutrition, homemade pizza just blows delivery out of the water. I'd always thought of a home-cooked pie as a bit of a calorie splurge, but a two-slice serving is actually pretty reasonable. In fact, its 391 calories seem downright skinny when compared with takeout's chubby 600. (I know, I know: who eats just two slices of pizza? Still, isn't it nice to know that you're cutting your calories almost by half?)

When it comes to fat, EatingWell's turkey sausage pizza recipe is similarly superior: 14 grams of total fat versus takeout's 28 and 6 grams of saturated fat versus takeout's artery-clogging 12.
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Next up for comparison: cook time. Despite the old "30-minutes-or-less" maxim, delivery often takes longer for me. How many Friday nights have you waited 45 minutes for a lukewarm pie to finally show up at your place? Still, Liza kept things fair by allowing herself only the time from when her boyfriend placed a pizza order till it arrived on her front steps to cook her own pie.

Using some thin-crust whole-wheat dough she'd made the day before-it takes 20 minutes to make and you can freeze individual portions for up to 3 months-Liza rolled out and topped a turkey-sausage-fennel-and-cheese pie (see recipe below). She popped it in the oven and used the cook time to whip up a salad. She was just pulling it out of the oven when the delivery boy knocked on their door. So I guess we can consider cook time a tie.
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The final piece of the puzzle is cost. The ingredients in EatingWell's pizza cost only $6.38. Compare that with a typical delivered sausage pizza's $20 price tag and it's clear that homemade pizza is the smarter choice for any budget-minded individual.
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So where does that leave us? Homemade pizza is healthier than takeout, about as fast and three times as cheap. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty good about my home-cooked pizza night right now.

Get the Recipe: Turkey Sausage, Fennel & Fontina Pizza
Makes: 5 servings
Active time: 35 minutes | Total: 2 hours | To make ahead: Prepare through Step 2, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Or tightly wrap the unrisen dough in oiled plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the dough in the refrigerator overnight. Let refrigerated (or previously frozen) dough stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

This hearty pizza, topped with crumbles of turkey sausage, sliced fennel and assertive fontina, is just the thing to prepare when you're having friends over to watch the big game. No time to make homemade dough? Look for whole-wheat pizza-dough balls at your supermarket. Check the ingredient list to make sure the dough doesn't contain any hydrogenated oils. Serve with a mixed green salad tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

Thin-Crust Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water (105-115°F)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Tips)
1 cup bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
All-purpose flour for dusting

1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce or pizza sauce
2 links hot Italian turkey sausage (casing removed), cooked and crumbled
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced
1 cup shredded fontina cheese or part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. To prepare dough: Stir water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl; let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in whole-wheat flour, bread flour (or all-purpose flour) and salt until the dough begins to come together.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, mix the dough in a food processor or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Process or mix until it forms a ball. Continue to process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 1 minute more in a food processor or 4 to 5 minutes more on low speed in a stand mixer.) Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat.
3. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Brush oil over a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal to coat evenly.
5. Sprinkle flour over work surface. Roll out the dough to the size of the baking sheet (see Tips) and transfer to the baking sheet. Cover the dough with sauce. Scatter with sausage and fennel and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Per serving: 391 calories; 14 g fat (6 g sat, 4 g mono); 45 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 1 g added sugars; 19 g protein; 5 g fiber; 766 mg sodium; 247 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Folate (34% daily value).

Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Find it at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

No time to make your own dough? Look for balls of prepared whole-wheat pizza dough at your supermarket, fresh or frozen and without any hydrogenated oils.

To Roll Out Pizza Dough
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour; dimple with your fingertips to shape into a thick, flattened circle. Then use a rolling pin to roll into the desired shape. If your dough "resists" being rolled out, let it rest for about 15 minutes, then try rolling it out again.

What are your favorite homemade pizza toppings?

Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.

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