A couple of weeks ago a reader emailed me and asked me if I could recreate the square school cafeteria pizza that we all ate when we were younger.  I didn’t think it would be that hard.  I love pizza and recreating the pizza that I grew up with shouldn’t be that hard, right?  Well it took a little time.  I tried a standard pizza crust, but it did not come out right.  The crust of the pizza at school was a lot sweeter and didn’t have a complex flavor.  So I started from scratch.  Flour, water and salt.  Then it was either too light or too dense, and it was not sweet enough.  Then I added some sugar, fixed the water at a standard amount and added flour until it was perfect.  Then came the sauce.  The sauce was also sweet and rather basic.  So I grabbed a couple of cans of tomato sauce and paste and worked it until it was perfect.  The hardest part as there is nothing like it online or in cookbooks.  Nobody has successfully recreated the pizza that I loved as a child.  Until now.  It is pretty darn tasty.  Even though my palate has evolved since childhood, the first bite of this pizza brought me right back to grade school.

School Cafeteria Pizza
School Cafeteria Pizza

Since the pizzas we all loved as children were pre-manufactured I had to blind bake the crust just like the company does before it is frozen and shipped out.  Here is my take on the classic.

School Cafeteria Pizza

  • Dough
    • 1 package active dry yeast
    • 1 1/2 cups warm water – I use tap water that is slightly warm to the touch.
    • 3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1.5 tsp salt
      • Caveat – Depending on where you grew up the sweetness of the crust can vary.  Where I grew up in Michigan the the crust had a light sweetness.  If you grew up in an area where you remember the crust being pretty sweet, add another 1 tsp of sugar to the dough.
  • Sauce – (makes enough for 4 pizzas)
    • 15 oz can tomato sauce
    • 6 oz can tomato paste
    • 1 tbs sugar
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp basil
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Assembly
    • 350 degree oven
    • 1/2 sheet pan
    • 8 oz cheese
    • 36 pepperoni slices

The first step is to make the pizza dough.  Place the water, sugar, yeast and 1 cup of flour in a bowl.  Mix with a spatula or with a bread hook in your mixer.  Once mixed let sit for 5-10 minutes, until it is bubbly.

Wait for it to bubble
Wait for it to bubble

Next add 2 more cups of flour and the salt.  Mix until a dough ball is formed.  Slowly add the next 1/4 cup of flour.  You want the dough to be able to pull from the edge of the bowl, but you also want it to be a little sticky.  This may take up to another 1/4 cup of flour.  If you are using a electric stand mixer with a dough hook this will be when the dough pulls from the sides, forms a ball and doesn’t actively stick to the sides.

Dough pulling away from the edge of the bowl
Dough pulling away from the edge of the bowl

Next either pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes, or using an electric mixer with a dough hook, knead on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Place the dough ball in a greased bowl covered with a towel.

Dough just out of the mixer
Dough just out of the mixer

Let the dough rise until doubled.  This should take between 1 and 3 hours.  It depends on the temperature of your house.  I like my house to be about the temperature of the artic tundra so it takes a good 3 hours.

Doubled Dough
Doubled Dough

When the dough is doubled punch it down and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Spread the dough out evently over the whole cookie sheet.  I find that a rolling pin helps to do this.  It is alright to press it into shape as we really don’t want the dough to rise much.

Press into shape
Press into shape

Next using a fork you need to dock the dough so that it does not form bubbles.  You want the pizza crust to be the same thickness all the way across the pan.  Start in one corner and work your way over the whole crust.

Dock the dough
Dock the dough

Place the crust in the oven for 10-12 minutes.  You want it to cook through, but not turn brown.  The key to good grade school pizza is a chewy crust.

Out of the oven
Out of the oven

While the pizza is in the oven make your sauce.  Combine all of the ingredients, stir and then let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven and let it slightly cool.  Then lightly coat with the pizza sauce.  You don’t want to over due the sauce if you want a really authentic pizza.  I used about 1/4 of the sauce on the pizza.  Cover the remaining sauce and refrigerate.  It should keep for a couple of days.

Sauce the pizza - Make sure to sauce all the way to the edges.
Sauce the pizza - Make sure to sauce all the way to the edges.

Once the pizza is sauced spread out the 8oz of mozzarella cheese.  Once again, for this to be authentic you don’t want to overdue it on the cheese.  You want to cover the pizza but still leave some opening for the sauce to shine through.  I found that one 8oz bag of cheese was the perfect amount.

Pefect amount of cheese and pepperoni
Pefect amount of cheese and pepperoni

Finally it is time to add the pepperoni.  As with grade school, there should be 6 slices of pepperoni on each rectangle of pizza.  The pizza when cut produces 6 slices.  Equally space out 36 slices of pepperoni.

Perfectly lined up pepperoni
Perfectly lined up pepperoni

Place the pizza back in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is perfectly melted.  Make sure to remove the pizza from the oven before the cheese starts to turn brown.

Perfectly cooked pizza
Perfectly cooked pizza

Cut into 6 rectangles and serve.

Slice into 6 pieces
Slice into 6 pieces

The crust and pizza were just like I remembered them.  The crust was not browned, but fully cooked.  The crust has a perfect thickness and chewyness.  Honestly, all I needed was a pint of chocolate milk and I could have been right back in grade school.

Grade School Pizza
Grade School Pizza

Let me know what you guys think.  I think I have the sauce and crust spot on.  Enjoy!!

Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.


  1. My 10 y/o saw this and just said "I want to make pizza. Like that."

    Question….did you serve your school pizza with one of those little milk cartons as the beverage;)

    Impressed with the lengths you went to in order to get it just right!

  2. Chris unfortunately I didn't have a carton of milk. So I served it with cosmos. All I was missing was a hair net, a lunch tray and a carton of chocolate milk.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I have been looking for this type of recipe for years. This was one of my favorite school lunches, with a side salad and ranch dressing, sometimes on the pizza, always with a carton on "white" milk. lol

    • Leslie, It was my favorite meal in school too. I looked all around the web and could not find a recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  4. You should duplicate the breakfast pizza recipe. I so want it! I found this during my search for it.



    • Christina, We didn’t have breakfast pizza where I went to school. What was all on it?

      • The breakfast pizza is almost even better. You need sausage and gravy, scrambled egg and mozzarella cheese.

  5. Wow…this IS just like the real thing. I LOVE it! I have been trying to find the real thing frozen, but this was WAY better. Followed the recipe to the T and it came out perfect!! Thanks for doing the legwork!

  6. Wow… Thank You so much… I thought I was gunna have to raid the school down the street.

  7. i was looking for the breakfast pizza recipe also from when i went to school it was soo good

  8. What about the recipe for school lunch Pizza burgers? I know there's balogna in it and american cheese….that's all I've got. My kids have been asking.

    • colleen – Are you talking about the open face sandwich ones. I have seen them with 1 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb ground lunch meat (either ham, bologna or spam), 16oz shredded cheese mixed with 2-3 cups marinara sauce (adjust based on how saucy you like it) and 8 hamburger buns. If this is what you are looking for, then brown the ground beef. Combine with the ground/chopped lunch meat and cheese. Toss in the marinara. Then place hamburger buns face up on a cookie sheet (you will get 16 pizza burgers so you will probably have to use two trays). Add the mixture to the buns. Bake until golden brown. 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.


  9. That Pizza Looks Amazing. Thank you so much for figuring out this awesome recipe!!

  10. Thank you so much. I really look forward to trying this. I have been trying to find this recipe for years. I even called the schools I went to, to find out how to do it and they said they didn't know what I was talking about. Drove me nuts. Thought I was going to have to become a lunch lady to break the code. THNX AGAIN!!!

  11. Can you add what brand of pepperoni you used please? I can't find any at the grocery that doesn't taste like red salami. Thnx

    • Tara – Glad you enjoy the pizza recipe. I have been searching for it for years too. As for the pepperoni I use Eckrich Farms Pepperoni Sticks. They are about 10 inches long and have to be sliced by hand. I use my food processor to do the slicing. I have found that they taste the best. Thanks again.

  12. interesting recipe BUT I grew up in queens and brooklyn. I am 44 and went to several scools, a different one every 2 years. they all made it exactly the same but very much different to this recipe. ours had chopped meat with tomato sauce almost like sloppy joe but not quite. they used sliced not shredded american cheese. all on a very different kind of dough. if not eaten within the first 15 minutes of sitting down the crust hardened like a rock. it was hands down THE best lunch they served. I always took the second chocolate milk for 15 cents

  13. This really made me happy, just last week I planned to made one pizza for myself but in a while, I am thinking that it is so sad if I will not share it to somebody, knowing that everybody is busy doing their personal task. And so I decided to leave it and maybe tomorrow is a new day and the best day to have one…ymmmmy!

  14. I am looking for the pizza burger , open faced on hamburger bun, recipe. It had ground beef, some sort of tomato sauce, I've heard tomato soup, and then it had a piece of criss cross cheese on it. I loved them. I have friends who are looking for this recipe too. If anyone can help I would really appreciate it.

  15. Thanks for posting this! There is a store I've found that carries those frozen rectangular pizzas, BUT, I shudder at the ingredient list. Let's just say "imitation mozzarella cheese" was one of the most appetizing ingredients listed; most I could not pronounce. It's amazing how chemicals can taste so good 😉
    I'll give this a try. May try freezing some as well.

  16. The pizza at my elementary school cafeteria in San Pedro was actually quite tasty. To complete the meal, you should serve it with canned green beans, fruit cocktail, and chocolate milk.

  17. Don't know if you have a CostCo store in your area, but they have 12 packs of Darigold Chocolate Milk in 1 pint carboard containers.

    • Rob,

      There is a costco right down the road. I will have to go there and pick up some chocolate milk cartons. Thanks for the tip.


  18. Sounds about right to me. The ones we had at our school were made w/sausage and had fennel seeds on them. I really enjoyed those pizzas as a kid growing up, especially that little "tang" the fennel seeds gave to it. Thanks for posting!

  19. Another James Reply

    Seems very close to the real thing, although when I was in school the pepperoni was those little cubes and not actual slices. Was it different where you grew up?

    • Another James, It was as close as I have ever seen. We had round pepperoni on the pizza, but the sauce has tiny cubes of pepperoni in it.

  20. I just found this site and love all the recipes… Especially this one. I cannot wait to make it, i have thought about that pizza for many years. Thank you!!

  21. My mother and I were looking for old school cafeteria recipes and found this, she’s beyond excited to try it. My question is, instead of refrigerating the pizza sauce, can you freeze it?
    Also, my mother also remembers biscuits from her elementary school. And I can’t seem to find the right recipe for her anywhere, have you come across any older cafeteria biscuit recipes? The only thing she really remembers for sure about them was they were large and definitely not made with wheat or corn flour.

  22. I am sooooooooooo going t try this! The pizzas my school served were so delicious but the pepperoni was cubed not sliced and tiny cubes too. Hal the fun was picking them off and eating them before the actual pizza which was always better with salad dressing(Ranch or Thousand Island). Oh hose were the days.

  23. Amanda/Everyone,

    All school pizzas have changed, including the ones at Schwan’s Foodservice (Tony’s Pizza). New Government school health rules have destroyed our beloved old school pizzas. The crusts are now made out of wheat flour with no sugar added. The sauce has no salt and the cheese they use is fat free. They also did away with the pork sausage and fennel seeds. I just bought a case and had to throw them away, because they taste like cardboard. I found my information by calling the main two company’s that made 90% of the school pizzas over the last 35+ years. These company’s are Tony’s Pizza (owned by Schwan’s) and Nardone Brothers Pizza. Both Company’s said that they were so sorry, but they had no choice because the Federal Government gave them no choice but to discontinue the old pizzas. Thank you Rex, for giving us this recipe. At least we can keep the memories alive and let the younger generations taste how our pizzas once were.

  24. Just thought I’d share what our school district uses –

    1 1/2 pounds ground beef

    1 tablespoon flour

    1/4 teaspoon salt


    1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 tablespoon sugar

    3/4 cup tomato puree

    3/4 cup diced canned tomatoes

    1 (1-pound) package biscuit mix

    1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded

    1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded

    Brown beef and drain off fat. Add flour and stir in salt, pepper to taste, oregano and sugar. Add tomato puree and canned tomatoes and simmer until flavors are well blended.

    Prepare crust according to biscuit mix directions. Roll dough into rectangle larger than 18×12-inch pan. Wrap dough around rolling pin, hold thumbs firmly over dough on ends to easily lift and fit dough onto pan. Trim off edges by rolling rolling pin over pan edges. Pierce dough in several places before baking.

    Prebake at 450 degrees 15 minutes or until lightly baked. Just before serving, pour hot meat sauce over baked crust, sprinkle with cheeses and bake at 350 degrees until heated through and cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.

  25. 5 stars
    After it’s cooked and cooled, is there any way to store it for reheating later?

    • Rex Reply

      You can slice it and either refrigerate the slices or freeze it. To freeze, place the slices in between wax paper and freeze in a zip top bag. Make sure to remove the wax paper before reheating in the oven or microwave.

  26. What about the cafeteria cinnamon rolls the real deal I have come across some but nothing like the ones we had in school Reply

    Hopefully someone can give me the real recipe for the old school cafeteria cinnamon rolls and rolls they have a lot of recipes out there for them although I can’t find the right ones. Please help

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