Parts of a Cell: Learn Anatomy With a Fun Pizza Activity!

Cell Anatomy Pizza Parts of a cell pizza activity - labeled diagram

The cell is the smallest living unit of your body, but you can take a super close look at it today! All parts of the cell have important jobs, but they also work together. With a fun and simple pizza-making activity, we can learn all about cell anatomy!

Use the food you have in your own home, and find shapes that look like the parts of a cell.

This might be the most delicious way to learn about your cells!

Ideas for Pizza Cell Anatomy Ingredients

Just like your body, your cells have little organs that work together. These mini organs are called organelles.

Here are some ingredients that are similar to the shape of cell organelles.

  • CELL – Pizza dough, tortilla, naan bread, flatbread
  • CYTOPLASM – Tomato sauce
  • NUCLEUS – Pepperoni, salami, large mozzarella cheese slice
  • ENDOPLASMIC RETICULUM – Sliced onions
  • GOLGI BODIES – Sliced bell peppers, basil, onions
  • RIBOSOMES – Shredded cheese, capers
  • LYSOSOMES OR VESICLES – Cherry tomatoes, cheese balls, olives
  • MICROTUBULES – Sausages, lima beans
  • MITOCHONDRIA – Mushrooms, lima beans

If you have any dietary restrictions, replace the examples from this cell anatomy pizza recipe with something that you can safely eat.

Now, it’s time to get creative and prepare the recipe. Then fill up your brain and belly with tasty anatomy facts!

cell anatomy edible activity

How to Make a Homemade Cell Anatomy Model Pizza

Follow these steps to make a cell pizza while learning how the parts of a cell work. As you add each ingredient, think of the cell as a little city with busy organelle workers everywhere!

Step 1. Set Up the Pizza Cell

Put the tortilla, dough, or your favorite round pizza base on a large dinner plate. Remember to leave some space for a pizza crust around the edges; this will be the cell membrane. In the human cell, the cell membrane acts like a gate. Energy and nutrients can pass the cell membrane into the cell, while waste products are removed.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 2_ Add sauce

Step 2. Spread the Cytoplasm

In a real human cell, the cytoplasm is a clear, jelly-like liquid the fills up the inside of the cell. Cytoplasm is mainly made of water, and all of the organelles float in it.

Now, it’s time to prepare the cytoplasm. Spread tomato sauce around the pizza cell to create cytoplasm.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 3_ Add the nucleus

Step 3. Add the Nucleus

The nucleus is your cell’s boss, and it contains most of your cell’s DNA and chromosomes. The nucleus is in charge of all of the activities going on in the cell. It also decides whether the cell should grow, divide, or die.

If you’d like, put a large piece of pepperoni or salami toward the middle of the cell. This is the nucleus.

Feel free to use your imagination and extra ingredients for the DNA molecules! (Not pictured here).

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 4_ Add the endoplasmic reticulum

Step 4. Add the Endoplasmic Reticulum

Right next to the nucleus is a network of tubules called the endoplasmic reticulum, which are the onions on this pizza. Humans have 2 types of endoplasmic reticulum with different jobs: rough and smooth. Cells that make a lot of protein have lots of rough endoplasmic reticulum. Cells that make a lot of fat have lots of smooth endoplasmic reticulum.

ROUGH ENDOPLASMIC RETICULUMSMOOTH ENDOPLASMIC RETICULUM
Covered in ribosomesNo ribosomes
Makes lots of proteinMakes lots of fat or breaks things down
Pancreas cells make protein hormone, insulin; white blood cells make antibodies.Cells in the ovary and testes make steroid hormones; the liver breaks down toxins
Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 5_ Add the golgi apparatus

Step 5. Add the Golgi Body

Let’s move onto the endoplasmic reticulum’s neighbor! The Golgi body is sometimes called the Golgi apparatus or Golgi complex. This organelle acts like a factory. It processes proteins and packages them into vesicles. The Golgi bodies also make lysosomes.

Whew! The Golgi bodies sure are busy!

Garnish the pizza with a bunch of basil leaves to represent the Golgi body.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 6_ Add some ribosomes

Step 6. Sprinkle Ribosomes Everywhere

In your cell, the little round ribosomes make proteins for the cell to work. Each human cell has. a lot of ribosomes scattered throughout the cytoplasm. Ribosomes are also attached to rough endoplasmic reticulum.

Cover your pizza cell with bits of shredded parmesan cheese or vegan cheese. Capers would also make great ribosomes. Can you think of pizza toppings that are shaped like a ribosome?

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 7_ Add some vesicles

Step 7. Add Vesicles

After leaving the Golgi body, it’s time for vesicles to get to work! The human cell has a few types of vesicles:

  • Transport vesicles carry protein and other materials to different parts of the cell.
  • Secretory vesicles take materials out of the cell. For example, the nerve cell has special secretory vesicles that release chemical messages called neurotransmitters outside of the cell. Nerve cells use neurotransmitters to talk to each other!

On your pizza, add something small and round, like mozzarella cheese balls, to represent different vesicles.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 8_ Add some lysosomes

Step 8. Add Lysosomes

Clean-up time! Lysosomes are actually a special type of vesicle that acts like garbage-collectors. Their job is to pick up waste and get rid of it. Lysosomes also break down cells that are ready to die.

Can you think of another food that is small and round? Cherry tomatoes can be the lysosomes of your pizza cell.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 9_ Add a few microtubules

Step 9. Add Microtubules

Microtubules are stick-shaped organelles in the human cell. The have a many important jobs:

  • They give shape to each cell.
  • They help certain cells move.
  • They act like roads for vesicles and other organelles to travel along.
  • They help a cell divide into two cells.

For your pizza cell, you can add ingredients like sausages, hot peppers, or another stick-shaped food.

Cell Anatomy Pizza Step 10_ Add the mitochondria

Step 10. Add Mitochondria

Last but not least, we have the mighty mitochondria! Because the mitochondria’s job is to make energy, scientists usually call mitochondria the “powerhouse of the cell”. How does mitochondria make energy? By combining glucose with oxygen.

The amount of mitochondria a cell has depends on how much energy it needs. For example, muscle cells have tons of mitochondria.

close up view of the mitochondria in a human cell

Mitochondria have an oval shape – kind of like sliced mushrooms! Chop extra mushrooms if your cells needs more energy.


Updated on May 19, 2022 Reviewed by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on May 19, 2022

Reviewed by Betty Choi, MD