This particular pizza is an idea that has been brewing in my mind for quite a while.  Unfortunately, due to my long work hours this month I had a hard time making it happen.  But the idea just kept nagging at me and pretty soon it was all I could think of.  I had to have this pizza!  One night after we had already eaten dinner, I prepped everything in advance.  I made the pizza crust, the pesto, and grilled some chicken so that they were all ready to go for the next night.  It actually made for a very quick dinner with everything prepped – just preheat the pizza stone, assemble the pizza and bake.  

I’m not surprised that this completely fulfilled my expectations.  I have posted about this crust before – it is phenomenal.  It would taste wonderful with just about any toppings, but this combination was awesome!  I don’t think anything will ever top margherita pizza with tomatoes and basil from our own garden, but this is sure to be a favorite in our rotation.  The pesto recipe makes about twice what we used for the pizza, but I made the full batch because it’s always nice to have pesto on hand.  I’ll be posting another recipe using the remaining pesto soon.

Chicken Pesto Pizza
For the pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the pizza:
1/2 batch perfect pizza crust dough (enough for 1 pizza), at room temperature
Olive oil, for brushing
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grilled chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1/2 of one chicken breast)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

To make the pesto, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.  Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast, shaking occasionally, until the cloves are fragrant and their color deepens slightly, about 7 minutes.  Transfer the cloves to a cutting board; cool, peel and chop.  Place the basil in a heavy-duty gallon-sized plastic bag.  Pound the bag with a rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.  

Combine the pine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil and 1/2 tsp. salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and adjust the salt to taste.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Place a pizza stone in the oven while it is preheating, and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes.  Place a round of parchment paper the size of your pizza stone on a work surface and lightly sprinkle it with cornmeal.  Place the pizza dough in the center and roll it out into a large round using a lightly floured rolling pin, or a pulling/stretching motion with floured hands (I use both).  Leave an approximately 1-inch border that is thicker around the edges for the crust.  Lightly brush this outer edge of the crust with olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of pesto on the pizza crust using the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Top with grilled chicken pieces and sliced cherry tomatoes.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.  

Carefully transfer the parchment round to the preheated pizza stone.  Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.  Slice and serve immediately.  

Source: pizza crust and pesto adapted from Baking Illustrated