roasted butternut pizza with arugula and walnut-garlic pesto


Oh, pizza. Pizza is a what we all have in common, isn't it? If you need to feed a large gathering of people, chances are pizza is not only a safe but sensible choice. Pizza, for the ways we all know and love it, can't be improved upon.

But enter the butternut squash. Now, I get it. Butternut who? But there's no squash on traditional pizza? You're right, there isn't. But my goal with this flavor combination was to completely stray from traditional. Because it's already so good, why not take it on a completely opposite spin? Ditch the classic tomato sauce for a toasted walnut and garlic pesto, why not skip the cheese (I know) in lieu of some sweet, creamy roasted squash and top with some arugula and lemon juice for a little bite and freshness?

I can't think of one good reason why not. Especially since I also made a traditional pie, just to make sure we celebrated the best of both worlds: I've got time for customary anddd crazy.

For this recipe you'll need:

For the dough (makes 2 medium pies):

1 1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup semolina flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm (but not hot) water
1 teaspoon olive oil

For the toppings:

2 large cloves of garlic
1 cup of walnuts, toasted
1/2 of a medium butternut squash, thinly sliced
2-3 cups fresh arugula
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Begin by getting your squash started. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice as thin as you prefer (thinner slices = faster cook time) and toss with paprika, cumin, olive oil and salt and pepper until evenly coated. Place in a single layer on a large baking sheet (line with foil first for easy clean up) and roast for about 20-30 minutes, rotating halfway through.

On a separate sheet pan, lay your walnuts in a single layer and toast for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from the sheet immediately after taking them out of the oven and set aside.

While you wait for your squash, it's the perfect time to get started on your dough. In a large, wide bowl, add both your flours and salt and make well in the center. In a small bowl, add your yeast to the lukewarm water and gently whisk together. Set this aside for about five minutes (or when the mixture starts to look foamy) then pour into the well along with your olive oil.

Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. When this gets difficult, transfer the dough to a clean, well-floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes or until your dough comes together. You don't want to overwork it, but this dough is (taken from Jamie Oliver so): "dead simple" so it would be pretty tough to mess it up too bad.

Once you've got it kneaded to correct consistency (think springy), place is a lightly greased bowl (olive oil works for this, too) and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm spot (perhaps even the oven, but only once it's off/cooled down a bit!) and let rise for about 45 minutes, or doubled in size.

When your squash can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from the oven and set aside. You don't have to worry about keeping it warm since it'll just be going back in the oven once your dough is ready to go.

While you're waiting, in a food processor using the S-blade, pulse together your walnuts, garlic, about a teaspoon and a half of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. You want this mixture to be spreadable but not liquified, so pulse about 10-15 times or until it resembles a coarse paste. In another large bowl, toss together your arugula with the lemon juice.

Wow, I'm just now realizing that this is totally not a weeknight recipe. So much prep. So many moving parts. But all coming together for a totally-worth-it moment.

When your dough is just about done rising, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Roll out your dough on a well floured surface then transfer your ready dough onto your pizza peel. (It's best to sprinkle your peel with a bit of cornmeal in order to make the transfer easier; insider trick, a bit of dry quinoa will also work in a pinch.) Spread a generous amount of pesto on your ready dough, but work quickly: the super elastic dough is perfect for pizza but quickly absorbs any liquid making it sticky and harder to work with/transfer into the oven. Top with some squash and quickly transfer to your oven/stone in one swift, professional movement. Or, you know, frantically as you attempt to not lose your dough to unworkable stickiness and/or burn the shit out your hands on the hotass oven.

And now we wait. Not long, thankfully, since said hotass oven will take care of cooking time in about 8-10 minutes. Try to resist the urge to check it too often, as opening the oven door and taking a peek results in losing that precious heat that is making this whole magical process possible.

After 10 minutes, peer in quickly to see if the crust has started to brown around the edges. If so, great. Open the oven further and give the edge of the crust a quick tap. Does it feel firm? Does it bounce back? If so, remove from the oven because this pizza is DONE. If it looks a little too pale or feels a little too soft or doesn't bounce back right away, keep waiting in 1-minute intervals or until the desired consistency is achieved.

Top with your dressed arugula, slice and serve. And never look at pizza the same way again. Just kidding, you probably will, but this is definitely a good fall-back situation for when you are out of tomato sauce or someone ate the last of the cheese (we all know who we can blame that situation on).