Chicken Meatball Pizza

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not typically a fan of leftovers. No matter what careful and meticulous steps you take to warm them up and return them to their original glory… it just doesn’t work. The second serving of a meal just always seems to turn out dry, or soggy, or overcooked, and it makes me sad – so I just don’t do it (with very few exceptions – for instance, that spinach and artichoke lasagna was AWESOME on the second and third and fourth days)! Luckily for me, my husband LOVES leftovers, and he is repeatedly delighted to take whatever we had for dinner this week to school for lunch.

My newest culinary mission is to try and use up leftovers in a way we’ll BOTH enjoy – which not only results in a delicious meal for both of us, but a slightly smaller amount of time spent cooking, for me! As much as I love cooking, there are certainly days that cooking one more meal and washing one more pot is surely going to push me straight over the edge, and it’s nice to have a solution that doesn’t involve calling for Chinese take-out.

So, here is one of my most recent leftover makeovers. I swear, I am not joking in the least when I say my husband STILL talks about this pizza (and I made it like, 2 weeks ago – as a matter of fact, it was our very romantic Valentine’s Day dinner). I will agree with him, it was really, really delicious – a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, good and cheesy, and FILLING!

Chicken Meatball Pizza
Makes one medium-sized pizza

You’ll need:
– Leftover Balsamic Chicken Meatballs (about 8 of them, give or take a couple)
Pizza Dough (I made my regular recipe x 1.5 – my pizza dough is typically fairly thin, and I knew I’d need a slightly heftier crust to stand up to the weight of the meatballs)
– Pizza sauce (I use jarred marinara sauce, usually)
– Extra meatball glaze (1 T tomato paste, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 1 T olive oil, pinch of salt – whisked together)
– Pickled jalapenos or hot cherry peppers, diced (you can use banana peppers, if you’re not into spicy peppers)
– 8oz mozzarella cheese, grated

1.) Start by making your pizza dough as instructed. When it’s ready to go, roll it out and place onto a rimmed baking sheet that has been misted lightly with olive oil, and preheat your oven to 475°.

2.) Spread a thin coat of your pizza sauce or marinara sauce onto the dough. Slice the meatballs in half (I cut them in half side to side – since the meatballs kind of flatten as they cook, this gives me two flat-ish meatball disks), and evenly place them around the pizza.

3.) Use a basting brush to spread the extra meatball glaze onto the meatball halves without glaze.

4.) Sprinkle your diced hot peppers over the top of the meatballs, and then cover everything with your grated mozzarella.

5.) Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted and browning. Let the pizza stand for a few minutes once you pull it out of the oven, so the cheese can set up, then slice and serve!

I can promise you that this pizza will be making an appearance in my house every single time I make those meatballs from now on. It was SO delicious – and super filling, too. I barely made it through two pieces of the pizza, and that is saying a lot, coming from someone who can typically take down half a large pizza without even blinking (my talents, they are never-ending)! The sweet glaze on the meatballs pairs so nicely with the tiny little pieces of hot pepper, and the gooey, browned cheese just takes the whole thing over the top. Best of all, it uses up leftovers AND requires very little work! Win-win, I say.

Nothing says love like a meatball pizza,
Tina

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Balsamic Roasted Mushroom Pizza

The inspiration for this particular meal came from a trip to South Carolina. This past spring when I visited, Crist and I went to dinner one night, and I ordered the restaurant’s special pizza of the day – a pizza that contained balsamic roasted mushrooms, something I KNEW I couldn’t pass up! I mean, we’re talking about two items that are at the VERY TOP of my favorite foods list – pizza, and balsamic vinegar. It was just as delicious as I imagined it would be, and has since lead to quite a few recreations at home – and will surely lead to many more!

There will be a couple small recipes within this larger recipe, so this post might get a little lengthy… but hang in there, because all of the methods I’ll explain can be used in lots of other dishes!

Balsamic Roasted Mushroom Pizza
makes one medium-sized, thin crust pizza

1 batch pizza dough (see below)
3/4 cup pizza or pasta sauce
balsamic roasted mushrooms (see below)
caramelized onions (from one large yellow onion)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
olive oil

1.) Start by your oven to 475° or 500°, depending on how high your oven will go. Then begin forming your dough. Personally, I don’t use a pizza stone, or a round pizza pan – I just use a jelly roll pan. I mist the pan lightly with my olive oil spritzer, and then stretch my dough to the thickness and size I want.

2.) Next, add your sauce. I like to use just a thin coating, so the pizza isn’t weighed down by too much sauce. I generally end up using whatever pasta sauce I have in the house – I’ve used basic marinara, vodka sauce, garlic and basil, etc etc. Whatever you have on hand is just fine.

3.) Evenly distribute your mushrooms and onions around the pizza (it’s a little messy, but it’s easiest to do this with your hands). Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the toppings.

4.) Cover your toppings with cheese (you grated your own cheese, right??). I prefer to put my toppings under the cheese (unless it’s something I want to get crispy in the oven, like pepperoni – that stuff I’d put on top of the cheese), so that the cheese has a chance to get all nice and brown and bubbly.

5.) Sprinkle your grated parmesan over the top of the pizza. If you have an olive oil spritzer, use it to lightly mist the exposed edges of the crust, as well as the cheese. This will help the edges of your crust crisp and brown, and it’ll help your cheese brown, while keeping it moist.

6.) Pop your pizza into the oven for about 10-12 minutes, keeping a close eye on it. When the crust is brown, and the cheese is browned and bubbly, it’s ready!

7.) Let the pizza rest for a few minutes, so the cheese can firm up a touch. I cut mine with kitchen scissors, because I have yet to find a pizza cutter that a.) works, and b.) doesn’t make me nuts!

Enjoy!

And now, the details on how to make your dough and your mushrooms:

Pizza Dough
recipe from here

This recipe is the best I’ve found in my experimenting over the years. One recipe makes a pizza that is perfect in size for me and my husband, the bottom gets crispy (but the crust edges are still soft inside), and it doesn’t require any funky ingredients or an exceptionally long rise time. Works for me!

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp active dry yeast (make sure you’re not using rapid rise/bread machine yeast)
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup warm water (you want it to be very warm to the touch, but not uncomfortable to put your hand into)

1.) Place flour, salt, and yeast into a bowl, and whisk together.

2.) Add olive oil and water, and mix until a shaggy clump forms.

3.) Dump your dough out onto a lightly floured counter (don’t forget all the little bits at the bottom of the bowl!). Knead your dough until all the ingredients are evenly distributed, and it makes a ball that that is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (A few notes about kneading – first, if your dough is sticking to the counter, just continue lightly flouring the countertop as you go. The flour will incorporate into the dough, and it will soak up the extra moisture that is making it sticky. You want a dough that is a tiny bit sticky, but able to be easily handled – NOT dry. You could also use a mixer with a dough hook to mix your dough, but I generally prefer to do it by hand – I can tell whether my dough is too wet or too dry better by working with it. Also, if you’re totally unfamiliar with kneading, you basically pull the far edge of the dough toward you, kind of folding/smooshing it over itself, and then push the ball away with the heel of your hand. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)

4.) When your dough has come together, spray a bowl with cooking spray, and place the dough into it. Lightly spray the top of the dough ball with cooking spray, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside, in a warm, non-drafty spot, to rise. You want the dough to double in size, which will take 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your house is. (This is where I take a little shortcut, because I really don’t want to wait 2 hours for dough to rise on a weeknight. While I’m mixing my dough, I heat my oven to 150°, which is as low as it goes. As soon as it comes up to temperature, I turn it off. When my dough is ready, I place the bowl into the oven, and shut the door. The slightly warmed oven will help the dough rise a little faster – and being shut inside will eliminate any drafts! With this method, my dough generally takes about 45 minutes to rise properly.)

5.) When your dough has risen, take it out of the bowl, and place it onto a lightly floured countertop. Gently fold it onto itself a couple times to press some of the air out. Form it into a nice ball shape, and leave it on the counter – covered in plastic wrap – for 15-20 minutes, to rest.

6.) After 15 minutes or so, your dough should be ready for stretching! I usually start by thinning out the center of the ball of dough – pressing my thumbs into the middle to spread it out, and pushing the extra dough to the edges. I keep doing this, working farther out from the center, pushing the extra dough outwards, until my dough is almost the size I want it. (Be careful to be gentle with your dough – you don’t want to handle it TOO much and overwork the gluten. If it’s getting tough to work with, stop, cover the dough with plastic wrap or an upside down bowl, and walk away for 5 minutes. The dough should be much more forgiving once it’s had a few minutes to rest.) When it’s almost the size I want, I put it onto my jelly roll pan that I’ve lightly misted with olive oil, and stretch it the rest of the way. If you accidentally tear a hole in it, don’t worry – just smoosh it back together!

7.) When you’re done stretching your dough, top it, bake it, and serve it!

You can use this dough to do all kinds of things – you can make calzones, you can make little pizza pockets, you can make foccacia… there are tons of possibilities!

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms

4 large portabella mushroom caps, stems removed and gills scraped
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 c balsamic vinegar

Please note that this will look like a LOT of mushrooms for one pizza – but it’s not, I promise. Mushrooms cook down a TON, so you’ll be left with about 1/3 the volume of mushrooms that you started with (see photo below).

1.) Start by cleaning your mushrooms. NEVER run your mushrooms under water – they’ll absorb the water, and become tough. Just take a damp paper towel, and lightly wipe them down. Once you’ve done this, you can remove the stem, and scrap the gills out with a spoon. (This part is kind of messy, so do it over a sink!)

2.) Heat a pan over medium heat, and add your olive oil to it. Chop your mushrooms into about a 1/2″ dice, and then add to the pan. Stir everything together, and try to get the mushrooms evenly coated in oil (don’t worry if it looks like some of the mushrooms have sucked up all the oil, and some are really dry – it’ll all even out). DO NOT ADD YOUR SALT AT THIS POINT. Salting the mushrooms too early will make them release their water right away, and they won’t have a chance to get brown. Wait until the mushrooms have a nice brown color to them, and THEN add your salt and pepper.

3.) When your mushrooms are good and brown and have released most of their water, you can add your balsamic vinegar. It will bubble up a bit at first – stir your mushrooms to coat them well, and keep stirring occasionally while the balsamic reduces and coats all the mushrooms.

4.) When there is no liquid left at the bottom of your pan, you’re done! Let the mushrooms cool, and use to top pizzas, salads, in sandwiches, or however you like!

My fingers are tired from all this talking,
Tina