The past couple months have been a whirlwind. This is, as my hubby Craig and I are calling it, “the year of life events.” It seems like almost everyone around us is either having a baby, getting married, or celebrating a milestone birthday. Needless to say, it has meant a lot of flying, cooking, party planning, etc.
It also equals lots of leftovers. For one week we ate nothing but “cuisine de BBQ,” i.e. hot dogs, baked beans, and potato salad. The hubby has been such a good sport about all this and has been completely supportive of our totally-botched diet for the sake of saving a few bucks.
Well, last Friday rolled around, and the leftovers were finally gone which was cause enough in itself to celebrate. It also happened to be Craig’s birthday eve…another reason to celebrate. Appropriately, I made his all-time favorite food: pizza.
This pizza invention is actually one of his. Chicken + artichokes + white sauce + red onion + pesto = deliciousness in your mouth. I imagine you have to really like artichokes, but honestly I believe this pizza to be one of the best flavor combinations out there. Ok, ok, so it doesn’t have the same acidic punch as a red sauce pizza, but if this pizza had boxing gloves, I do believe it could beat a pepperoni pizza in a fight any day.
The best part of making pizza at home nowadays is that you can find ready-made dough balls in almost every grocery store. They are 100 times better than pre-baked crusts, and 200 times better than what comes in those “peel and pop” blue cylinders. Usually you can find them near the deli/bakery section, and they should be refrigerated. I am always conflicted, however, when buying these because I know how easy it is to make my own pizza dough….about 5 seconds later I snap back into reality, tell myself to stop being a pizza snob, and just buy the dang dough ball. It’s cheap, convenient, and cuts my cooking time in half. I repeat these mental steps when buying the jar of pre-made Alfredo sauce.
The pesto is the only part of this dish I really insist on being homemade. Store-bought pesto is weird. It tastes weird to me and is usually ridiculously expensive. I have found that you can make your own in about 3 minutes for about half the price. The tricks are to omit the pricey pine nuts and to substitute baby spinach for some of the basil leaves. I promise, no one (ok, well that depends on who your friends are) will be able to taste the difference.
I love this dish because seriously, who doesn’t like making or eating a pizza? It’s a fun date night event and always a crowd pleaser. Pair this with a good bottle of Pinot Noir and enjoy!
Chicken Artichoke Pizza with Spinach-Basil Pesto
Yields: 1 medium-large pizza, or about 8 slices
Special equipment needed: pizza stone (otherwise a large baking sheet or pizza pan will work)
1 large chicken breast (or any leftover chicken you might have on hand)
16oz pizza dough ball (found in the deli or bakery section)
8-10 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup pre-made Alfredo sauce (next to the spaghetti sauces)
1/4 red onion, sliced into thin strips
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered (preferably in water but marinated is fine too)
Spinach-Basil Pesto, recipe follows
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place pizza stone or pan in oven while preheating.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Sear off and finish cooking in oven, about 10-15 minutes, or until internal temp registers 165 F on a cooking thermometer (for more tips, click here).
- While chicken is cooking, roll out pizza dough to about 1/4” thick and about 14” in diameter.
- Take the pizza stone out of the oven and transfer the dough to the stone. Patch any tears or holes.
- Spread about 1/3 cup Alfredo sauce evenly around pizza dough.
- Sprinkle about 3/4 of the Mozzarella cheese evenly around the dough.
- Add the red onion slices and quartered artichoke hearts to the dough, dispersing evenly.
- When the chicken is finished cooking and has rested a few minutes, cut it into bite sized pieces. Add to pizza.
- Sprinkle the pizza with the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
- Transfer the whole pizza stone with pizza to the oven.
- Bake at 425F for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
- While pizza is baking, prepare spinach-basil pesto (recipe below).
- Remove pizza from oven when done and drizzle with as much of the spinach-basil pesto as you like.
- Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing, and enjoy!
Yields: about 2 cups
Special Equipment Needed: food processor or blender
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 oz (1 package) fresh basil leaves
3 oz (about half a small bag) baby spinach leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
3 oz (or about half a tub) of shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese (the fresh kind, not the shelf-stable kind)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place the garlic cloves in the food processor or blender and pulse until finely minced.
- Add the basil, spinach, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Pulse until finely minced and incorporated.
- Add the olive oil and pulse until incorporated. It should be bright green and not too thick. If it is too runny, add more cheese or spinach leaves. If it is too thick, add more olive oil.
- This pesto recipe will make much more than you need for the pizza, but will keep in the fridge for about one week. It’s great to have on pasta, sandwiches, chicken, etc. You can also freeze it for later use.
- The ratio of basil to spinach leaves is really up to you, your taste buds, and your pocket book. Play around with it and see what you like best.
- Extra virgin olive oil is a must for this. Don’t try using a different type of oil as it will either add no flavor (vegetable oil) or an undesired flavor (sesame oil).