French Bread Pizza Recipe
Instead of just ordering pizza from our favorite neighborhood spot, we decided it would be fun to keep those little hands busy and take care of dinner at the same time.
It might sound intimidating to let a bunch of 4- and 5-year-olds loose in your house with pizza sauce and grated cheese. But with a little advance prep and a few tricks, it’s a totally do-able mini cooking project that kids absolutely love. It’s also a great option for accommodating dietary restrictions; you can make these vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and even gluten-free based on choice of breads and toppings.
With a few simple techniques (choosing the right bread and pre-toasting it, using your own flavorful homemade sauce), the end result is not just “kid food,” but a substantial afternoon snack or a speedy weeknight dinner.
Our Favorite Basic Pizza Sauce
You can make this classic pizza sauce in double or triple batches, and freeze it in small containers. Ice cube tray-sized portions are perfect for making French bread pizzas.
- 1- 28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (I like imported San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste (half of a 6-ounce can)
- Pinch red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Use a blender to puree the tomatoes and their juice. Set aside.
- In large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat the oil and then add the smashed garlic cloves. Fry until golden brown. Remove garlic.
- Add tomato paste and chili flakes to the pan and fry over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes. (Frying the paste revives the flavor and helps eliminate any metallic taste). Add salt, sugar and oregano, and stir well with the paste.
- Add the pureed tomatoes, stirring well to incorporate the puree and the paste.
- Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Taste and correct seasoning with more salt or sugar, as needed.
Getting the Perfect Pizza
- Choosing the right kind of bread is the key. Choose soft sandwich rolls and avoid rustic breads with a thick, chewy crust.
- Slice the rolls lengthwise, arrange the halves on a cookie sheet and use another cookie sheet (or your hands) to press down on the rolls to flatten and compact them a bit. This will give your pizzas a bit of chewiness and keep them from getting soggy from the sauce.
- Pre-toasting the bread on a cookie sheet under the broiler (or in a toaster oven) for a few minutes until the bread is golden before assembling is another great trick. It keeps the bread from getting soggy once the sauce is added. A delicious extra step is to brush the bread with garlic butter before toasting it.
- Once your pizzas are topped, place them on a cookie sheet at about 6-inches under the broiler until they are heated through and the cheese is melted. It’s a good idea not to walk away; check them every few minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet if some slices are browning more quickly than others. Be careful the baking sheet will be hot!
Shop the Salad Bar for Toppings
- The toppings are endless. Classic pizza toppings (cheese, tomato sauce, olives, etc.) are great, but get inspired by what you have on hand in your refrigerator and pantry. This is a fun chance to experiment with different flavor combinations, as each person tailors the pizza to personal taste.
- Put the kids in the role of Executive Chef by letting them choose the toppings. The salad bar is one of our favorite places to shop for toppings because you can choose a little of this and a little of that. This way, you don’t have to buy full bottles or portions. Everything is already chopped and prepped.&pagebreaking&Tips for Hosting Pizza Kitchen Play Date
- Before getting started, have the kids wash their hands and then walk them through all the toppings. Some kids may want to taste items or have questions. Our rule at home (and in our kids’ cooking classes) is “Don’t yuck my yum,” which means that while it’s okay not to like everything, it is important to be respectful of other people’s preferences.
- Keep track of who made what. Before starting to assemble the pizzas, give each child a small piece of parchment or foil to place their bread on. Write each child’s name (older kids can do this part themselves) in permanent marker, and then bake the pizza right on the parchment/foil.
- Have all the ingredients prepped and in small bowls before you start. Spread out, so there’s plenty of room for kids to make their way through the pizza assembly line a few at a time. Stand by to help kids use tongs and utensils to take their toppings and to help them arrange their ingredients.
- Make a few simply-topped extra pizzas, just in case some of the young cooks drop theirs or change their minds about selected toppings.
- Have the kids come up with creative names for their pizzas. If they are old enough to write, provide paper, pens and pencils so they can write a menu for their pizza “restaurant,” while you finish up in the kitchen.
Stacie Dong is a San Francisco mom with a passion for cooking and exploring the world through food. With her writing partner Simran Singh, she writes monthly for Bay Area Parent. On their blog, A Little Yumminess (www.alittleyum.com), they share recipes from around the world, favorite foodie destinations and ideas for bringing up adventurous eaters. They also teach classes, camps and private cooking workshops.