Pizza has to be one of the best things to cook with children, and homemade pizzas always taste so much better than the ready-made variety. Children, well mine anyway, seem more inclined to eat something if they’ve been involved in the making of it.
OK, so it might turn into a slightly messy affair. I used to come close to panic attacks when I first started cooking with the kids and ingredients would go flying everywhere.
But I’ve learned to just go with the flow; it can all be cleaned up afterwards.
It really is worth it to get your children used to helping make meals and forming a positive relationship with food.
I much prefer to make my own dough but I am not too proud to admit to cheating now and again. I generally keep some shop-bought pizza bases in the freezer too; perfect for when little friends stay for tea unexpectedly. My children think it’s great to make pizzas with their friends and having some frozen bases on standby means we can always rustle some up at a few moments’ notice.
If you have a little more time though (pizza dough takes an hour to rise), I would strongly recommend making your own dough from scratch. It is so incredibly easy and I’ll never get over the magical feeling of seeing the dough increase to double its size. It’s like a science experiment in the kitchen.
What ingredients you put on top of your pizza is very much down to personal taste and, of course, what your children like to eat. If you make a little pizza each, everyone can choose their own favourite toppings.
And don’t forget, cold pizza is great the following day in a packed lunch, so always a good idea to make a bit extra.
Makes four pizzas
For the dough:
400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp dried oregano
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
Passata, about half a jar
Our favourite toppings:
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Small red, green or yellow pepper, chopped small
Fresh basil, torn
Pitted black olives
Ham or salami, chopped
Artichoke hearts, quartered
Mozzarella (a couple of balls, around 250g each, should be enough for four pizzas)
To make the dough, put the flour, salt, dried yeast and oregano into a large mixing bowl and mix well.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the lukewarm water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid, making a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.
Flour your surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough by stretching it away from you, then pulling back into a ball. Do this for five minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into four balls. Stretch or roll out each ball until you have a thin circle about 22cm across. Place the pizzas onto slightly oiled baking sheets.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of passata onto each pizza, smooth out with the back of the spoon, and then let the artist in you run free while you apply your choice of toppings, leaving the mozzarella until the end.
Bake your pizzas for 15-20 minutes and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before devouring.