September 28, 2021

Old School Pizza Burgers! And I made them into a Keto Pizza Burger Too!

Old School Vintage Pizza Burgers
Pictured are low carb - using a keto bun and served with keto 'faux' fries - not potato based french fries

When I get a food memory/craving stuck in my head, it lives there until I finally make it.  I got it into my head I just had to have something from my childhood.  Not just my childhood, but an elementary school lunch item; pizza burgers.

Now, this was years (decades!) ago - back when school lunches were really, really good.  Homemade by the lunch ladies.  The smell of the homemade foods wafted up the stairs and down the halls of the classrooms all morning long so by the time lunch came around we were going crazy and more than ready to eat, as we'd been smelling the delicious aromas all morning!

In addition to being blessed to be in grade school back in the early 80's when lunches were homemade, hot, filling and so good; I went to a small, private school so the government didn't supply us with food or money; the talented lunch ladies did their own menu-making, ordering, buying, and cooking.  Another reason our lunches were so good. 

I know a lot of people remember 'pizza burgers' from the good old days of school lunches, but with all the different cooks making them homemade back then; every school made them a little different.  The pizza burger I remember isn't the same as the one my husbands school served.  As a matter of fact they dreaded pizza burger day!  He said their school served a 'weird, slimy patty' 'smothered with sauce and sprinkled some cheese on top'.  He thought I was crazy to be craving pizza burgers from my childhood until I explained that was nothing like our schools!

Our school pizza burgers were huge.  They were served on oversized hamburger buns.  They were a loose-meat version with a delicious, tangy sauce; open-faced, and usually had a mixture of American and mozzarella cheese on top.  

(Another thing - back then you could go back for as many helpings as you wanted as long as there was food... and you NEVER had to have your lunch ticket punched a second time or paid more.  After everyone went through the line, whatever was left, everyone got as much as they wanted so food wasn't wasted or thrown out.)  

Now, I wasn't able to recreate it exactly to my memory.  But it's close.  So close.  I'm going to tweak it a little more at some point in the future - as I know my school used canned tomato soup in their version as well; and we don't ever have canned tomato soup in our house because we are lowcarb/sugarfree.

To make it a little more difficult, I was having to not only recreate something from a childhood memory, but we eat sugar free and low carb so I had to try to make it keto!  

If anyone from the internet stumbles upon this recipe through searching; remember - YOUR school might have made these differently.  I suggest you do your own taste tests and see if it's similar to the version your school cooks made.  Mine just needs a little bit of tweaking (needs a bit more... tang I think) but it was SO close, I was happy with the results for now.  (And, since this is the first time I've craved them in over 30+ years, I might not have another craving for years!  Ha ha).

Old School Pizza Burgers

1 1/4 lb. ground beef (approximately - I didn't weigh)
1/2 lb. (about) ground ham
1/4 c onion, finely minced
1- 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 c water (use the can to pour as to rinse out the can as well)
1 c (scant) ketchup  (I'm going to use part tomato soup next time as I KNOW my school did)
1 1/2 T dried parsley
1 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t salt and some fresh ground black pepper
onion powder
2 t vinegar
2 - 3 T cream or whole milk

Hamburger buns
Shredded mozzarella
Shredded or sliced up American cheese

Brown the ground beef and onion, add the ground ham. 

(I used an S-blade in my food processor.  I didn't want to over process it, but after I was ready to add it, realized I should have processed mine a little more - but I was lazy and didn't want to bother so the pieces in mine in the photos are little larger than I'll do next time).  Season with salt and pepper. 

While the meat cooked I mixed up the sauce separate (although you TOTALLY could add it to the meat in the same pan.  I just made mine while the meat was still cooking as I like to multi-task and have no patience to just stand around browning meat without doing other things as well.)  Mix the tomato products and the seasonings.  For the onion powder, safe and oregano, I started with about a teaspoon of each.  You can adjust this later.

Add the tomato mixture to the meat.  Let it simmer for about 10 minutes over low.

After mixing with the cooked meats and letting it simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors; do a taste test.  I added about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon more of each of the oregano, sage and onion powder.   When you are happy with the meat filling, stir in about 1/2 cup cheddar cheese IF you wish - or some of the American cheese into the mixture.  Use the rest of the mozzarella and/or American for the top later.

On a baking sheet (lightly greased if you wish) but not on parchment as the buns need to crisp up a bit, lay out about 8 buns to make 16 sandwiches.  Or lay out 4 buns, open to make 8 sandwiches and you can freeze the rest of the meat mixture.

NOTE:  I used KETO buns for this meal with only 4 carbs total per whole bun, so only 2 carbs total when eating just the one half, as these are served "open faced".  Regular buns usually run about 24-30 carbs, so each half would be about 12-15 carbs.

Sprinkle the tops with shredded cheeses.  Bake at 350 or 375 (I baked at 370) until golden brown buns, melted cheese and heated through.  About 12-15 minutes depending on the heat of your oven.



 ground beef with onions  

grinding up ham in a food processor

making sauce for pizza burgers

pizza burger mixture

old school pizza burger meat/ham mixture

old school pizza burgers ready for cheese


pizza burgers with american and mozzarella cheese

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