Cooking with Toddlers: Pizza Sandwich

Sometimes you just need some fast food, like pizza. Yeah, pizza sounds good. But I don’t have any dough made. And I’m hungry now. I guess I’ll have a grilled cheese. Aww, grilled cheese again?

Wait, I have an idea! What if we combined the pizza and the grilled cheese sandwich to make a whole new kind of fun fast food? We’ll call it the “Pizza Sandwich!”

The pizza sandwich is one of those deceptively simple meals that twists grilled sandwiches just enough to inject some fun into your meal. I imagine this would be fun for kids older than Lewis who are excited by the idea of pizza. Lewis doesn’t know he should get excited by pizza yet, so just cooking it is fun enough for him! Just eating tomato sauce is fun enough, apparently!

This recipe is great for my two year old, who can help mix spices in tomato sauce, spread the sauce on the bread, and sprinkle cheese and olives.

Start the recipe with two slices of bread per sandwich (if that isn’t obvious), and butter one side of each piece lightly.

Get your huge can of tomato sauce. Put some italian seasonings in some tomato sauce (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic, onion, etc.) or use some ready-made spaghetti sauce in your favorite variety. (As you can see, I get tomato sauce in the BIG can. It’s sooo much cheaper that way, and you can just freeze it in 2 cup storage containers for use in other recipes when you need it.) Spread the sauce on the non-buttery sides of the bread.

One great thing about this sandwich is that the tomato sauce helps moisten the bread, as does the butter. If you have bread that is heading toward getting stale, this is a good use for it.

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on the bread. Feel free to improvise with your favorite kind of cheese. Your toddler will have fun decorating the bread with the cheese. When he’s done, fill in the sparse areas to help fill the sandwich out! I pressed the cheese into the tomato sauce to help adhere it so it wouldn’t fall out of the sandwich when I put the sandwich tops on.

Collect your favorite pizza toppings for the next portion of the recipe, such as olives, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc. Non-traditional toppings also work here. You can use leftover ground hamburger or lunch meat, for example.

For our sandwiches, we just added sliced olives (also purchased in the big can, and then divided in two large containers, one of which was frozen for storage. They thaw well!), which makes for a surprisingly satisfying vegetarian pizza sandwich.

Don’t forget to put the olives on your finger and then eat a few!

Once your bread is sufficiently decorated, top the sandwiches with the other pieces of bread, and (parent) cook like a standard grilled sandwich, until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through, bread is browned a little.

Ways to cook: in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, in a sandwich press (panini maker, George Foreman grill, etc.), or in a toaster oven (that’s what we did).