Recycle. Reuse. Repurpose. It is a big trend these days in home decorating to find new life for old things and to save them from becoming an addition to ever-growing landfills. That same movement is evident today in food communities where the amount of food wasted is an absolute embarrassment. Growing up in an era of farm crisis with parents who grew up in the depression may not sound like ideal circumstances to many, but we learned the value of each penny. This may seem like a sober way to introduce something as simple as pizza sandwiches but it is exactly the message we need to pass on to our children … and all lessons served with a side of pizza make an impression.
Waste not want not: leftover buns
Throwing away bread is a crime.
Not to say I’ve never done it, but I feel terrible guilt when I do. Whether it’s the heels of a loaf of bread or one or two of the buns that never seem to get eaten from the bag, it bugs me. Most of the time, I use them to for breadcrumbs which frequently turn into meatballs (why buy them AND the bread that’s going in the trash!?!). Sometimes more than just a few slices or buns are in danger of violating the waste-not-want-not philosophy.
My mother would grind up a mixture of lunch meat (usually bologna), cheese, onion and tomato sauce, spread it on leftover buns or bread and place them under the broiler until the tops were warm and bubbly. I can only imagine how it must have frustrated her to see how excited her children got when she served this simple, repurposed dish. Frustrated because so many of her other meals that took hours and hours of prep time, often went without the gratitude she deserved. I am convinced she had no intention of teaching us a lesson when she made these sandwiches … and yet, here we are.
customizable pizza sandwiches
How did those bologna and cheese sandwiches turn into pizza-wiches? Leftovers in danger of expiration, that’s how. I had a little leftover Italian sausage, a partial package of pepperoni, a half-empty bottle of pizza sauce, the inevitable bag of miscellaneous hamburger and hot dog buns in the freezer, and a memory of those toasted, open-faced sandwiches. Voila!
Of course, you can use whatever toppings, in whatever combination, you want: leftover scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese; diced chicken, roasted red peppers and pesto; hamburger, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions and cheese. Just think about your favorite sandwich to order at a restaurant and make that combination. Or better yet … let your kids look in the refrigerator and make up a combination. Trust me. Even if it’s terrible, they will learn and they will have a memory.
kids of all ages
Not only can you get the kids involved with the ingredient choosing, this is a perfect recipe for introducing them to mixing, measuring and spreading. Many times when kids help in the kitchen, they want to reap the benefits of their work as quickly as possible (i.e. eat cookies right out of the oven .. who can blame them!). This is a recipe that allows them to do just that.
Maybe your kids are a bit older? Like “too old for advice from parents” (insert major eye-roll here)? Adjust your approach. Here’s a cheap meal with no delivery charge and almost no dirty dishes. Just put in an extra reminder to turn off the broiler!!! Yes … I remember college.
- 1/2 pounds Italian sausage browned, drained and finely chopped
- 2-4 ounces pepperoni slices diced
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped black olives
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 8-10 ounces pizza sauce see note below
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 leftover hamburger or hot dog buns
- Parmesan cheese
- Combine all ingredients except buns and Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Add more pizza sauce if needed to hold other ingredients together.
- Divide mixture into 8 portions and spread one portion on each half of a bun.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Place on a pan and broil in the oven until warm and bubbly.