A Perfect Slice- Reinventing the Pizza

pizzatoppingAs a busy college student, pizza has most likely become a common choice for an on-the-go lunch or an easy dinner. If that’s the case, it is also probably safe to assume a large portion of your money goes to supporting the local pizza chain. It is not uncommon to pay upwards of $25 for a pizza with a few toppings, so making your own pizza at home is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, consume a variety of nutritious food groups, and is much cheaper! Even better, you can usually pull together a fantastic pizza with leftover items sitting in your fridge.

Now let’s be serious, no college student has the time to knead dough and watch it rise. Head to your local grocery store where you can purchase premade pizza dough or crust in the freezer section (original or thin crust options available). Most stores now carry a whole-wheat option, a great way to add fiber to your meal and additional flavor to the pizza. Feel free to use traditional pizza sauce, but keep in mind other tasty alternatives such as salsa, hummus, or simply garlic and olive oil which can easily be substituted.

The stage is now yours, so let your imagination run wild. The best way to decide what kind of pizza to make is to first take a peek in your refrigerator. What do you have in there that needs to be used up? Do you have cheese? The type of cheese can set the stage for your pizza. Mozzarella is the most commonly used cheese, but feel free to utilize whatever you have; provolone, cheddar and Parmesan are also good options. Note that these harder cheeses should be added after baking to best preserve the flavor. Remember, though, you don’t always need to put cheese on your pizza. Try and think outside the box beyond traditional toppings of pepperoni, sausage, cheese and peppers.

banana pizzaNext, it’s time for toppings. What else do you have lying around? You can put just about anything on a pizza, and keep in mind even strange combinations can turn out great. A few pieces of cold cuts like ham or salami taste delicious and can be a good source of protein. You can simply lay the whole cold cut slices directly on the pizza, or chop them up and sprinkle all over. Do you have any frozen veggies? These can be added to the pizza as well, but make sure to warm them up first in the microwave to release the extra water. Putting frozen veggies directly on the pizza can make the crust soggy when baking.

Leftover salad greens like arugula can be tossed with olive oil and tomatoes and simply placed on the pizza crust after baking to create a really simple, healthy and tasty option. Love Mexican food and have salsa in the fridge? Get creative! Mexican pizza can include low sodium canned black beans, salsa, cheese, avocado, onion, and more. You could even add previously cooked ground beef from the leftover burgers the night before. A good pizza doesn’t need many toppings. Sometimes just two or three provide enough flavor and can cover the major food groups necessary for a balanced meal.

Remember, pizza is not just for dinner. Any leftovers taste great cold or reheated for lunch the next day. Pizza can also make a great breakfast. Spread peanut butter over the baked dough with chopped bananas for a delicious and substantial breakfast. Cut the pizza into slices and refrigerate the rest to be reheated in the toaster oven for later. This pizza is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrate and fiber to start your morning out right.

Try these easy recipes to start:

Banana Pizza


12-inch Regular or Whole Wheat Thin Pizza Crust

2 Small Bananas

3-4 Tbsp Peanut Butter

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza crust on a pizza stone or baking sheet on the lowest oven rack. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove crust from oven, cool for 1 minute. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of peanut or almond butter over crust, leaving a ½ inch clean around edges. Chop banana and place around pizza center.

Tossed Salad Pizza            Spinach Tomato Pizza                              


12-inch Regular or Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (thin or thick crust is OK)

3 Handfuls Arugula Salad (or sub spinach)

2 Handfuls Parmesan Cheese (or sub another cheese)

2 Handfuls halved Cherry Tomatoes (or whatever kind you have!)



Balsamic Dressing

Olive Oil

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat entire pizza crust, including edges, with olive oil. Bake in oven for 5-6 minutes. In a salad bowl toss salad, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Remove pizza from oven and spread cheese over center. Place mixed salad greens and tomatoes on pizza and return to oven for 1-2 minutes (just long enough for cheese to melt and spinach to slightly wilt). Remove and drizzle balsamic dressing lightly over pizza. Enjoy!

Ashley Russo is a first year graduate student at Syracuse University working on a master’s degree in nutrition science and dietetics. She plans to become a registered dietitian specializing in oncology nutrition.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Goodman

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