Usually, pumpkin and pizza aren’t seen as natural duo partners, but I’m going to attempt to persuade you that they should play together more regularly. I’ve spent the last few weeks experimenting with different ways to layer pumpkin and other fall flavors on a flaky pastry crust. I wanted a pizza that tasted strongly of pumpkin, with warm spices and a hint of sweetness, but was also definitely savory enough to eat for dinner.
1. Roasted Pumpkin for Optimal Flavor
First things first: the pumpkins you turn into Jack-o’-Lanterns are not really pumpkins. They shouldn’t be counted on as a meal. They lack flavor and are stringy and wet. In most cases, a smaller, denser pumpkin with a stronger taste is what you’ll want to use when cooking with pumpkin. The pumpkin taste of sugar pumpkins and the similarly related kabocha squash (also labeled as “Japanese pumpkin”) is significantly more powerful, and the flesh doesn’t turn stringy when cooked.
Roasting pumpkin slowly brings out its rich taste, much as it does with sweet potatoes and other squashes. Besides promoting browning and caramelization, which transforms complex sugars into simpler, sweeter sugars, this also enhances sweetness in a different way. You see, when pumpkins are kept in their natural, unprocessed condition, they contain a lot of tasteless carbohydrates. Starch in their cells may be converted into sugars by enzymes. Pumpkins get more delicious when their enzymes activate during gradual heating and then deactivate as the pumpkin cools.
To prepare my pumpkins, I cut them into quarters, sprinkle them in olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, then bake them at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) until they are soft (for this recipe, I roast three out of four quarters, reserving the fourth for later on). The tender, sugary flesh should then be easy to remove with a spoon.
I experimented with puréeing the roasted squash flesh with olive oil and using it as a pizza sauce, as well as chopping it into chunky bits and placing it on top of the pizza.
Making a rough mash was the best way to attain a balance of pumpkin taste and unusual texture. I used a whisk to break down the pumpkin and then added olive oil, a touch of honey for sweetness, and some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
2. Sauteing Pumpkin for Texture
While pumpkin in any form is delicious, having access to two distinct pumpkin varieties is ideal. Pumpkin chunks were cooked well in butter, and I decided to test adding chopped sage leaves. When compared to roasted pumpkin, the flavor of the sautéed variety just couldn’t hold its own.
Exactly what is needed to fix this? Throw in a few apple slices. Sautéed together, the apple and pumpkin bring out the best in each other’s flavors without dominating the other with their own.
3. Assembling It All
Assembling things is where the real fun begins. The fact that the pie would be white and devoid of tomatoes was obvious to me right away. It would be counterproductive to overwhelm the pumpkin’s natural sweetness with an abundance of other ingredients.
The cheeses worked beautifully together. I started with shredded Gruyère and topped it with fresh mozzarella, mozzarella balls, and grated Parmesan. Rough spoonfuls of mashed pumpkin were added, followed by the sautéed pumpkin, and the dish was finished with olive oil, salt, and broken sage leaves.
I heated the broiler and placed the baking steel under the heat for a few minutes until the meat was browned. It’s delicious beyond belief. When combined with the cheese, the mashed pumpkin becomes gooey and melty, yet the edges become crunchy and craggy. All that’s needed for a finishing touch after baking is some thinly sliced scallions.
- 1 pound of pizza dough, either handmade or purchased, rolled into two 8-ounce balls
- Cut a small kabocha squash or sweet pumpkin in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
- Extra-virgin olive oil, 5 teaspoons
- Black pepper with kosher salt
- 1 cup water 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon of powdered cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
- Butter, unsalted, 2 tablespoons
- Dice 2 baking apples, such as Golden Delicious, to 1/2-inch size.
- The fresh sage leaves are split into two portions: two tablespoons of chopped leaves and one-fourth cup of broken leaves.
- Sugar for sprinkling or dusting
- Shredded Gruyère cheese, 8 ounces
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, 6 ounces
- grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2 ounces
- Thinly slice 2 onions, just using the white and light green sections.
- Wrap each ball of pizza dough in plastic and place it in an oiled basin. Ignore it for the time being.
2. Put the oven rack in the middle and turn the heat up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius). Coat three pumpkin quarters in olive oil by tossing them with your hands and a spoonful of the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the flesh around the stem offers no resistance, in a cast-iron pan or on a rimmed baking sheet coated with foil. Take it out of the oven and wait until it’s safe to touch.
3. In a big dish, remove the pumpkin flesh by scraping it out. Bring 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the mix along with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk the ingredients together until a rough purée is produced. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cut the remaining quarter of the pumpkin into 1/2-inch cubes while the pumpkins roast. Stir the butter as it melts over high heat in a large pan until the foaming stops. Put in the diced pumpkin and apple and heat for approximately 10 minutes, twisting and stirring regularly until cooked and browned on most sides. Muddle in some minced sage and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in a dish and put aside.
5. When everything for the pizza has been prepared, put baking steel or pizza stone on the top oven rack and turn on the broiler. Turn on the highest possible temperature in the oven. The recommended preheating time is 30 minutes.
6. Roll out a single pizza dough ball and coat it with flour. Move on a floured wooden pizza peel and stretch or roll into a thin round. Layer half of the shredded Gruyère cheese on top, followed by half of the mozzarella in globs, and finally a dusting of Parmesan. Around the cheese, add rough globs of pumpkin purée. Toss in a third of the sautéed pumpkin and apple. Add some sage leaves and scallion whites that have been pulled off. Apply a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place pizza on baking steel and broil it for a few minutes. In a preheated 400°F oven, turn the potatoes every 2 minutes for 4 minutes, or until they are puffed and browned on the sides. Take out of oven and top with half of the scallions. Use the leftover dough and toppings in a second round.
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