Do you remember pizza day at school? Standing in line anticipating that rectangle slice of ooey-gooey goodness. Cafeteria rectangle pizza was always a favorite.
And if you enjoy reminiscing about cafeteria lunches and the unique pizza that made all the kids excited, then you will be pleased to know that you can recreate that old school cafeteria rectangle pizza at home.
In school, the rectangle slices were usually covered with sausage or ground beef held in place by a thick spattering of grated mozzarella cheddar cheese mix. The lunch lady would slice it up into squares and serve it on those old plastic lunch trays.
What is Old School Cafeteria Rectangle Pizza?
Old school cafeteria pizza is more about the memory of school and the good times with friends at lunch than the actual pizza. Yes, it was pizza, and we always say even bad pizza is still pizza, but the taste somehow elicits a flood of memories and good feelings about those old school days.
And we know we aren’t alone. There are several web pages and Facebook pages dedicated to the memory of old school cafeteria pizza and the happiness that it would bring.
Why is Old School Pizza Rectangle Shaped?
We don’t know for sure, but we assume that old school cafeteria pizza was rectangular because the school cafeteria used those large rectangular pizza pans, and you can fit more pizza in those than a round pan.
Plus, a square slice is more filling, and you get the cheese all the way around without the pesky crust that many kids don’t eat anyway. So it makes sense they were rectangles to get the most pizza slices per pan to feed a lot of hungry kids.
If you are feeling nostalgic and want to make that pizza at home, the key is to get a big pizza pan. A large rectangular pan with a small lip. Old school cafeteria pizza is different from other square pizzas like the Detroit-style pizza, which is made in a deep pizza pan similar to Chicago deep dish pizza but square.
School pizza wasn’t quite as thick as that, but it was still pretty doughy and a long way from a crispy thin-crust pizza.
So the first step to being able to impress your friend and ignite their own childhood memories of school cafeteria pizza is to get the right pan.
Here are two extra large baking pans that we recommend:
- Winco Sicilian Pizza Pan 12 inch by 18 inch
- WEZVIX Baking Sheet Stainless Steel Baking Tray Cookie Sheet Oven Pan
How to Make Old School Cafeteria Rectangle Pizza
Once you have the right pizza pan to bake it, then you can get started recreating the childhood classic school pizza that has captured the memory of so many people.
Let’s start with the dough. Cafeteria pizza is a little different than other pizza dough because it has shortening and dry milk in it.
You can feel free to just use your favorite homemade pizza dough or even a store-bought dough ball. But if you really want to be authentic, here is the exact recipe that school cafeterias use.
- 2 ½ cups of flour
- 1 ⅔ cups of water
- 2 Tablespoons of sugar
- 1 packet of yeast
- 1 Tablespoon of shortening (half in dough and the other half for greasing the pan)
- ¾ cup of instant dry milk powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
Mix the ingredients together and let rise for two hours. Then punch the dough down and let rise again. After the second rise, you can grease your baking dish with shortening and spread your dough in your pan.
You will need to press it down to get it to cover the entire baking sheet. Then you will want to par-bake it for three to five minutes before adding your toppings.
Next, you want to decide how to top it. While the dough is rising, this is the time to prepare your toppings. Our school always used ground beef or sausage. But you can go a bit fancier with Italian sausage or even pepperoni.
A friend mentioned in his school, they sued to make pizza with little square pepperoni bits, probably because it was cheaper than actual slices of pepperoni, but you can decide what toppings bring you back to those old-school rectangle slices.
If you are using ground beef or sausage, make sure to cook it before adding it to your pizza. Use a sauté pan and add a splash of oil, then cook the ground sausage or beef until fully browned and drain the excess grease. We like to pat it dry using paper towels to keep the rest of the pizza from getting too soggy.
So set aside your cooked meat and let it cool. While the meat is cooling, you can grate your cheese.
Our school used a mix of low-moisture mozzarella and cheddar. Grab your cheese grater and get grating. To recreate the cheese ratio use half or each. Now for the sauce, old school cafeteria pizza had a sweet thick sauce that came from a can.
One of the key features of old-school pizza is that the dough and sauce go to the very edge. There is literally not any crust. So make sure to spread your sauce to the very edge of the dough and sprinkle the cheese all over. Then add your ground sausage or beef and sprinkle a bit more cheese.
Now you are ready to bake it for 10-12 minutes on 450ºF. When it’s cooked, the shortening should have done its job and kept the pizza from sticking, and the shortening in the crust gives a different texture to the pizza.
Now slice up into rectangles and break out the yearbook and enjoy.