Recipe and photos by Brandon Matzek
Like the sun setting on a crisp October evening, this golden-hued Butternut Squash Pizza is pure autumn. To begin, cubes of butternut squash are roasted in the oven until tender, and then split between two different preparations - a portion is tossed with crushed red pepper flakes; the remainder gets puréed with maple syrup and lemon juice. In addition to the squash, the pizza also gets topped with mozzarella and Gorgonzola cheeses, sliced red onion and chopped fresh sage before being cooked in a screaming hot oven until the cheese bubbles, and the crust turns glossy and golden. Each bite of this pizza varies in sweet and heat with contrasting pops of onion, sage and rich blue cheese.
To make the pizza-making process much easier, I recommend purchasing pizza dough from a local pizzeria. There's no need to make homemade dough when so much love is going into the toppings. Both Bronx Pizza and Pizzeria Luigi sell amazing dough in limited quantities per customer.
Butternut Squash Pizza
2 lbs. peeled and cubed butternut squash (from a 2 1/2 lbs. squash)
3 tbsp. olive oil plus more for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ball of dough
6 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
3 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 of a red onion, peel removed and sliced thin
1 heaping tbsp. chopped fresh sage
Squash Two Ways. Preheat an oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place butternut squash on the baking sheet and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Seasonal well with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake squash until tender and just starting to turn golden in a few spots (35 - 40 minutes). Measure out 1 1/2 cups of cooked butternut squash and place in a small bowl. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, toss to combine and set aside. Place remaining cooked butternut squash in food processor and process until smooth. Add maple syrup and lemon juice, and then pulse a few more times to combine. Season to taste with additional kosher salt.
Assembly Required. Increase oven temperature to 500°F and set an oven rack in the lowest possible position. Lightly cover the inside of a pizza pan or baking sheet with nonstick spray. Stretch pizza dough into a large circle to fit the pizza pan. Lightly drizzle the dough with olive oil, then use your hands to spread the oil around evenly. Sprinkle dough with a small pinch of kosher salt. Top pizza with grated mozzarella cheese and crumbled Gorgonzola. Using a spoon, drop large dollops of butternut squash puree around the pizza (you may choose not to use all of the puree). Scatter cooked butternut squash cubes, red onion slices and chopped sage on top. Finish with a small sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper.
Bake and serve. Transfer the pizza pan to the oven on the lowest rack and cook until the crust is golden brown (be sure to check the bottom of the crust, too) and the cheese is nice and bubbly.