Weeknight hunger and exhaustion have lead to too many post-work meals of boxed mac n cheese. Especially after Isobel was born it was really tough for me to get anything resembling a healthy dinner from scratch together. Isobel is older now but I’m as busy and as tired as ever I’m resigned to the fact.
Sometimes dinner just needs to be very, very easy, or a blue box and some freakishly orange noodles are in my future.
Instead of trying to put a from-scratch dinner on the table every night I’m going to look for tastier, healthier things that can be put together quickly and somewhat inexpensively by raiding the pantry.
Does anyone here, by any chance, like pizza?
Far be it from me to turn away melted cheese spread over some sort of bread, but this pizza doesn’t just taste good: it’s healthy. It’s quick. And it’s cheap.
When I was growing up my mom used to make us “homemade” pizza with store bought crust. I never liked the crust and to this day think it tastes like very old, cottony breadsticks with a slightly metallic aftertaste. This recipe for quick, healthy pizza caught my eye when I was thumbing through Nigella Express to make her Mushroom and Bacon Pot Pies. You see, this recipe uses naan bread in place of store-bought pizza crust – a significant in improvement.
Store bought naan costs about $2.30 for me here in California, and considering what a fast food meal would cost, I think that’s a sound investment as you are actually getting some nutrition in naan pizza whereas you’re not getting much nutrition at the drive-though. If you want to be extra virtuous you can get the whole-grain variety. My grocery store offers both.
Other ingredients Nigella suggest are fontina cheese, some delicious tomato sauce, fresh thyme, and jarred marinated mushrooms.
Fontina cheese is delicious but not the least expensive option. Once when Anthony and I wanted our pizza but needed to save money we used a combination of mozzarella and aged Parmesan and it was FANTASTIC. Better, in my opinion.
Now I had never had jarred marinated mushrooms before. It’s not really a commonly used ingredient here so I had to search for it. (Hint: it’s near the pickles.) I really liked them but they weren’t the cheapest item either. Basically, Nigella is not the best resource when you’re trying to feed yourself cheaply. But it’s a great starting point for inspiration.
Fresh thyme is not particularly cheap, but, if you have a pot of it growing on your porch or windowsill, it’s quite affordable. Luckily, I do.
Nigella’s version is good. Very good. I’d willingly eat it once a week, in fact.
But the cheaper version my husband and I came up with? Even better. I sadly didn’t take photos of it because we were scarfing it down like gluttons. Isobel was our little glutton baby, chewing on the crust like it was a rib bone.
The cheaper version relies on Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese fresh mushrooms and spinach. The first couple times I made this I put it on a tray with foil, but I do not recommend that at all. Anthony made this for me one night and didn’t bother with the foil and the bottom got all crispity and delicious like a fancy thin-crust pizza. Also, don’t go heavy on the cheese—it will make it gooey and soft. (Unless you like gooey and soft!) You can always add more cheese later.
The mushrooms were excellent fresh and thinly sliced and we tossed a couple of spinach leaves from the salad on top and the whole thing was just divine. We also used a tomato-mushroom sauce this time and it was way better than the tomato-basil sauce I used before.
Part of what makes this dish affordable is that it can serve to help you use up the little bits and pieces you have floating around in your fridge or pantry so it shares the expense with another meal. Each naan makes enough to serve one person, but helpfully they come in packages of two.
These pizzas are endlessly flexible and have all sorts of options for toppings.
ON THE PROTIEN FRONT:
Anything you’d normally order on a pizza is fair game. As if you need me to tell you to put pepperoni on pizza!
- leftover cooked chicken – add shredded chicken when you spread on the sauce
- chorizo or other sausage – cooked it if not cured
- cured meats: pepperoni, salami, or prosciutto
- tinned or jarred fish: smoked salmon, anchovies, sardines
- bacon – need I even mention bacon? Isn’t that just a given?
FROM THE FRIDGE: FRESH VEGGIES
Slice very thinly. The point will be to roast all the water out of them. The flavors will concentrate deliciously. You can give fresh veg a quick coat in the tomato sauce or in olive oil if you’re worried about it burning but that hasn’t been an issue for me.
- yellow squash and zucchini
- leeks, scallions, or red onions
- thin rings of red and green bell pepper
THINGS IN JARS: YUM
Also slice these guys thinly so as not sog up the naan.
- Marinated artichoke hearts – two can play at this game, mushrooms. I’d slice them small.
- Assorted olives – nom
- Roasted garlic paste
- Pimentos (roasted red peppers)
- jarred onion conserve
Other delightful additions
If it sounds good to you, it probably is.
- fresh sprigs of basil
- oil-packed, sundried tomatoes
- goat cheese
Naan pizza isn’t nearly as good as making your own pizza dough from scratch, but when you’re exhausted and need dinner now? It’s better than boxed mac ‘n cheese, I can tell you that.