So, question. What makes a pizza a pizza? Seriously…write me and let me know what you think. Give me examples. Convince me.
I’m honestly not sure which combination of ingredients from all the foods we Americans call pizza is absolutely necessary to justify naming your dish pizza. The Italians are probably indignant when they see how we’ve altered their original concept. I think when most people try to define pizza, their answer goes something like: “It has tomato sauce? Oh no, because a white pizza has no sauce… Um…cheese? Toppings on a crust?… I don’t know, but I just know a pizza when I see one.”
I think this dish could only be called a pizza if you subscribe to the toppings-on-a-crust definition of pizza, but either way, it is delicious!
This flatbread “pizza” will satisfy vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike: it’s hearty, low-fat, colorful, and full of wonderful fall squash, mmm!
You can buy prepared pizza dough in the store, but I recommend making your own if you have the time; it’s not as difficult as you may think, and it will taste way better!
I used the same basic pizza crust recipe from my Veggie and Fontina Pizza (click to find pictures of the process), except that I used entirely unbleached white whole wheat flour from King Arthur. White wheat flour is absolutely my new favorite, because it has a taste and consistency similar to white flour, but it has the nutritional benefits of whole grains. I am going to try to incorporate it into all of my bread recipes in the future. For this pizza, which has a larger amount of toppings, I also multiplied the recipe by 1½ to have a thicker, more sturdy crust.
The toppings for this pizza are very easy to make. Start by peeling 2 small butternut squash. This is, honestly, the hardest part. If you have never peeled a butternut squash, lemme just say that it’s a labor of love. The skin is very thick and tough, and the squash underneath is almost like a rock before you roast it. My wrist was a bit sore once I finished peeling my squash…but the freshness was worth it. If you are short on time or patience, you could also buy about 2½ lbs. of pre-cut squash in your produce aisle.
Cut the squash into small chunks, about ½–¾″ square. If you look closely at my picture, you will see that the size of my chunks varied quite a bit, but the main point is to get them a bit smaller than bite-size so they will stay atop the pizza.
Roast the squash on a foil-lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 400°, turning halfway so the cubes will roast evenly and retain their bright orange color. If you are making your own crust, you can wait until the second rise to roast the squash.
Slice the red onions thinly in half moons and sauté in 2 tbsp. olive oil, stirring regularly, until the onions begin to brown. Add in 2 tbsp. of water and continue to cook the onions until they are brown and soft, and the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
Heat the oven to 500°. Sprinkle two 10″x15″ rimmed cookie with corn meal. Uncover the two risen balls of pizza dough. Either roll or press each into a large rectangle the same approximate size as the cookie sheets. I found that a combination of first rolling and then pressing was necessary to get the crusts out to the right size and shape. Transfer the crusts to the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop up the baby spinach and crumble the chèvre. Harvest several sprigs of fresh thyme by pulling the leaves off the branches. I, personally, love fresh thyme, so I kept going until I had about 2 tbsp. of leaves.
When the crusts are done with their initial bake, remove them from the oven and assemble the pizza toppings. I always start with a small amount of cheese to help glue the toppings to the crust in the absence of sauce. Then divide the spinach between the two crusts…don’t worry, it will cook down! It looks like a mountain of spinach now, but I promise that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Distribute the onions evenly over the spinach. Drop another small amount of cheese over the onions, and then cover the pizzas with the roasted squash cubes. Finish with the last of the cheese and as much thyme as you’d like.
This pizza is just as good leftover as it is the first time, just warm it up in the oven so the crust stays firm.
Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Pizza
adapted from Epicurious
1½ recipe Light Wheat Pizza Crust
2 1½lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 medium red onions, halved and sliced thinly in half-moons
2 tbsp. water
8 oz. baby spinach
10 oz. goat cheese
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Prepare the pizza crust as directed. Divide in half to make two crusts.
At the beginning of the second rise, preheat oven to 400°.
Toss the cubed butternut squash with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Transfer to two foil-lined cookie sheets and roast for 30 minutes, turning the squash halfway through. Remove from the oven and set the foil sheets on the counter to cool.
Meanwhile, sauté the onions in the remaining oil, stirring regularly to prevent burning. When they are beginning to brown, add the water and cook another 2–3 minutes, or until the onions are browned and very soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
When the crusts have finished rising, heat the oven to 500°. Roll or press each ball of dough into a large rectangle, about 10″x15″. Sprinkle the cookie sheets used for roasting the squash with cornmeal. Transfer the rolled out crusts to the cookie sheets and bake for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop up the spinach and crumble the goat cheese.
Remove the crusts from the oven and assemble the toppings, using very small amounts of goat cheese as glue between the layers. Start with spinach, then onion, then butternut squash. The pizza will be very tall at this point. Top with the remaining cheese and the thyme.
Lower the oven temperature to 425°. Bake the pizzas for 15 minutes, until the goat cheese atop the pizza begins to brown at the edges.
Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
*Note: Store-bought pizza dough may be substituted for home-made, but do not exchange the dough for a pre-baked crust.