Pizza night is a staple in many homes, but ordering out can get expensive. For a more economical (and more fun!) experience, try making homemade pizza as a family.
The process is simple and doesn’t involve specialized equipment or skills, so it’s easy to dive in and experiment! Kids will love getting to choose their own toppings, and everyone can enjoy spending quality time together in the kitchen. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Start with the Dough
Believe it or not, the key to a successful homemade pizza is in the crust, so take some time to learn about the different styles and try out various recipes until you find one that your family loves. Making the dough is simple enough that kids can participate in this step, too, and learn a little about chemistry along the way as they see how yeast works. This recipe is easy for beginners and uses bread flour to make your crust extra crispy without requiring any special ingredients or pans. Make sure that you start the dough at least an hour and a half ahead of time so that it can sufficiently rise. When it comes time for kneading, make sure the kids use some muscle! Developing the gluten structures by working the dough is important for a dense and crisp crust. Of course, if you’re short on time, you can pick up a premade pizza crust at the store.
Secrets of the Sauce
While the dough rises, gather the kids to help make the sauce! You can buy a premade jar of pizza sauce at the store or create your own with a few simple ingredients. This is the first stage where everyone can customize their flavor profile. If you’re using a simple tomato base, adding various spices (oregano, parsley, garlic, even chili powder!) can alter the taste dramatically. For family members who don’t want the traditional marinara option, you can make a white sauce with butter, milk, and garlic or a delicious pesto—bonus points for using fresh basil from your garden! The key to any pizza sauce is the texture, so don’t add too much liquid, or your crust will end up soggy. Let kids help mix their sauce and then spread it on the dough using a small spoon.
Choosing Your Cheese
Kids will probably be most excited about this step—the toppings! For the best baking (and eating) experience, start with a layer of cheese on top of the sauce, then add vegetables or meats, followed by a bit more cheese on the very top. Choosing your pizza cheese is primarily up to personal preference but consider using shredded cheeses that melt easily (grating or slicing the cheese ahead of time will help keep small hands safe!). Mozzarella is a traditional choice, but it doesn’t offer much flavor intensity. For the best flavor and stretchy-melt combination, here’s a rundown of popular options.
Top with Toppings
You can put almost anything on top of a pizza—from standard pepperoni to regional staples like lobster or green chile, a pizza topping is entirely up to its creator. Cut up appropriate sizes of your offerings and put them in a muffin tin for kids to easily select. Make sure any meats are pre-cooked. Making a personal-size pizza for each kid and suggesting they make each half a different “flavor” is an excellent way for them to experiment.
The final step before that first delicious bite is baking. Just as crusts, sauces, cheeses, and toppings vary, so do baking times and styles. If you are lucky enough to have a pizza oven, this option is the best for getting a crispy base with a gooey top. For those without a specialized option, make sure that you know what cooking time and temperature work best for the crust you’ve chosen. A deep-dish style pizza should cook “low and slow,” while a thin crust version is best at high heat for only about 15 minutes. If you find that you’re not able to get the crust and toppings to both cook well, try pre-baking your crust for about 5 minutes before adding sauce and toppings.
Whether your family is more traditional or wants to explore adventurous flavor combinations, these steps will make it easy to enjoy pizza night at home!