The reality is that unless you have a meal plan or go to a restaurant, eating dinner is usually a fairly lengthy and involved process of cooking, eating and cleaning up. This time of the year, most of us don’t have the time to devote to hours in the kitchen during the school week. Since frozen dinners are virtually bound to be a staple in our college diets, we might as well make them taste good, right? Check out these tips for making the best of a busy weeknight dinner, frozen pizza style.

First of all, you have to actually put your pizza in the oven, not the microwave. A hot oven rack or baking sheet is where it’s going to develop that gorgeous crust conducive to a good pizza. A microwave will likely cook the pizza unevenly and make the crust taste like cardboard, especially if it was a cheaper pizza. This I know from personal experience, so take the extra 15-20 minutes and preheat that oven.

Second, add toppings. I’m giving some examples below of what I think is delicious, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s possible.

  • Red chili flakes provide heat and elevate the flavor of the blandest of pizzas. Be careful not to be too heavy-handed with them though. I often overdo it and end up with a slice of fire. A little goes a long way. Also, spend the extra buck and get the better ones. You get what you pay for with chili flakes, and a bottle will last for a long time.
  • More cheese can be yummy on top of virtually anything savory but especially on frozen pizzas that generally lack in the cheese department. I love the nutty, salty flavor that parmesan lends to whatever it’s grated onto. Add parmesan when your pizza has a few minutes left to cook. Cheeses that melt well like mozzarella and brie are incredibly good as is a little crumbling of feta.

Photo by Sarah Stettin

  • Dried herbs are perfect for pizzas, especially those with a white sauce. My favorite herb to add is thyme, but oregano would be delicious on a pizza with a tomato sauce.
  • Extra virgin olive oil makes a classic addition to any pizza. Though, wait until your pizza is fully cooked to add it. The complex flavors of olive oil would be lost in the oven.

Photo by Jessica Payne

  • Meat is last but certainly not least. Add extra pepperoni, deli meat or even leftover roast chicken to take your pizza to the next level.

Experiment with what you think will be good. Almost nothing tastes bad on top of a pizza!

Check out these links for other quick dinnertime options: