What Kids Learn
- You can style a super-fast, have-it-your-way personal pie using a few store-bought items and some favorite leftovers at home.
- If you’re tired of the same old sauce, cheese, and flatbread combination, fine-tune your own pie with cooked angel-hair pasta, peas, and even eggs!
- The first Margherita pizza was made in Naples, Italy, on June 11, 1889, to honor the country’s queen. With its green, white, and red motif, the pizza was designed to resemble the Italian flag.
My kids have always gone in for some, shall we say, unusual food combos. At one time or another as preschoolers, they’ve stirred ketchup into their yogurt, topped spaghetti with grape jelly, and dipped apple slices into barbecue sauce. So, it’s not weird they like macaroni and cheese on their pizza, right?
Mac and cheese is just one of our top toppings when we have a build-your-own pizza for dinner. In fact, we find our BYO pizza bar to be the perfect solution to the perennial dilemma of what toppings to put on a pizza when some want pepperoni, others won’t eat meat, and purists prefer nothing more than tomato sauce and cheese atop their crust.
Rather than make a couple of large pies, we build the pizzas starting with flour tortillas (easy!). I set out bowls of topping options, along with tomato sauce and plates of grated mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese. And yes, for kids who like pasta and pizza at the same meal, cooked pasta is definitely on the table! Once the pizzas are assembled, we bake them for 8 to 12 minutes. Serve these easy, quick, personalized pies with a big green salad or with carrot and celery sticks and dip.
What You’ll Need
- 6 burrito-size flour tortillas (store bought, from the dairy case, not frozen)
- 1½ to 2 cups tomato sauce (store bought or homemade)
- 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or use part cheddar or Monterey Jack, and bowls of toppings. Options:
- taco-seasoned ground beef
- crumbled ground beef
- mini meatballs
- halved, cooked medium shrimp (pre-cooked if possible)
- extra grated mozzarella
- grated cheddar
- thinly sliced pepperoni
- crumbled cooked sausage
- crumbled cooked bacon
- cooked angel-hair pasta
- leftover mac and cheese
- quartered grape tomatoes
- cooked corn, canned
- diced pineapple
- scrambled egg
- cooked broccoli florets
- cooked, sliced chicken nuggets
- cooked, diced chicken mixed with bottled barbecue sauce
What to Do
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Invite your helpers to arrange the tortillas on two large, parchment paper-lined baking sheets, and spread tomato sauce on top of the tortillas. They can sprinkle the tortillas with grated mozzarella, using as much or as little as they choose.Teachable Moment: 4 International Pizza Facts
- Today almost everyone loves pizza! But pizza comes from humble origins. It was originally a staple food of peasants in Naples, Italy, who topped their herb-flavored Italian flatbread, focaccia, with tomato.
- Cheese didn’t become a popular topping until 1889, when the Margherita pizza was invented to celebrate Queen Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna’s visit to Naples.
- The chef supposedly responsible for the Margherita pizza, Don Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi, combined tomato, basil, and cheese to make a pizza that resembled the Italian flag.
- Pizza finally made its big splash in the United States after World War II. Soldiers fighting overseas in Europe came home with cravings for the pizza they ate there!
- Now comes the fun part. Let your amateur chefs customize their own pies. For each burrito-sized tortilla, start with about 1/4 cup tomato sauce (more or less according to personal taste) and 3 to 4 tablespoons grated cheese.
- To personalize each pie, encourage kids to dip into the bowls and scoop out about 1/4 cup of each topping. Once pies are assembled, place into the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crisp. Use a pizza cutter to slice each pizza into quarters.Teachable Moment: More Pizza Buzz
- The deep-dish style pizza was invented here in the United States. It was created in 1943 in Chicago by a restaurant that still operates today as the nationwide chain Uno.
- There are four kinds of mozzarella cheese that are most used for pizza: bufala (cheese made of water buffalo’s milk), fior di latte (cow’s milk), and burrata (a soft Italian cheese). The fourth type is the American kind known as “pizza cheese.”
- In Naples, pizza is taken very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the locals founded an organization to regulate their hometown pizzas. It’s called the True Neapolitan Pizza Association (or “Associazione Verace Pizza Nepoletana”).
- Different kinds of toppings are popular all around the world. Here in the U.S., you might order pepperoni or mushrooms, but in France people enjoy fried-egg pizza, and Brazilians prefer theirs with pea
NOTE: This is a colorful, casual meal that doesn’t require a knife and fork. Keep the “finger foods” theme going by serving the pies along with raw veggies and a low-fat, jarred onion dip (or homemade, if you have time). Serve with iced tea or lemonade and chocolate brownies for dessert.