Kid Tested, Toddler Approved: Cati's Favorite Pesto Pizza

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sometimes I crave something different than a regular tomato sauce pizza. I've found pesto will do the trick just perfectly. I developed this recipe based off of my daughter's favorite pizza toppings. It passes her picky palate, so I'm sure it will yours as well. And with some store-bought help, it's a Mommy Friendly recipe too.

Cati's Favorite Pesto Pizza

1 store-bought wheat pizza dough (recommended: Trader Joe's)

4-5 Tbsp good pesto (store-bought recommended: Trader Joe's)

1 large grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks

4-5 asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds

1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil), drained

1 garlic clove, minced

1 container marinated bocconcini or 1 whole buffalo mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch slices

extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Take out pizza dough from refrigerator and let stand about 20 minutes on counter to come to room temperature. Do this while the oven is pre-heating.

Meanwhile, prepare the pizza toppings. If using a fresh chicken breast, season it liberally with salt and black pepper and drizzle enough olive oil to lightly coat. Grill on gas grill or grill pan inside until cooked. Don't worry if it's just under cooked; it will finish cooking on top of the pizza. In a small mixing bowl, toss the sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus pieces and onion so the asparagus and onion can get coated in some of that seasoned olive oil. Set aside.

To Make Pizza:
At this point, you can either cut the dough into four separate pieces and make 4 individual pizzas or use the whole dough for one large pizza. The cooking time will stay the same regardless, so this is totally up to you. If making one large pizza, then gently stretch out the dough with a rolling pin or your hands until it reaches the size of your pizza stone or baking sheet. Remember, pizza doesn't have to always be round! If you don't have a pizza stone, then use a baking sheet and just make a rectangular pizza instead of a round one. If making individual pizzas, apply the same logic. Whatever shape and size you decide on, the pizza should be around 1/4 inch thick and I like to leave a slightly thicker border around to help keep all the toppings on the pizza instead of spilling over the sides during cooking.

Once you've achieved your pizza or pizzas, then spoon desired amount of pesto on top and spread evenly. Remember that pesto has considerably more olive oil than marinara, so although you do want enough to taste, be careful not to put too much which will yield a soggy pizza. After you've spread the pesto, then sprinkle on the chicken pieces, sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus, minced garlic, and dot around with the mozzarella. I like to give the pizzas a small drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil on top and then bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on oven and desired crispiness.

When done, take the pizzas out and let stand 3 minutes so the cheese can set. Then cut into pieces and serve immediately!

My Notes:
If using a baking sheet, then line first with parchment paper for easy removal. Otherwise, any cheese that melts over will get stuck and it's hard to clean the baking sheet unless you do it immediately.

These are just toppings our family enjoys. You can substitute the asparagus with broccoli, zucchini, or any green vegetable! The pizza can be just as delicious with shrimp instead of chicken. Don't like onions or garlic? Omit it! If you have some wonderful in-season cherry tomatoes, feel free to substitute them instead of the sun-dried ones. Just be sure to cut them in half and give a quick pat with paper towel to remove some of the moisture so you don't have a soggy pizza.

The toppings can be made in advance, but don't roll out the pizza dough until before you're ready to cook it -- otherwise it will get tough and not be as tasty.

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