When our neighbor came home on leave from his tour in Afghanistan last month, we pulled together a few favorite neighbors to celebrate the happy visit. It seems, whenever we’re hosting a large group for dinner, that we turn to pasta or lasagna or some for of mush in a pan. To keep the night fresh and fun, my kids suggested instead that a make-your-own-pizza-party would make me the coolest mom ever.
Anything to be the coolest mom ever.
Planning a neighborhood pizza party, requires a wee bit of coordination, but it’s not difficult.
The night before our big event, I pulled my kids in the kitch and we whipped up a double batch of easy pizza dough (recipe below). I love this recipe because it’s totally foolproof, and makes a perfect pizza crust. It took about an hour and a half to whip up the dough, roll into into dozens of personal-sized pizzas, and bake them in preparation for the party. Easy schmeasy.
If you want to partay at home in such a way, all you’ve got to do is wrap those baked pizza crusts tightly with plastic wrap and let them sit on your countertop overnight. Yes! A big, tasty party can be this awesome to put together.
About an hour before our guests arrived, we set the kitchen table with a slew of toppings and grated cheeses. There are a billion different topping options, but we wanted to keep the prep time short, so we stuck the simplest of ingredients:
- Marinara Pizza Sauce
- Canned Alfredo Sauce
- Prepared pesto sauce
- Chopped Garlic & Olive Oil
- Diced Ham
- Crumbled Sausage
- Chopped Spinach
- Diced scallions
- Caramelized Vidalia Onions
- Fresh,diced pineapple
- Sliced olives
- Sundried tomatoes
- Artichoke hearts
- Mozzarella, grated (lot’s of it!)
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Shaved Parmesan
Once our guests arrived, we set the kids loose on the table of toppings. It was hysterical fun to see what each child topped their pizza with. The little kids went safe–cheese and pepperoni for them, thank you very much. But, check out Brady’s pizza up there. He was all about a bit of everything. He topped his pizza with one of each of the choices. Tres impressive, little foodie guy!
With pizza’s topped and ready to rock, we just popped them directly on the rack in the oven. This worked gorgeously because we could bake 8 pizza’s at a time, which meant less waiting for our hungry little revelers.
FANTASTIC TIP: While the pizza’s are baking, clear and clean the table to prepare it for dinner. This is a quick, easy way to make the most of all your table space and accommodate a house full of guests.
Once the kids pizza’s were cooked and tossed into their bellies, we adults set to enjoying the evening. With kids running themselves ragged in the basement, we settled in for delightsome conversation and a tremendous amount of table talk. I learned the shocking truth about my cute, careful neighbor Susie…she once lived for an entire summer alone in a tent. Nowadays, she a clever, craft bloggin’ mama over at ECBloom, so who’d have guessed that she’d totally driven a beater truck and showered at a campsite during college. Love that girl and her nice Jeremy husband!
Andy cracked more than his fair share of wry and witty jokes, the sort that had me laying in bed with John that night and trying to remember every line. Seems Afghanistan hasn’t sucked the good humor out of good Andy yet. I’m so glad. Sending prayers to him until his safe return. Though, I’m not particularly thrilled to consider him getting home and whisking his lovely wife off on another Army adventure. Trish is, hands down, the kindest, most thoughtful and giving neighbor I’ve ever had. I once called to ask her if she had a heart-shaped cookie cutter and she showed up at my door an hour later with a pack of three cookie-cutters that she’d run to the store for. She’s mine. You can’t have her.
And, of course, kicking back for a date night with my husband–even when we are just making pizza’s at home–is always a treat. He’s a hottie, you know.
Homemade pizza, a table full of neighbors, one hot husband. This is the way to spend a weekend.
How To Host A Neighborhood Pizza Party
- 1 ¼ ounce package yeast
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 ½ cups white whole wheat or spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix yeast in warm water until dissolved. Stir in oil, flour, and salt until it forms a ball of dough. It should be pliable and not sticky, but definitely soft. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and pop on top of your stove while the oven is warming up. Let rise for 15 minutes.
- On a large baking sheet lined with parchment (or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray), spread a racquetball-sized bit of dough out until quite thin. I like pressing the center of the pizza as thin as possible, then leaving the edges just slightly thicker. Bake two large, three medium, or four small personal sized pizza crusts at a time in your preheated oven for about 7-9 minutes. You just want the crusts to set, but not to brown at all, so keep an eye on them!
- Cool crusts completely before wrapping tightly with plastic wrap. Store overnight on your countertop, or store in freezer bags in your freezer for up to a month.
- Once ready to bake your pizzas, top with desired toppings, and bake directly on the rack, in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the crust golden brown.