Week four of the September Challenge is officially complete, but I’m going to wait until the last few days of the month are over before posting my week four (plus two days) summary. In the mean time, here is one more thing that I cooked and ate this week–Loaded French Bread Pizza!
I almost made it through the month without pizza, but when I remembered the 1/2 pound of Italian sausage left over from my Skillet Meatballs and Marinara that was in my freezer, I knew exactly what I had to use it for. ;) I decided to make Loaded French bread pizza instead of a regular pizza because it would be easier for me to exert portion control. Pizza is one of those things that I’m usually like, “Just one more slice…” and then suddenly the whole thing is gone. With French bread pizzas, I have one little pizza boat thingy and that’s the end. The fluffy French bread is a little more filling to me than regular crust, so that helps me press the stop button.
In addition to the Italian sausage, I topped these pizzas with some frozen spinach that I found in the back of the freezer, some sliced Roma tomatoes, and a handful of mushrooms and black olives that I snagged off the salad bar. Unfortunately the cashier charged me for the olive bar instead of the salad bar, so those items came out a little more expensive than I had intended. :( Still less expensive than buying a whole pack of mushrooms and a can of olives, though. I also mixed up a quick little pizza sauce with a small can of tomato sauce, a few spices, and a dollop of tomato paste that I had previously frozen. I chose to make this simple pizza sauce instead of purchase a jar of pre-made pizza sauce because the least expensive one at the store was going for $1.99.
As you can see, Loaded French Bread Pizza is a GREAT way to use up those odds and ends in your freezer, fridge, and pantry. It feels like a splurge, but it’s really a cabinet cleaning strategy. Heh. :)
Loaded French Bread Pizza
- 1 large loaf French Bread (20-24" long) ($1.29)
- 1/2 lb Italian Sausage ($1.62)
- 1/4 lb frozen spinach (about 1 cup) ($0.43)
- 2 Roma tomatoes ($0.60)
- 1 cup mushrooms and black olives from salad bar* ($2.52)
- 8 oz mozzarella ($2.00)
- 8 oz can tomato sauce ($0.34)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.06)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp dired basil ($0.05)
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
- To prepare the pizza sauce, combine the tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil, and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved in the tomato sauce. Warm the sauce in the microwave or in a small pot to help them combine, if necessary. Set the sauce aside to allow the flavors to blend while you prepare the rest of the pizza toppings.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the Italian sausage and pour off any excess grease. Thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Slice the Roma tomatoes. Grate the mozzarella cheese (if not pre-shredded).
- Cut the loaf of French bread into three equal sections (about 6-7 inches in length, each). Slice each piece open as if to build a sandwich. Place the six pieces of bread cut side up on two baking sheets. Spoon the sauce onto the surface of each piece and spread it to cover edge to edge.
- Divide half of the shredded cheese between the six pieces of bread, then top with the browned sausage, spinach, sliced tomatoes, olives, and mushrooms. Top the pizzas with the second half of the cheese. Lightly press the toppings into the French bread, if needed, to help keep them from falling off.
- Bake the pizzas in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and lightly golden brown. If you intend to eat the pizzas later, bake half way (until the cheese is melted and "glues" the toppings down) then let the pizzas cool at room temperature. Once cool, transfer them to a gallon sized food storage bag and refrigerate until ready to eat.
- To reheat the refrigerated pizzas, heat the oven to 375 degrees, place the pizza on a baking sheet, and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and the crust is crispy.
Loaded French Bread Pizza
Step by Step Photos
Make your pizza sauce first, so the flavors have time to blend while you make the rest of the pizzas. This little 8oz. can of tomato sauce was only $0.34, compared to 12oz. jars of pizza sauce that were going for $1.99, so I decided to make my own.
Tomato sauce on its own can be a bit thin, so I added 1 Tbsp tomato paste to help thicken it up (I had some in my freezer, frozen in 1 Tbsp portions). If I didn’t have tomato paste on hand, I would have just made do without it, but it definitely makes the sauce better. I also added 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil, and 1/8 tsp garlic powder.
Stir all these ingredients together until the tomato paste dissolves into the tomato sauce, and you have yourself a make-shift pizza sauce! If you need to, heat the sauce a little in the microwave or in a small pot to help the paste dissolve.
Brown 1/2 lb. Italian sausage and drain off any excess grease.
Shred an 8oz. block of mozzarella. TIP: whole milk mozzarella melts a LOT better than “part-skim”… although it can be hard to find. The part-skim mozz was on sale for $2, so I just used that.
You’ll also need to thaw about 1/4 pound of frozen spinach (one cup or so) then squeeze out the extra moisture. Slice up two Roma tomatoes, and grab a handful of sliced mushrooms and olives off the salad bar (because you can get as much or as little of any topping you want that way!).
Cut one large loaf of French bread into three equal length pieces. My French bread was 21 inches long, so I cut it into 7 inch pieces. Then cut each piece open as if you were going to make a sandwich. Lay each of the six pieces, cut side up, on a baking sheet (or two).
Now it’s time to top the pizzas! Spread the sauce over each piece from edge to edge. Lay down half the cheese, then the sausage, spinach, mushrooms, olives, and tomatoes. Finally, top with the second half of the cheese. Doing the cheese in two layers like this helps glue all those toppings into place. You can also press the toppings into the bread a bit (just try not to squish the bread TOO hard) to help them stay in place. These things are LOADED.
Finally, bake the pizzas in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and the crust is crispy. The time will vary a bit depending on your toppings, your oven, and the size of your bread, so just keep an eye on it.
If you want to save some in the fridge for later, bake them half way, or just until the cheese is melted, then let them cool at room temperature. They cool fairly quickly because that bread is so light and fluffy.
Once they are COMPLETELY cool, you can pack them into gallon sized food storage bags and keep them in the fridge or freezer. I tried baking the pizzas straight from the fridge and straight from the freezer and the refrigerated pizzas baked up better. So, after that I let the frozen ones thaw before baking them.
PIZZA ALL WEEK!