butternut squash and potato pizza

Friday nights are generally pizza nights at my house. D and I come home, straighten the kitchen, put together a pizza (frequently just using whatever leftover odds and ends are in the fridge), and curl up with Netflix.

butternut squash and potato pizza

That was generally the formula when I still lived at home with my mom and sister. We’d stop at Blockbuster or whatever video store to which we didn’t owe a fine, pick up some soda, and either order a pizza or take a Chef Boyardee pizza kit out of the panty. Mom, Alyssa, and I would watch a romantic comedy, cover our slices in parmesan cheese, and eat boxed brownies straight from the pan.

The biggest difference now is that, since pizza night is no longer “just us girls,” the romantic comedy is generally replaced with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a fantasy movie. The boxed brownies have become pints of Ben and Jerry’s. The pizza no longer comes in any sort of box, and the toppings have become more varied. I’ve moved on from being a strict pepperoni lover to embracing the presence of green things, fancier meats, and root vegetables on pizza.

This pizza feels like winter. The roasted, starchy veggies go so well with the melted cheese. A thin, crisp crust is the perfect vehicle for this marriage of sweet and salty. It was particularly exciting for me to make because I used butternut squash I grew in my garden, and olive oil and herbs that D brought back from a Paris business trip. (I came home to a Provence-themed package on the table: olive oil and herbs, plus regional wine and artisan soap.)

butternut squash and potato pizza

Butternut Squash and Potato Pizza
Note: Make the whole pizza crust recipe, and make it stretch for two people by dividing it into 4!
Serves 2.

You will need:
1/4 pizza dough recipe
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4 (or so) small red potatoes, sliced into coins
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3 oz. pancetta or prosciutto, shaved super-thin
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Herbs de provence or Italian seasoning

Prepare pizza dough. When it’s about half an hour from being ready to spread out, proceed.

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss butternut squash and potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs until they are well coated. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast until tender and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Bump oven up to 500 degrees.

Spread pizza crust onto your favorite pizza pan.Drizzle pizza crust with olive oil. Spread cheese onto crust. Scatter roasted squash and potatoes on top of the cheese. Lay pancetta or prosciutto on top of the vegetables– the thin pancetta will cook in the oven.

Bake pizza until crust is golden brown, cheese is melted, and prosciutto/ pancetta is nice and crisp, about 15 minutes. If desired, drizzle with more olive oil before serving.

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pizza with leeks, brussels sprouts, and speck

I don’t have a photo of the finished product, because we ate it all.

speck, brussels sprout, and leek pizza

This pizza was born out of a trip to California that D and I took over the summer. We spent a couple of days in San Francisco with good friends (who are getting married oh-so-soon!) and dragged them to a farmer’s market, determined to prove to them that cooking was easy. What we proved, instead, was that our eyes and intentions were bigger than our stomachs, as we lugged several onions, tomatoes, avocados, tortillas, fish, shrimp, and assorted foodstuffs back to their apartment.

When D and I left the next morning for Humboldt Redwoods State Park, we took some of the leftover veggies with us, including several strips of bacon, a bag of Brussels sprouts, and a tiny wedge of parmesan cheese. We rode for several hours along a beach so foggy we could barely see around the sharp curves. We stopped several times for coffee to warm our chilled bones. We joked about how cold and wet we were, about what an odyssey we were on. I listened to a Harry Potter book in my helmet while D made sure we didn’t drive off the cliffs and into the ocean. That night, freezing from rain and armed with a small bottle of liquor, we made pasta with bacon, Brussels sprouts, and parmesan on the little camping stove in our tent. We ate it straight out of the pan, snuggled close and giggling with exhaustion and accomplishment.

Brussels sprout and bacon pasta

 

{ brussels sprout and bacon pasta, made in a tent and eaten from the skillet }

We still had sprouts left over, so the next night we used them with the last of the bacon and some smoked salmon to make an even more delicious version of the same pasta. I think once we even splashed a little beer into the pan to deglaze and make a simple brown sauce. The smoked salmon was an inspired touch, and had we not eaten it all, I feel it would have made an interesting addition to this pizza. We used the rest of the smoked salmon the next day, on bagels with cream cheese, but it really shined with the Brussels sprouts.

When we got home, we had a small love affair with Brussels sprouts. Although they were woefully our of season, we bought bag after netted bag of them. We deep-fried them and dipped them in a soy reduction. We roasted them and tossed them with garlic and olive oil. And we put them on pizza nearly every night. Now that Brussels sprout season is almost upon us– we put our little sprouting sprout plants in the ground only this weekend– it feels like the time to share this pizza with you.

leek, brussels sprout, and speck pizza, uncooked

Pizza with Leeks, Brussels Sprouts, and Speck
Note: I’ve discovered a secret. I can get a super-thin pizza crust, perfect for serving two people, by making a standard “This will make two pizzas” pizza crust recipe, dividing it into 4 after it rises, and rolling it out really thin. Try it!

You will need:
1 pizza crust (or 1/2 pizza crust, if you want a crispier crust)
6 oz. shredded mozzarella
Brussels sprouts, chopped/ shaved with a mandoline/ sliced thin
1 leek, sliced thin
3 oz. speck or prosciutto
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

I got the best results when I softened the vegetables a little first, but feel free to put them on the pizza raw.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Roll out pizza onto your pizza pan, cookie sheet, or sheet pan. I always use an old 13 x 9 cookie sheet.

Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and leeks, and cook until just tender.

Spread pizza crust with olive oil, and salt lightly. Spread cheese in an even layer. Add Brussels sprouts and leeks. Drape speck over the pizza (it will crisp as the pizza cooks, and then be divine). Cook for about 15 minutes, or until speck is crispy, crust is golden, and veggies are caramelized. Serve immediately.

roasted summer vegetable pizza

Necessity is the mother of invention.

For example, I really needed to use the zucchini I bought at the farmer’s market the week before, as it was slowly turning to mush on my counter. I needed to take advantage of the incredible bargain-basement price of the red peppers at my local grocery store. And, as always, I needed pizza.

I also really needed to experiment with the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method of making bread and a whole host of other baked goodies. So far, my results from this method are pretty stellar. I’ve only made things from the white base dough, but I’m getting ready to experiment with the wheat base. You should read the article, but the basic premise is that you mix up a batch of dough in a big bowl, leave it on the counter for a couple hours, then refrigerate the whole thing for up to two weeks. When you’re ready for your next baking adventure, you take a knife and lop a hunk off the ball of dough in the fridge and make whatever you want– attractive round loaves with scalloped tops, cinnamon rolls, and even pizza dough.

If you’re not too excited about keeping a couple pounds of wet dough in your fridge for weeks at a time, don’t be discouraged! There is no reason this delicious pizza needs to be made with anything other than whatever dough you usually use. But so far, I’m finding my cold stash of yeasty goodness to be an excellent time-saver (and I’m adding padding for the winter, which is just a bonus).

Roasted Summer Vegetable Pizza
Makes 1 pizza
Crust adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day via Mother Earth News

You will need:
1 lb. pizza dough, or whatever pizza dough you usually use

Topping:
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 zucchini, julienned
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Sauce:
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
t tbsp. tomato paste
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Let the dough rest and come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 450. In a baking pan, toss red pepper, tomatoes, onion, zucchini, and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread into one layer and roast about 20 minutes. When tender and caramelized, remove from oven but leave oven on (now we’re making pizza).

Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Spread pizza dough out on a pizza pan to desired thickness. Top with sauce, using a spoon to spread sauce close to the outer edges. Top sauce with cheese, and top cheese with roasted vegetables (including the garlic– roasted garlic is so good!). Bake in the oven about ten minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is blistered. Let stand a couple minutes (or, you know, don’t), and serve.

italian meat and asparagus pizza

Asparagus and I are on a roll lately. Every time I head into the grocery store, bundles of asparagus are neatly tied up in ice baths, on sale, waiting to be taken home. They’re like small green stalk-y puppies, begging me to cook them. I can’t help but oblige.

I’ve put asparagus in risotto, served it over pasta, and alongside roast chicken. I wanted to do something nontraditional with my new love, though, so I channeled my favorite pizza parlor and thought outside the box. Asparagus on pizza? Who’d have thought. (Mom, you can stop reading now.)

I once had a pizza topped with bacon, jalapenos, and asparagus, and it was maybe the best and most interesting pizza I’ve ever tasted. That and a crispy crust and simple sauce, and lots of parmesan cheese, made me a happy pizza camper. Pioneer Woman’s trusty pizza crust recipe at my side, and I set out to replicate this tiny piece of asparagus heaven. Trust me, be adventurous and enjoy. (Also, Eric? You were totally right about the perfect pizza sauce: crushed tomatoes only.)

Italian Meat and Asparagus Pizza
Serves 2

You will need:
1/2 recipe Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
Various italian meats (I used deli pepperoni, a spicy salami, and some leftover prosciutto. Use enough to make one layer on top of the cheese.)
8 spears asparagus, roasted and cut into 2″ lengths
Sliced fresh jalapeño (optional)

Prepare pizza crust according to directions.

Preheat oven to 450. Using half the dough, spread evenly onto a 15 x 10 baking sheet. Spread olive oil over crust; top with crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Top with cheese, in an even layer. Lay sliced meats over mozzarella, in an even layer. Top meats with asparagus and jalapeño slices.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown, cheese is melted, and jalapeños are cooked through. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.

focaccia pizza

I have Papa John’s on speed dial. Their store is a mere two blocks from my house, so I can even avoid the tip and delivery fee by sending my boyfriend to pick it up. I’ll be honest; at times, there is more than one Papa John’s box waiting to be recycled at my home. When the house is a mess, the cats won’t stop yowling, my partner is working late, and work just sucked, all I want is pizza.

Pizza’s been my comfort food for a long time. When I was little, the Totino’s party pizzas were a freezer staple. As I got older, I made the homemade Chef Boyardee pizza kits every few weeks. In college, my roommate and I ordered Papa John’s about once a week, and any time either of us had a paper due, a bad exam, a fight with a friend, or a breakup. More recently, I make pretty much every pizza that Pioneer Woman posts (they’re all good). Pizza is the go-to.

Focaccia pizza isn’t as easy as dialing Papa John’s, but it’s a lot easier than making a dough, letting it rise, and teasing it out. It’s basically a two-step process (make sauce, then make pizza), and it feeds the need for carbs and cheese quite nicely.

Focaccia Pizza
Serves 2 generously, 4-6 as an appetizer

You will need:
1 loaf focaccia bread
Olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes (I recommend Hunt’s or Miur Glen, or you can use jarred pizza or marinara sauce)
I clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Mozzarella, shredded
Toppings of your choice

Preheat the oven to 450. Slice the loaf of focaccia in half lengthwise and brush with olive oil. Toast the bread briefly in the oven, without letting it get too brown.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the can of tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Reduce at least ten minutes.

Top focaccia with sauce, shredded mozzarella, and toppings of your choice. Bake for 5-10 minutes (cooking times will vary according to your cheese and how long you toasted your bread previously) or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

roasted fall vegetable pizza

I’ve made this pizza before.

It was when Handsome and I first moved in together, about three years ago. We were watching Everyday Food on PBS and I thought this roasted veggie and ricotta pizza sounded really sweet. So I transcribed the recipe from the show, went to the store, made the pizza, and Handsome and I had a homemade meal that night!

I hated it.

The vegetables tasted weird with the ricotta to me, and what was all that onion doing there? I missed tomato sauce, and was not a butternut squash fan. It was just too much…. Just goes to show how much my palate has expanded in the past few years, because when I gave this pizza a second try, I couldn’t get enough.

It’s the perfect pizza for cooler weather (which, I realize, is now on its way out). The butternut squash is sweet and tender, the potatoes and carrots taste soft and familiar, and the rosemary is warm and comforting. The pillows of ricotta dolloped around the vegetables melt in your mouth and provide a nice contrast to the crisp crust and the roasted vegetables. It makes your kitchen smell amazing, and it’s a great make-ahead dish: prepare the crust a day (or 3) before, and let it rise in the fridge. Roast the veggies the day before, storing them in the fridge as well. When you’re ready for pizza, just preheat the oven and allow yourself ten minutes of assembly.

I did make some tweaks. In the original recipe, Martha uses a pretty large crust (12″ x 16″), which supports more vegetables. I used a 13″ x 9″ cookie sheet for the crust (and a half recipe of Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust, which is now my go-to pizza crust recipe), so even when halving Martha’s recipe for Roasted Fall Vegetables, I had too many.  Rather than overload the pizza, which would have resulted in a soggy crust and a disappointed me, I evenly distributed the vegetables I could, along with the mozzarella and ricotta, and just saved the leftovers. The measurements given here are my approximations of how much I actually used, and don’t include the leftover vegetables.

Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

You will need:
1 pizza crust (I used a half recipe of Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded
6 oz. ricotta cheese (in this instance, do not substitute cottage cheese, as it is too runny)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt and black pepper

Roasted vegetables:
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if thick, and cut into 1.5″ strips
4 red new potatoes, quartered
1/4 red onion (quarter one onion, and just separate the layers of one quarter. Use more if you like.)
1/2 butternut squash (I used approximately one pound), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/5″ chunks
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 475. Arrange vegetables in one layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat veggies in oil. Roast 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until vegetables are tender.

Oil pizza pan (I used a 13″ x 9″ baking sheet) and spread crust onto it. Spread half mozzarella cheese onto crust. Top with roasted veggies, spread as evenly as possible. Dollop ricotta onto vegetables and top with remaining mozzarella. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and mozzarella is melted.

Weeknight Pizza

Life as a recent college grad is quite different than life as a student. I wake up, make some coffee, and start my laptop. I spend some time catching up on my favorite blogs, updating Facebook, and making plans with Donald. I head to work around noon, and don’t get home until late evening. When I was a student, I felt guilty about whatever time I took to myself, time I “wasted.” As an employed person, however, I am free to clock out, come home, and not worry about work  until the next time I clock in. This lifestyle change sure is nice, but cooking is no longer a procrastination tool for me, and has instead become something I don’t have time to do. Rather, it’s something I’ve chosen not to make the time to do, as I am exhausted and it’s just easier to pick up a frozen pizza or get take-out than to whip up something homemade. Homemade sounds so exhausting after spending all day on my feet.

I love recipes that I have memorized so I can complete them without opening a book or consulting the internet and know that they will come out absolutely perfect. I enjoy the rhythm, the expectation that things will turn out well, the predictability of a familiar recipe. Maybe that’s why I like to bake; if one measures properly and follows directions, the dish will come out well. It’s supposed to. I like “supposed to.”

Homemade pizza crust, I recently realized, is now one of those recipes that I can throw together without thinking. It has the added bonus of being something I can do when Handsome isn’t home, and that’s ready when he and I get home. I can whisk flour and salt in a bowl, sprinkle yeast onto warm water, and then mix the yeast water with the flour and some olive oil, cover it for a few hours, and know that I will have a thin, flavorful but subtle pizza crust. Actually, I will have two, which makes dinner decisions easier in a few days. This recipe only gets better with a few days in the fridge.

My pizza sauce recipe is not there yet. I don’t have a go-to pizza sauce recipe yet, and the one posted below is not “the one.” It was tasty, and a little spicy, but I’m not feeling it long-term. Still, that gives me another project: find The Pizza Sauce Recipe. Make it a zillion times. Make it in my sleep. I’m a goal person, a project person. This is a good, attainable goal.

Homemade pizza sounds like a time-consuming project for a weeknight, but trust me. It isn’t. If you have ten minutes the night before, make the dough, cover it, and put it in the fridge. The next night, all you have to do is take it out, make some sauce (or use some out of a jar), grate some cheese (or use some out of a bag, even though it isn’t as good), and top with whatever you have on hand. Or have cheese pizza, and maybe a salad. (I never have a salad. I should.) The crust recipe makes enough for two 13 x 9″ pizzas, but go ahead and make the full recipe; either plan to use the other half in a few days, or freeze it until you’re ready. This is so much better than the refrigerated stuff, trust me.

Homemade Pizza

Pizza Crust
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman via Tasty Kitchen
Makes two 13 x 9″ pizza crusts

1 1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil, plus 1-2 tbsp. for drizzling

Pour water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water; there is no need to mix. Let stand at least 5 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in a large bowl.

When 5 minutes has passed, drizzle olive oil into flour mixture and use a whisk to mix well, until all oil is absorbed. While mixing, drizzle in the water and yeast mixture. Mix well, until flour and water are homogeneous.

Place ball of dough into a clean bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Turn dough so it is coated in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, dry place at least 1 hour if using the same day, or in the fridge at least 24 hours if using the next day. Dough gets better with age.

Pizza Sauce
Adapted from Nick Stellino via RecipeZaar
Makes enough sauce for 1 pizza, with a little extra. Enough for two pizzas if you apply with a light hand.

1 c. tomato sauce (all of one 8 oz. can)
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
Dash red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients in a bowl; use a whisk if the tomato paste is not mixing easily. Set aside.

The Pizza
1/2 recipe Pizza Dough
1 recipe Pizza Sauce (you may have some left over)
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded or sliced
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
20 small slices pepperoni
Other toppings as desired

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Grease a 13 x 9 cookie sheet with cooking spray or with olive oil. Spread pizza dough with fingers until it reaches all sides.

Spread sauce, leaving a 1/2″ gap for crust. Top with grated cheeses, except parmesan. Top with pepperoni and other toppings. Finish with grated parmesan.

Bake 7-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let rest 3-5 minutes before slicing.