I did a pizza party exactly like this for one of my bestie's 21st birthday. It was a rougher version back then in our college apartment. I will never ever forget kneading the dough for 5 recipes worth of dough by hand. A Kitchen Aid Mixer was suddenly at the top of my list and was actually my favorite graduation present. Let's note, a mixer is a totally normal request for a graduations gift, right?
Guests arrived. None of the sauces were opened. Most of the toppings were cut. All the dough was ready to lovingly hand kneaded. Pretty sure the toppings were set out on a random assortment of our college dishes.
I am pretty sure it was the first time I had done a "build-your-own" gathering with any of our friends and some people were a bit surprised when I told them in all seriousness that they needed to make their own.
Since that 21st birthday party, I have done this more times than I can count. Over the years, I have refined it to be a less stressful experience than that first time. Learn from my mistakes and this should be a cinch.
Some reasons I love a "Build-Your Own" Gathering::
- Makes it easier to manage dietary restrictions. No need to make everything gluten-free, dairy free, vegetarian, etc.
- A great opportunity to ask guests to "bring an ingredient" and make the gathering a lot more affordable for you. My main suggestion here is to assign specific ingredients to each guest AND give them an idea of how much to bring. It's never fun to end up with 4 packages of pepperoni.
- It creates an activity and elicits conversation about what others are making.
- It saves me hours of prep.
Some other things I am all about, but might be considered "cons" by some.
It means that people aren't eating all at the same moment. It is more informal. It requires people to get their hands dirty.
I give about half a large pizza's worth of dough to each person so they can make their own personal pizza. You can definitely mix and knead dough on your own [But, see story above.] So many grocery stores are selling pre-made dough these days. I tend to plan for 1/2 of a pre-purchased dough or the dough recipe below per person.
Have a Gluten Free Guest?
- I love the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Dough mix
- Check at your local grocery store for a Frozen Cauliflower Crust. I picked up the Trader Joes Cauliflower Pizza Crust for this pizza night.
SAUCE | Give 1-2 Options
Friends, I am all for making things homemade. I want to be practical here. If you want to make these things homemade there are recipes below. However, I fully support you buying a store bought version.
- BBQ Sauce
- White Sauce -- Do you have a white sauce you love? Drop it in the comments below. I'd love to try it.
- Good old EVOO with a garlic clove or two and some Italian herbs
CHEESE | Give 1-3 Options
- Mozzarella - If you offer just one, this should probably be it
- Blue Cheese
- Vegan Cheese Options (if necessary)
- Goat Cheese
TOPPINGS | The More, The Merrier. IMHO
- Pre-Cooked Italian Sausage
- Canadian Bacon
- Cooked and Cubed Chicken
- Egg (Be aware this leaves some runny white)
- Peppers - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green
- Greens - Spinach, Kale, Arugula
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Marinated Artichokes
- Onion -- I suggest Red Onion, but sweet is also great
- Carmelized Onions
- Fresh Tomatoes
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Roasted Garlic Cloves
- Red Pepper Flakes
SIDE DISH IDEAS
- A Big, Hearty Salad
- Cheesy Bread or Garlic Knots
- Roasted Veggies
- You could get wild and make up a batch of wings
I'd suggest cutting all the toppings early if you have the chance. You can get crazy and put them all in matching bowls and create a spread, but honestly, we normally just end up with all the containers open and a big platter of cut veggies. This is about keeping it simple and feeding those you love.
This is also a great time to give all those people asking "Can I help you with anything?" a knife, cutting board or baking sheet, and pile of toppings.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Open all your containers of sauces. Set the cheeses, meats, and toppings galore out.
Set out your baking sheets, pizza cutters, cornmeal or olive oil, aluminum foil and have them at the ready.
If no pizza cutter, a pair of kitchen shears is a great option. I bought one of these big long pizza rocking cutters and threw out my tiny pizza wheel.
MAKING THE PIZZAS
Throw a little cornmeal on a cookie sheet to help prevent the dough from sticking. If you don't have cornmeal, add a little extra EVOO to the bottom. [Note.. Just a little. If you put too much the bottom of your pizza will be soggy. Better too little than too much in this case.]
If you have a large guest count, have guests make their pizzas on aluminum foil. Hand them the dough on the aluminum foil on baking sheets, cutting boards, or whatever hard surface you have. This way you can slide the small pizzas on aluminum foil together so that two pizzas can cook on 1 baking sheet. This would mean you can cook 4 at once. At 10 minutes each, you could cook 12 pizzas in 30 minutes.
Hand your guest the cookie sheet with their dough. Send them off to press, toss, or stretch out their dough. The shape isn't important. Holes are fine. Imperfect tastes just as delicious.
Let them sauce, top and cover in cheese, however, they would like. You very well might run out of a topping or two. Don't stress. I like to offer a larger variety with less of each and when something runs out, it's out.
Rotate pizzas through the oven. They should take roughly 10-12 minutes to cook. The two most important things to look for -- Is the cheese melted? Does the bottom of the crust easily lift up (if it doesn't give the pizza another minute or two)?
Once cooked, pull out and slice. Let guests know their pizza is done.
I suggest setting out a large platter, cooling rack or even just a sheet of parchment paper, wax paper for people to "Leave a piece, take a piece" of their pizza and give everyone more options. Personally, I keep a big roll of kid's craft paper around and everyone throws their extra slices on the paper and labels them with a fun name or list of ingredients.
Post your pictures, friends, and Tag Me!
Bad lighting, mix-matched dishes, burnt pizzas. I wanna see it. Maybe it's even a #TEHsweatpantsparty
Have pizza toppings I missed or white sauce recipes I must try? I am all ears.