Recipe: Chicken and Pesto White Pizza

The story of this recipe all started with some leftover chicken. Who doesn’t have leftover chicken in their fridge at least once every week? As much of a staple as it is for most of us, it can get pretty darn boring.

I also happened to have cheese in my fridge. Ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan to be exact. Confession: I really love cheese.

Anyway, I decided to take that ho-hum chicken and turn it into something AWESOME.

A Chicken and Pesto White Pizza (on whole wheat crust). And it did NOT disappoint!

You can certainly make this on a store-bought crust, but if you plan ahead just a teeny bit you can easily make your own amazing, soft, delicious homemade whole wheat dough. It’s really worth the effort I promise! On a busy day I’ll whip this up before I leave the house in the morning and let it rise all day. Then when I get home all I have to do is top it and bake it. Or this can also be a great slow food meal on the weekends when you have more time to dedicate to making dinner.

First up: The pizza dough. To get a nice rise I use a combination of whole wheat and white flour. This is because whole wheat flour has wheat bran in it (yay fibre!). As the dough is rising, those little bits of bran act like tiny knives that cut the gluten strands. (gluten is the protein that gives things like pizza dough or bread their structure when they rise….it’s not poison!) Without nice long gluten strands, we have a flat, dense pizza crust, not a light fluffy soft one. So, to get the best of both worlds I use a mix of flours.

Scroll down to go straight to the recipe for how I topped my pizza!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Prep time: 15 minutes + at least 2 hours to rise

Makes enough for 2 large pizzas. Cut the amounts of everything in half if you don’t want leftovers. But really, who doesn’t want leftover pizza??

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast (not the instant yeast! Trust me, the extra step is worth it)
  • 2 cups warm water (if you dip your finger in the water it should feel similar in temperature to your body, not hot or cold to the touch)
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (or canola oil)

This is the type of yeast I use in my baking. Once it’s opened it needs to be kept refrigerated so it stays fresh. Before you use it the yeast needs to be activated in warm water. To do this, stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water and let it sit until it bubbles up and doubles in volume like this…

If that doesn’t happen, your yeast is no good and won’t do it’s job to make your pizza dough rise.

*What’s happening here? The yeast is eating the sugar and producing carbon dioxide gas, which is the bubbles you see. Once it’s in your dough, the yeast continue to eat the sugars and produce C02, which is what creates a light, airy dough as it rises. (Isn’t food NEAT?)*

Anyway…

Next mix the flour and salt together in your mixing bowl. I use my electric mixer with the dough hook attachment, but the back of a wooden spoon and some good ol’ elbow grease works just as well.

Give the yeast a stir to pop all the bubbles, then pour it into the flour mixture. Add the oil and start mixing! If your dough is still quite sticky add some extra flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) until you reach this consistency. The dough should not stick to your hands or be crumbly. I like to finish kneading my dough by hand and shape it into a ball like this. Dust it with flour as a final step before letting it rise.

Pizza dough like this needs a nice warm place to rise. Yeast don’t like to be cold! So, unless it’s the middle of summer the best place to do this is in your oven with only the oven light turned on. The lightbulb in your oven gives off just enough heat to create the perfect environment for the yeast to do their job. Put your dough in a mixing bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and place it in the oven for at least 2 hours. If you have time, pull the dough out after a few hours, punch it down to release the air, and let it rise a second time. When it is ready to go it will look like this:

Scrape all your dough out of the bowl (dust your counter top and hands with flour for this, because it’s pretty sticky coming out of the bowl!). Add extra flour if you need to in order to get a workable consistency. Ta da! Your pizza crust is ready.

Stretch the dough out onto a greased pizza pan.

Next up! The toppings. For this recipe I made an amazing pesto and ricotta base instead of using pizza sauce, but once your dough is ready you can top it with anything you want!

Chicken and Pesto White Pizza

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (enough to top one of your pizzas). If you want to top both pizzas the same, double this recipe.

  • 1 cooked chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp jarred pesto
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Mix together the ricotta cheese, pesto, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer over the pizza dough. Place chicken pieces on top of ricotta mixture. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbling.

Enjoy!

My only regret is that I had no arugula in the fridge to top my pizza with. But I will definitely be making this again!


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