Gather the family for an entertaining, simple and interactive dinner making pizza.
Dialing up the local pizza parlor is a common quick fix for nights when cooking a full meal just seems too much. However, bringing the family together for personal-pizza making night can be – surprisingly – just as quick, and a whole lot more fun.
It’s hard to believe that making your own pizza is as fast as takeout, but by taking advantage of store-bought ingredients, you can go from dough-to-table in under 45 minutes. The key is to purchase pre-risen and kneaded dough. You can also use par-cooked pizza crusts from the grocery store: These look like empty pizza crusts and they need only a few minutes in the oven to cook. However, a much better option is pre-kneaded dough from your local pizza parlor. Most pizza places will let you buy it plain for about $4. You can use it within 24 hours, or coat it with olive oil and place it in a plastic bag in the freezer for longer storage.
If you are using pizza parlor dough or store-bought dough for your pizza making, you’ll simply need to separate the dough into fist-sized balls and roll it out on a floured surface with a rolling pin or olive oil bottle. Your kids will likely think this is the most fun part of the whole process. Place the dough on the cookie sheet or pizza stone now, because once you add the toppings it will be difficult to move. At this point you will want to preheat your oven to 450°F.
Use a combo of store-bought ingredients and fresh–cut veggies for a shortcut way to healthy toppings. Here, spinach sliced into thin “confetti” strips is a good way to entice your children to sprinkle a healthy veggie rich in Iron into their meal.
Next ladle on the sauce. You can use store-bought pizza sauce, but the marinara sauce recipe we’ve included here is so simple you may never go back to sauce from a jar. Then add your cheese: either mozzarella or an Italian blend of mozzarella, romano and parmesan.
Finally add some toppings. You can use kid favorites like pepperoni and sausage, but this is also a good time to work in some vegetables.
There are the classic options like as sliced mushrooms, diced green peppers, diced tomatoes or olives. This is also a good opportunity to try some more adventurous veggies. Young yellow summer squash, for example, resembles small flowers when thinly sliced horizontally. Finely dice eggplants and offer it as a fun touch of purple for their pizza. Chiffonade, or thinly slice, spinach leaves and mix with grated carrots and suggest that your children top off their pizza with a sprinkling of “confetti.” These vegetables when diced small and sliced thin will integrate nicely into the sauce and reduce down in the oven; your kids likely won’t even taste them.
Children will love being able to make one of their favorite meals and moms will benefit from the extra help. The whole family will remember the fun affair.
When you have completed your masterpieces turn your preheated oven down to 400°F. Bake the pizzas for 7-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
With just a little prep, some store-bought ingredients and a handful of fresh toppings, pulling together a do-it-yourself pizza night can be a memorable and exiting way to get the whole family involved.
Planting a pizza garden is a great way to teach your children about fresh ingredients. Choose a well-lit balcony or spot in the garden and together, plant herbs and veggies that you will use in your pizzas such as basil, garlic, tomatoes and oregano. While you’ll have to wait until spring to plant your tomatoes, fall is the perfect time to plant spinach and herbs. Your child will love being able to help start the project from scratch, care for it as it grows, pick it when it’s ready and ultimately see how it transforms into something as yummy as pizza.
Make Your Own Marinara Sauce
Create a simple sauce in under 30 minutes using these pantry staples
Simple Marinara Sauce
Makes 5 cups
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 35-ounce can of stewed tomatoes
¼ cup of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 leaves of freshly chopped basil, or 1 Tablespoon dried basil
½ teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Don’t be afraid to experiment with popular theme pizzas either. For Hawaiian-style pizzas, pick up a can of pineapple chunks and a package of Canadian bacon. Or, try a barbecue chicken pizza by substituting barbecue sauce for marinara and cooked chicken cubes or shredded chicken along with Monterey jack cheese in place of mozzarella. You’ll soon find just about any favorite meal can be turned into a pizza with a few key ingredients and variations on sauces.
By Jickie Torres
Photography by Trina Roberts & Jon Barber-Grin Photography
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel