How to Have a Make-Your-Own Pizza Party
Are you looking for a no hassle party idea? Host a make-your-own pizza party. Challenge your guests to come up with the most creative and tasty way to top a pizza. Individual guests, couples, or even entire families compete for the title of pizza champion. You supply the crusts and an oven. Your guests do the rest of the work.
The Basic Concept
You supply enough pizza crusts (generally one per individual guest, couple or family) for your guests to make a pizza of their choice with toppings they supply. Guests take turns topping their crusts any way they like and baking their pizzas. Cut the pizzas in small enough pieces so everyone can have a taste. After all the pizzas are tasted, everyone votes on their favorite and a winner is declared.
This is a great interactive party for couples, kids (with appropriate supervision in the kitchen) or families; everyone gets in on the fun. But be forewarned: your kitchen will become a disaster area after just one or two pizzas are prepared, and will get even worse after that. This is not the party for you if you are a neat freak or can't stand the thought of other people rummaging around in your kitchen looking for a spatula or knife.
Tips for Planning Your Party
Determine your guest list and request RSVPs so you know how many pizza crusts you will need. Make sure your guests understand the concept and that you expect them to supply toppings for a pizza. If children are included, get a few extra crusts to make plain cheese pizzas because the younger guests may not appreciate some of the more unusual toppings. I like to use the Mama Mary's Thin and Crispy Pizza Crusts brand for this party – the thinner crusts showcase the toppings and don't fill people up as quickly. There will be a lot of pizza to eat.
To minimize clean-up, you also may want to invest in some sturdy disposable plates. Have a Sharpie handy and ask guests to write their names on their plates for easy identification when a new pizza comes out of the oven. This will minimize waste because they won't be tempted to take a new plate with each pizza.
Make sure to have a pizza cutter available for cutting the pizzas. It's also helpful to have a wooden pizza paddle on hand to transfer the pizzas in and out of the oven.
Making the Pizzas
You'll want a hot oven for best results, so preheat the oven to 450°F before the guests arrive. Determine the order in which the guests will make their pizzas. While the first pizza is in the oven, have the next contestant start assembling the next pizza, and so on, to keep things moving.
Keep a running list of all the pizzas that are prepared and the guests who prepared them (for example, "Bob's pepperoni pizza" or "Smith family's sausage and mushroom pizza"). After all the pizzas have been prepared and eaten, give each guest a slip of paper and ask them to vote for their favorite. Ideally, your guests will put some thought into their votes and not simply vote on their own entry. After everyone has cast their ballots, tally the votes to determine the pizza champion.
Suggested Pizza Toppings
While traditional pizzas with a tomato-based sauce and toppings like pepperoni and sausage are always popular, this is a great opportunity for your guests to think outside the pizza box (ouch) and get really creative with their entries. Here are some ideas for gourmet pizza toppings to get you started:
Spinach and Feta Pizza: This is a favorite at my house and a great meatless option. Roast a head of garlic in olive oil until it is soft. After it has cooled enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skin onto the pizza crust and spread evenly over the crust with a spatula. Drizzle the olive oil in which the garlic was roasted over the entire crust. Top the crust with an entire 10 ounce bag of pre-washed baby spinach. This may seem like a lot, but the spinach reduces substantially in volume as it cooks. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Top everything with about a cup of crumbled feta cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
BBQ Chicken or Pork Pizza: This is another favorite and a good way to use leftover chicken or pork roast. Shred enough cooked meat to cover the crust (about 1 to 2 cups) and toss with a quarter cup of barbecue sauce to coat. Spread a thin layer of barbecue sauce over the crust, then add the shredded meat. Top that with thinly sliced red onion, diced red pepper, and mixture of shredded smoked gouda and mozzarella cheeses. Drizzle more barbecue sauce over the cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. After removing the pizza from the oven, top with chopped fresh cilantro.
Thai Chicken Pizza: This gourmet pizza is inspired by the flavors of Thailand. Cube enough cooked chicken to cover the crust (about 1 to 2 cups) and toss with a quarter cup of Thai peanut sauce to coat. (Thai peanut sauce is available in the Asian foods aisle of many grocery stores.) Spread a thin layer of peanut sauce over the crust and add the chicken. Top with shredded carrots, chopped peanuts, sliced green onion, diced yellow pepper, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. After removing the pizza from the oven, top with chopped fresh cilantro.
Taco Pizza: A perennial favorite. Brown 1 pound of ground beef and add a packet of taco seasoning per package directions. Spread a can of refried beans in an even layer over the pizza crust (you may need to warm the beans in the microwave first to make them easier to spread) and top with the taco meat. Add diced onions, sliced black olives, and grated cheddar cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. After removing pizza from the oven, top with salsa, shredded lettuce, and crushed nacho chips.
Special Touches for Your Party
A prize for the winner: While the title of pizza champion certainly is an honor all by itself, reward the top vote-getter with a prize to take home. Here are some ideas:
- A gift certificate to a local pizza place
- A gift bag filled with pizza-themed items like a pizza cutter, an oven mitt, a cheese grater, and a chunk of good Parmesan cheese
- A plastic popcorn bucket filled with unpopped popcorn, pizza-flavored popcorn topping, and a movie (this is a great prize for a family competition; make sure the movie is family-friendly)
Dessert pizza: No party is complete without a sweet ending. Prepare a brownie mix per the directions on the package and pour the batter into a round pizza pan with sides. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The baking time likely will be less than that specified on the package because the batter will be spread fairly thin. Allow the brownies to cool, then frost and top with M&Ms and crushed Oreo cookies.
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