This fall marked a real milestone for me as a mom. After 28 years of taking a photo of my kids on their first day of school each year – from preschool to kindergarten to elementary school to middle school and finally high school (times 5 kids!) – I faced my youngest’s first day of senior year, which also happened to be my last “First Day of School” photo.
With all but my youngest now off to college, sending a child off to college is definitely a different experience than packing them off to first grade. But it did get me reminiscing about my own childhood and school days. As I went online to update my daughter’s lunch account, I couldn’t help but think back to the cafeteria and school lunches of my own childhood.
I grew up in Northeast Portland and went to the same elementary school from kindergarten through 8th grade. In that time, I probably ate close to 1500 meals in our basement cafeteria. More than two-thirds of those were “hot lunches.” Ah, the good old days of school cafeteria pizza – it may not have been gourmet, but it takes me right back to the carefree days of childhood. This EASY SCHOOL PIZZA recipe captures that nostalgic cafeteria essence perfectly. Now I can recreate that old-school flavor in my own kitchen anytime I want a tasty dose of nostalgia!
Ingredients You Will Need
Before we get started, let me explain why I chose these specific ingredients.
- All-purpose flour: This is the main structural component of the crust, providing strength and elasticity.
- Powdered milk: It adds a subtle milky flavor and enhances the browning of the crust.
- White sugar: It feeds the yeast, helping it rise and produce carbon dioxide, which creates the airy texture of the crust.
- Quick-rise yeast: This type of yeast doesn’t require proofing, making the pizza-making process faster.
- Salt: It enhances the overall flavor and balances the sweetness of the sugar.
- Warm water: It activates the yeast and helps the dough come together smoothly.
- Vegetable oil: It adds moisture and makes the crust pliable, preventing it from cracking during baking.
- Lean ground beef: It provides the savory base for the pizza filling, adding protein and flavor.
- Salt: It enhances the flavor of the beef and balances the other ingredients.
- Black pepper: It adds a touch of spiciness and complexity to the filling.
- Shredded mozzarella cheese: It melts beautifully, providing a gooey, irresistible texture and a rich, milky flavor.
- Tomato paste: This concentrated tomato product forms the base of the sauce, providing a rich tomato flavor and vibrant color.
- Water: It thins out the tomato paste to a sauce-like consistency.
- Olive oil: It adds a smooth texture and enhances the flavor of the tomato paste.
- Garlic: It imparts a pungent, aromatic flavor that is essential for authentic pizza sauce.
- Salt: It balances the acidity of the tomatoes and enhances the overall flavor.
- Black pepper: It adds a subtle kick of spiciness to the sauce.
- Dried oregano: This classic Italian herb imparts an earthy, herbaceous aroma and flavor to the sauce.
- Dried basil: This sweet and fragrant herb complements the oregano and adds a touch of sweetness to the sauce.
- Crushed dried rosemary: It contributes a slightly woody, pine-like flavor that rounds out the sauce’s herbal notes.
Kitchen Tools Needed
- Large mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Half sheet pan
- Parchment paper
- Cooking spray
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Knife and cutting board (for mincing garlic)
- Saucepan (for making sauce)
- Grater or shredder (for mozzarella cheese)
- Oven mitts or gloves
- Pizza cutter or kitchen shears
How To Make This Easy School Pizza
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Spray a half-sheet pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. The cooking spray helps the parchment paper stick.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered milk, sugar, yeast and salt. This combines the dry ingredients.
- Heat the water until it reaches 105-110°F. Add the vegetable oil to the warm water and mix. The temperature activates the yeast.
- Pour the oil and water mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, stir everything together until a sticky, lumply batter forms. Don’t overmix, just make sure there are no dry spots.
- Spread and push the dough evenly into the prepared sheet pan using your fingertips. If the dough is difficult to work with, let it rest for 5 minutes before trying again.
- Bake the crust only for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef breaking it up into crumbles as it cooks until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat.
- Season the cooked ground beef with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, stir together the tomato paste, water, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and rosemary. Heat over medium, stirring often, until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the par-baked crust.
- Sprinkle the seasoned ground beef crumbles over the sauce.
- Top with the grated mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
- Remove pizza from oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Tips for a Perfect School Pizza
- Use fresh, high-quality ingredients. Fresh tomatoes, real mozzarella cheese, and fresh vegetables will enhance the flavors.
- Make sure to preheat the oven properly, at around 475°F, to get a crispy crust.
- Use a pizza stone or baking sheet to evenly distribute heat.
- Avoid overloading the pizza with too many toppings, which can make the crust soggy.
- Spread sauce evenly over the crust using the back of a spoon. Too much sauce can also make the crust soft.
- Let the pizza rest 1-2 minutes before slicing into it so the cheese sets up.
- Get creative with shapes using cookie cutters or make mini personal pizzas for a fun lunchbox surprise.
- Consider trying unique sauces like barbecue, pesto or white garlic sauce to make the pizza more tasty.
Following these simple tips will help you make a delicious school pizza that both you and your kids will love. The key is fresh ingredients, proper technique, and inviting kids into the pizza-making process.
Substitutions And Variations
- Crust: Substitute half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat or multigrain flour.
- Crust: Instead of powdered milk, use 2 tablespoons of yogurt or sour cream.
- Sauce: Use 6 oz canned tomato sauce instead of tomato paste and water.
- Use turkey or chicken sausage instead of ground beef.
- Add your favorite veggies like mushrooms, peppers, onions, olives.
- Make an Alfredo pizza with cream cheese, milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper instead of tomato sauce.
- Add pineapple and Canadian bacon for a Hawaiian pizza.
- Use taco-seasoned ground beef, black beans, corn, and cilantro for a Mexican-style pizza.
Easy School Pizza
Easy school pizza with a homemade crust, ground beef topping, and traditional tomato sauce makes a nostalgic weeknight meal.
Ingredients For the Crust
For the Filling:
For the Sauce:
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Spray a half sheet pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. The cooking spray helps the parchment paper stick.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered milk, sugar, yeast and salt.
- Add the vegetable oil to the warm water. Pour the oil and water mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until a sticky batter forms. Don’t worry about lumps, just make sure there are no dry spots.
- Spread the dough evenly into the prepared pan using your fingertips. If the dough is difficult to work with, let it rest for 5 minutes before trying again.
- Bake just the crust for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up into crumbles as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink. Drain excess fat and season with salt and pepper.
- Spread the pizza sauce evenly over the par-baked crust. Sprinkle with cooked ground beef crumbles and top with grated mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
- Remove pizza from oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting into slices to serve.
This Easy School Pizza is a deliciously nostalgic treat that brings back fond cafeteria memories. With a homemade crust, classic tomato sauce, and fun toppings, you can recreate the perfect pizza from childhood. Try this recipe and make this comforting pizza your own!