Entertaining Made Easy: Build-Your-Own Pita Pizzas

It's something that happens all too often. You decide to host friends for dinner but have no idea what to make. You consider attempting a new recipe for the first time but panic at the thought of messing it up and having to throw everything away. Even worse, by the time you get home from work and get a fancy meal prepped and ready, you worry that you might not be eating until 8:00pm. I've been there! As tempting as it is to throw all plans of cooking out the window and call up Papa John's, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way.

Your solution: Build-Your-Own Pita Pizzas. And before you say this is totally kid-ish or unfit for hosting guests, just keep reading because there are ways to make this more interesting. Jacob and I had some overnight guests on Friday night and decided to keep dinner easy with the BYO Pizza plan. I'm happy to say that it was a hit! 

There's a few reasons why this could possibly be the best entertaining meal ever...

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Customizable based on taste preferences and/or allergies.

These days it seems like everyone has at least one thing they avoid whether it's for allergy or intolerance reasons or just a pure dislike. This can make finding a crowd-pleaser totally stressful but by serving something that's customizable, everyone gets to choose what they want for toppings. If you have vegan friends coming over, you might pick up some non-dairy cheeses. For the non-meat eaters, have mushrooms on hand for a viable replacement (and because let's be honest, mushrooms are the best pizza topping there is). If someone is gluten-free, you could offer zucchini rounds or portabello caps as a replacement for the pita. 

See also | The 10 Healthy Foods I Always Have at Home

Inexpensive.

Entertaining is fun but if you're on a tight budget, it can also get pricey depending on what you decide to make and the number of people. The nice thing about this meal is that you can go as simple or adventurous as you want. I sprung for things like anchovies and artichoke hearts to add a little bit of spice but most people are just as happy with a basic pepperoni or cheese pizza too. 

Fun and experiential. 

All right this one is obvious, but how fun is it to go to dinner at someone's house and actually get your hands a little messy in the kitchen? I love the idea of getting creative and turning a typical weeknight dinner date into an experience. Plus, I'm a huge fan of casual food with friends and this fits the bill perfectly. Who needs a cooking class when you can pita pizza instead? Yes I used that as a verb. 

Just plain delicious because who doesn't like pizza?

Going back to that whole thing about people having different taste preferences, you can't really find more of a crowd-pleaser than good old fashioned pizza so it tends to be a great choice all-around. If you want to jump on the build-your-own pita pizza train, here's what you need to get started:

  • Pitas (I offered white and whole wheat so each person could choose)
  • Sauces/Bases: tomato sauce and/or pesto, olive oil
  • Meats: pepperoni, calabrese, sausage or shredded chicken
  • Cheeses: mozzarella is a must, but add variety with feta, goat or parmesan 
  • Other Toppings: sliced mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, thinly sliced red onion 
  • Spice it Up (the fun stuff): crushed garlic, anchovy filets, capers, cream cheese, red pepper flakes, jarred roasted red peppers or fresh jalapeños 

How-to: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and ask everyone to assemble their own pizza. Place each one on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper (or sprayed). Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly! 

I also threw together a quick salad to add some green, but of course this part is optional. I kept this simple too by grabbing a bag of greens and adding carrot shreds, an avocado, dried cherries and sunflower seeds. As long as there's ranch, you're golden. 

What's your go-to when hosting people for dinner?