Assembling is an easy and creative cooking method that takes prepared food—from grocery stores, restaurants, or delivery—and turns it into a series of delicious meals. We’ll be showing readers how to do more of it in the coming weeks.
Pizza is the quintessential “I don’t feel like cooking” meal. Whether you order it for delivery or buy one frozen at the store, it’s so simple: Open up the box and eat as much as you want. But pizza doesn’t have to sit all alone on a plate and be the entirety of your meal until all the pizza is gone. Leftover pizza can be a blank canvas to create future meals with.
“Ha!” you say, “I get more meals out of pizza by reheating whatever’s left.” Au contraire, mes amis. You can get creative with pizza any time of the day, any day of the week. And once you start to experiment with it, you’ll undoubtedly find even more inspiration.
Here are some ways to assemble multiple meals from leftover slices of pizza. All you need are a few staples from your pantry. By the way, when I say a “plain pizza,” I mean a pizza with just tomato sauce and cheese. A “white pizza” has no tomato sauce. It usually has a white sauce base, like Alfredo, and either ricotta, goat cheese, or mozzarella on top.
Before you shop: It’s always good to choose a pizza that will keep well after your first helping. I recommend a plain cheese pizza or one with cured meat toppings, rather than any salad greens on top. Pizzas with fewer toppings usually reheat better than those with layers of stuff.
While you shop: Pick up some veggies at the salad bar that you can steam at home as a side dish, such as pea pods, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
When you get home: Pick out the number of slices you think you’ll eat and put the rest in in the fridge as soon as it cools. (If you let it sit on the counter, that may affect how it tastes when it’s reheated.) To steam your veggies, place a serving in the bottom of a microwave-proof bowl. Add about a tablespoon of water, then top the bowl with a paper towel. Microwave about two minutes on high. Toss the veggies with one teaspoon of olive oil plus a little sea salt.
Before you shop: Do you have any vegetables on hand already, or any produce that needs to be used up? How about dressing? Are you okay with spending a few extra minutes sauteing or steaming your side dish?
While you shop: Buy or order a plain cheese or white pizza. Or, if you already have the leftovers at home, just select greens and toppings from the salad bar. Some ideas include sliced carrots, arugula, and sliced black olives, all of which will keep your prep time down because you won’t be chopping. If you don’t have dressing at home, pick up a small container of dressing, too (keep it light so the pizza doesn’t become soggy).
When you get home: Make the salad and toss it with the dressing. Heat up the pizza slices. Place the salad on top of the warm pizza. Folding a New York style slice in half usually works best for eating a salad pizza, or you can knife and fork it.
Before you shop: See which dressings or condiments you have available, such as mayonnaise, pesto, or tapenade. In addition, check which meats or cheeses you have on hand, as well as toppings like pickles, onions, and pickled vegetables.
When you shop: When you buy or order a thin crust cheese or white pizza (a thicker pizza is harder to layer), tell the pizza place not to cut it; you’re going to do that yourself. Buy ham, turkey, cured meat, tofu, or anything else you’d put on a sandwich.
When you get home: Cut the pizza into equal-sized square or rectangular slices. Top one slice with a layer of sauce or condiment. Add the meats, plus the toppings. Place the second slice of pizza on top, cheese-side down onto the filling. Warm for 30 seconds in the microwave or 2 minutes in a preheated 300-degree oven.
Before you shop: Do you have barbecue sauce at home? Is there any leftover rotisserie chicken, beef, or pork? If not, add some to your shopping list.
When you shop: Buy pulled pork, chicken, or beef barbecue from the deli. (I prefer minimal sauce.) Buy some coleslaw if desired.
When you get home: Warm up the meat for about 45 seconds in the microwave. Place it on the pizza. Add pickles, onion, and your choice of sauce. Warm another 30 seconds in the microwave or 2 minutes in a 300-degree oven. If you’re adding coleslaw, place it on top once the pizza’s been removed from the oven or microwave.
Before you shop: Do you have eggs, ham, or bacon in the fridge? How about cheese?
When you shop: Buy any meat that you like. Precooked bacon and packaged ham, like prosciutto, is especially helpful if you are pressed for time.
When you get home: The style of eggs is up to you, though scrambled eggs are less messy than over easy or sunny side up. Heat up the pizza, then add eggs and bacon or ham. You’ll probably want to eat this with a knife and fork (but we won’t tell if you use your hands).
Before you shop: Pick some of your favorite fresh herbs from your windowsill, or get them out of the fridge. Or just pull out some of the spices in your cupboard that you like, but can’t find ways to enjoy.
When you shop: Buy a plain cheese or white pizza. If you don’t have herbs at home, buy some packages at the store.
When you get home: Grab your scissors and snip fresh basil, rosemary, oregano, or thyme on a cheese pizza. Or, find your turmeric, za’atar spice, or sumac, and sprinkle that gently across a white pizza. Heat up the pizza for a few minutes in a 300-degree oven.
Before you shop: This “recipe” is a little fussy—it requires beef broth, onions, and cheese, some of which you might already have in your kitchen.
When you shop: Buy a thin crust cheese pizza, or a white pizza. Buy beef broth, plus sliced onions and shredded mozzarella from the salad bar, or a package of cheese from the dairy case.
When you get home: Warm up the beef broth. Cook the sliced onions in one tablespoon of butter or olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. You want them to be translucent, not fried, so keep an eye on them. Cut the pizza into small squares. Layer the squares at the bottom of a soup bowl. (The pizza is serving as the french bread that is often at the bottom of a conventional bowl of French onion soup.) Add the cooked onions, beef broth, and mozzarella cheese. If you use an oven-proof bowl, you can carefully broil the cheese until it is bubbly.
Before you shop: Check to see if you have any cinnamon and sugar. Do you have pears, grapes, apples, or pineapple on hand?
When you shop: Buy a thin crust plain pizza or a white pizza. Buy gorgonzola cheese and any fresh fruit you like.
When you get home: Thinly slice the fruit. Scatter the gorgonzola onto the pizza. Add the fruit slices. Dust with cinnamon and sugar. Warm the pizza in a 300-degree oven until the gorgonzola is just soft, between 5 and 10 minutes.
- To warm up pizza, you can either place on a cookie sheet in a preheated 300-degree oven; put individual slices in a nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat; or microwave for 30 seconds at a time, checking it continuously. The downside to the microwave is that you lose crispiness, but it’s faster and requires fewer dishes.
- Let pizza cool before refrigerating. Break up into individual slices for freezing. These individual slices are fun to test out some of these ideas, too, in case you don’t want to commit an entire pizza. This is a terrific way to experiment with herbs and spices.
- When refrigerating or freezing, don’t store the pizza in the cardboard box it came in; transfer to a more airtight container. I wrap my pizza slices individually in aluminum foil, and then put them in a zip-top bag. That way I can remove one slice at a time.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for assembling meals from leftover pizza. Remember that with assembling, we want to keep things as simple as possible.