Everyone knows that college students are notoriously awful cooks. Oftentimes they have recently moved away from home and the comfort of mom’s cooking. Believe me, Mom’s cooking is missed when you’re living on noodles and peanut butter. But I’m here to tell you that the conversion to cooking for yourself doesn’t have to be a painful one. Since getting to college, I have used 2 cookbooks almost every other day: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fast and Fresh Meals
and The Healthy College Cookbook.
(As you can tell by the titles, I did not have much confidence in my kitchen abilities.)
I recently found a recipe in Fast and Fresh meals for Pizza Margherita, which is a very simple traditional Italian pizza. My roommates and I love this recipe! The last time I made it, I wanted to try adding some chicken to shake things up a bit, so I made a recipe for Pesto Chicken Pizza. Enjoy!
1/2 a white onion
1/2 a green bell pepper
2 ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons pesto sauce (I recommend Classico traditional basil pesto)
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
For pizza dough:
3 cups flour
1 package dry or fresh yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal or bread crumbs
Prepare the onion, green pepper, and tomato by finely chopping them all into small pieces. Mix the onion and green peppers, but keep the tomato separate. Store them in the refrigerator until later.
To make the pesto sauce: in a small bowl, combine the prepared pesto sauce with the crushed and finely chopped garlic cloves. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and then add olive oil until the paste gains a liquid consistency (about 3 tablespoons). Make sure the sauce is well mixed with no clumping. Set aside for later.
To make the pizze dough: Pizza dough can be bought pre-made from most grocery stores (for example, Trader Joes has good pizza dough), but I got this great recipe from the Idiot’s Guide mentioned above. This recipe is supposed to be from Wolfgang Puck, so it’s no wonder thats its good.
Combine flour, yeast, salt, honey, olive oil, and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix well until the dough forms a ball. Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Transfer it to a deep, lightly buttered bowl and allow to rise covered by a clean dry towel for 30 minutes. *Now preheat the oven to 450 degrees F so thats its heating while the dough rises and you prepare the chicken.
For the pesto chicken: clean and cut any fat away from 2 chicken breasts. Cut the chicken into short, narrow strips. Cook the strips in a frying pan on medium heat until no longer pink. As the chicken is cooking, add the pesto sauce and mix into the strips. Make sure that each piece of chicken is evenly coated with the oily mixture. As the chicken is cooking, take out and cook the onions/green peppers in another lightly oiled frying pan. Cook over high heat until the onions are browned and limp.
It took about 30 minutes for me to prepare and cook the chicken and onion/peppers, which is perfect timing for the rising pizza dough. After 30 minutes of rising, divide the pizza into 4 balls for individual pizzas, or keep it in one big ball for one large pizza. Use the fleshy parts of your fingers to flatten the dough into circular sheets of 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Prepare the cookie sheet or pizza try by spreading bread crumbs or cornmeal over the top to prevent the bread from sticking. *I recommend putting the pizza dough on the tray before adding toppings to avoid spilling in transport. Spread one spoonful of olive oil over the top of the dough, then add pizza toppings.
Unlike the usual types of American pizza, this recipe doesn’t use any tomato sauce. Instead, lay down a generous layer of fresh mozzarella cheese evenly over the surface, followed by the pesto chicken strips. Then spread the browned onion/peppers and the diced tomatoes. Drizzle the top with another spoonful of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper before baking at 450 F for 10-12 minutes.