Since 2016 is My Year of Italy, and September is back to school month, and kids LOVE pizza, we’re going to have some fun with pizza–rolling, spreading, sprinkling, decorating and getting some veggies into the mix.
I’ve provided a kid-friendly basic pizza recipe with a tomato sauce that has some chopped carrots and celery in it that virtually disappear when the sauce is pureed. Your child can roll out the dough, spread the tomato sauce over it, and sprinkle on the cheese.
Once the pizzas are oven-ready, use veggies once again to top them with funny faces or shapes. Provide small bowls of the following to decorate the pizzas : Sliced bell peppers, corn, peas, mushrooms, olives, broccoli, cauliflower, or any other vegetables to make fun designs for kids to eat.
For more decorating options consider using cookie cutters on slices of cheese or roasted peppers to make hearts, stars, animals and other fun shapes.
To make the silly face on the pizza in the photo, I used mozzarella and olive circles for the eyes, a roasted red pepper circle for the nose and a sliced green pepper semicircle for the smile.
Happy Back to School Days!
- 1 pound frozen prepared pizza dough, defrosted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped, optional
- 35 ounce can of Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- dried basil, to taste
- oregano, to taste
- olive oil, for brushing edges of pizza
Before you begin, place the frozen pizza dough in the refrigerator to defrost overnight. When you are ready to work with the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and keep at room temperature for about one hour.
While the dough is resting at room temperature, make the tomato sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet or saucepan. Place the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the oil and sauté on medium heat until the vegetables are softened the onion is translucent, about ten minutes. Add the tomatoes along with the juices that have accumulated, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. When the sauce has cooled, puree it in a blender.
Divide the room temperature pizza dough into four pieces, each one should be approximately 4 ounces. Take one ¼ of the dough and roll it into a ball. Then place on a floured pastry board and with a rolling pin, roll into a circle. When the dough becomes too elastic to roll, allow it to rest for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a flat cookie sheet in the oven to preheat. Take the edge of the dough between the thumb and forefinger of both your hands and inch your way around the circumference of the dough several times. The dough will stretch and the circle will become larger the more you inch your way around the dough. Keep inching around the dough and stretching it until it gets to your desired thickness and about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper that has been sprinkled with panko bread crumbs.
Ladle about ½ cup tomato sauce on the dough and spread it around to within ½ inch from the border of the circle of dough. Sprinkle with a handful of the mozzarella cheese and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, sprinkle on some of the basil and oregano. Brush the edges of the pizza with olive oil. Remove the heated cookie sheet from the oven, spray with vegetable spray, then sprinkle with panko crumbs. Place a large spatula under the prepared pizza and gently slide it from the parchment paper onto the heated cookie sheet. Place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.