MY CHILDREN LOVE to guess about what I ate while I was pregnant with them and they've formed some very interesting theories... For example, my redheaded daughter thinks I ate lots of tomatoes when I was pregnant, making her hair red. My son Josh thinks I ate lots of meat while he was in my belly because he’s a certified “meat-atarian”. There really isn’t a food my son Jimmy doesn’t like, so of course, I wasn’t very picky about what I ate. Hmmm…they may be onto something.
The truth is, when I was pregnant, I only craved one thing: Pizza. I couldn’t eat enough of it. The crunch of the crust, the tang of the sauce, the salty and hot oooey-gooey cheese. Even cold and straight out of the fridge would suffice. (It may have had something to do with the 60 pounds I gained...)
I still love pizza, pregnant or not. I love to make it from scratch, but since that can be time consuming, I save it for weekends. During the weekdays, though, when that bag of pepperoni seems to be calling my name, I go for the Pizza Salad** (yes, I call it salad. It makes it seem healthier).
The key to this recipe is the bread. I like to use bread with lots of “stuff” in it, like the whole grain loaf that Costco makes. I’ve used Dave’s Killer Bread, too. Use the bread your family likes. The trick is to get it VERY toasted and crunchy in the oven so it can hold up to the other ingredients without getting too soggy. I’ve tried speeding up the process with a toaster, but the results weren’t the same as in the oven. It didn’t get the insides dry and crisp enough. If you’re in a pinch for time, though, go ahead and drop them in the toaster. Everything else is just chopped up and added, which makes this a very quick and easy recipe! It can be a side dish, but my family prefers it as a main dish.
Preheat oven to 350˚. Serves up to 6 hungry people
Place sliced bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown, flip and bake for 10 more. Watch them carefully, they may brown faster depending on the type of bread, how thick it is, and your specific oven.
Let cool and tear into bite sized pieces - a great job for kids to do! It can also be cut into cubes, but I like the rustic look of ripping and it’s so much more fun!
While the bread is in the oven, prep the other ingredients. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, and pepperoni to a large bowl. When the bread has cooled, add it to the salad along with the basil pesto. Stir well, incorporating the pesto evenly. You may need to add more pesto if the salad looks too dry for your taste.
*I like to use fresh mozzarella because it has a better flavor, but low-moisture mozzarella will work nicely because the crusty bread will not soften as quickly. Just use whatever you have on hand. I always have grated mozzarella in the freezer for an impromptu pizza.
**No, I’m not pregnant.