By Stephanie Swart

Feeding the Family in our New Normal: A DIY Pizza Party


The world is certainly not the same as it was even a few short months ago, but some things will never change. Kids, for instance, still need things to do! Let’s face it, if we don’t keep them engaged, they will find ways to get into something else. If you are looking for a fun, creative project for the whole family, then look no further than Gusto TV, more than just shows to watch, Gusto has hundreds of fun, easy recipes for the entire family, even the kids!

Here’s a great idea, how about having a Build-Your-Own Pizza Party? Enjoy spending the afternoon preparing the ingredients, then spending the evening enjoying the finished product! We all know that the hardest thing about ordering or making pizza is making sure everybody gets what they want – with this build-your-own pizza party idea, everyone wins!

To Start: Check the ingredients lists below to see what you have and what you need:

Substitute where you need to – if you aren’t up to make the dough, the sauce or both, it’s ok to use frozen dough or prepared tomato sauce — this is a fun activity, after all, not a chore.

In the afternoon, start by making a batch of the Michael Bonacini pizza dough that he makes in Bonacini’s Italy. The kids will love this hands-on activity, especially when everybody gets to roll out or even toss their own ball of dough! Use the process as research jumping off point and learn about yeast and the role protein plays in helping the dough to rise.

Pizza dough

Bonacini’s (makes dough for 4 individual pizzas)


  • 2 ½ cups (600 ml) warm water + more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
  • 1 package (7 ounces/11 ml) dry active yeast
  • 5 cups (1.2 L) “00” flour (or substitute all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
  • Olive oil, for greasing


To make the dough, stir warm water, sugar, and yeast together in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes.


Mix flour and salt, form into a mound on the counter, or in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, then pour in the water mixture. Knead the mixture together until it forms a smooth, elastic ball. Place the ball of dough in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.


Turn the dough out onto the counter. Break into 4 balls. Form the balls and place them on a baking tray. Cover the dish with a damp cloth and let them rise for 1 hour.


Sprinkle some flour onto the counter. Roll each ball out into a large circle with a thin inner crust and a thick outer edge.

**Have special diets in your house? Check out the gluten-free Cauliflower Pizza Crust from The Urban Vegetarian in our YouTube webisode. 


NEXT: Time to make the pizza sauce! Try this classic Tomato Sauce from Gusto’s A is for Apple.



Sauce no. 1: Tomato Sauce



  • 5 lb (2.3 kg) fresh ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme (about 12 sprigs)
  • 2 medium Spanish onions, diced into ¼-inch (0.31 cm)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) Italian red wine (or substitute low sodium vegetable stock)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ cup (125 ml) fresh basil



Preheat oven to 400 F (204 C). Wash tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds using your fingers. Discard seeds.


Place all tomatoes cut side up on 2 baking sheets. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Peel garlic, slice all the garlic cloves thin. Place garlic slices into the cavities of tomatoes. Scatter the thyme all over the tomatoes.


Place tomatoes in the oven to roast for 15-20 minutes or until the skin is blistered, golden, and skin slips off with ease. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Discard sprigs of thyme.


Remove skins and squeeze any excess juice of skins into a bowl. Reserve. Place all peeled tomatoes and slivered garlic in a bowl. Using your hands, mash-up tomatoes to break up any big chunks.


Place a large pot over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil to heat for one minute. Throw in onions and sauté until translucent. Then add the tomatoes and reserved juice.


Add the red wine (or vegetable stock) and bring mixture to a simmer. Roughly chop the oregano and add to tomatoes. Cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Remove from heat. Roughly tear up the basil and add to the pot with salt and pepper.


Sauce no. 2. Genoa Pesto Sauce

Maybe there’s basil in the garden, how about making traditional Genoa-Style Pesto? Michael Bonacini has just the recipe:



  • 1 cup (240 ml) basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup (120 ml) pine nuts
  • 1 cup (240 ml) olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup (120 ml) grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup (120 ml) grated pecorino cheese



Wash and dry basil leaves. Add basil leaves and salt to mortar and pestle and muddle. Add garlic and pine nuts and grind to a paste. Spoon into a bowl, add ½ cup (120 ml) olive oil, and mix. Add grated parmesan, grated pecorino, and remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of olive oil and stir in.



It’s time to think about toppings… but remember, this is a ‘build your own’ so this part is up to you and your helpers, but here are some suggestions:


THE BASICS: Mozzarella cheese (grated or fresh), parmesan cheese, olives, peppers, mushrooms, onions, pepperoni, ham (Canadian bacon)


FUN: bacon, pineapple, artichokes, goat cheese, blue cheese, anchovies, hot peppers, barbeque chicken, spinach, fresh garlic, caramelized onions, fresh herbs (basil, oregano)


EVEN MORE FUN: If you are still looking for inspiration, look no further than the recipes at Gusto TV: how about a Taco Pizza? or even… Chocolate Pizza!?


Ok, now it’s about 30-40 minutes before dinner time, the dough is risen and resting. Pizza Sauce is ready, cheese is grated, peppers and mushrooms are chopped and at the read. It is going time! Here is the plan:


What you will need:

  • Rolling pin and flour for dusting
  • Pizza pans (cookie pans work fine) oiled or lined with parchment paper (NOT waxed)


Pizza peel/pizza stone, semolina flour

  • Dough, sauces, toppings, cheeses
  • Excitement, this is the fun part


Make the Pizza:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). The heat level depends on your oven and comfort level, but the rule of thumb is that for the best crust, the hotter, the better. Note: if using a pizza stone, place the dry stone in the oven when both are cold and heat together to reduce the cracking risk.
  2. Roll out the dough. If you are using the pizza dough recipe from above, you will yield 4 individual (about 12-inches/30 cm) rounds. Use a light sprinkle of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or the work surface.
    • IF USING PANS: oil your pan or parchment to reduce the risk of the dough sticking. After rolling out the first round, transfer to the oiled pan
    • IF USING A STONE/PEEL: use a heavy sprinkle of coarse semolina on your pizza peel to prevent sticking. Transfer the rolled dough to the peel and wiggle the peel to make sure it is not sticking


  1. Dress the pizza. Start with the tomato sauce or pesto and spread in a thin, even layer, leaving ½ inch (1 cm) at the edges for the crust.
  2. Add toppings. This is the fun part, everyone adds what they like best! Some rules of thumb:
    • For a thin crispy crust, resist the temptation to overcrowd your pizza… Italians recommend that you should still see the dough through the toppings like looking through a fine lace.
    • Leave the space in the middle of the pizza almost completely clear of toppings; as everything melts, it will slide to the middle, leaving it clear gives your toppings somewhere to go.
    • Some folks prefer ‘toppings then cheese’ some people prefer ‘cheese then toppings’ Gusto refuses to take a firm stance on this issue. You’ll have to figure this one out on your own (we do recommend repeated experimentation for best results…)
  1. Transfer your dressed pizza to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Check often as cooking times vary widely from oven to oven.
  2. Start the second pizza while the first one is cooking, repeat until everyone is fed and happy!


Making pizza with the kids is a great way to share time on a fun project, it teaches life skills and helps demonstrate the joy that can come from working together and creating. Best of all? You even get to eat your mistakes! Have fun, stay safe and stay healthy at home by building your pizza today.