A Daily Dinner: Butternut Squash Pizza with Arugula

Butternut Squash Pizza with Arugula and Cheddar

Pizza is not only delicious in New York City; it’s also readily available. Some of the best shops in the entire city—John’s, Keste, Joe’s, and Bleecker Street Pizza—are within a one-block radius of our apartment, meaning that there’s not a huge incentive for us to make our own pies.

Regardless, we’ve been doing just that.

Butternut squash, cheddar cheese, thyme, arugula and red onion for pizzas

While I don’t make the dough at home, I think I’ve mastered the topping-to-dough ratio and the perfect art of that crispy, crackling crust. Making pizza at home is fast and happens to be a great way to use seasonal ingredients, especially those that are about to rot in the crisper, as we’ve discovered.

Before I started making pies at home, I wanted to make sure that I could replicate that shattering crust that so many of the best shops in the city have. We don’t have a pizza oven, or even a pizza stone, but with a baking sheet and a bit of experimentation, I found a method that works.

Butternut Squash Pizza with Red Onion, Pre-Baking

First, I preheat an inverted baking sheet in a 500 degree oven for upwards of 30 minutes, or however long it takes me to prepared my toppings.

Once I’m ready to build the pizza, we (very carefully) pull the baking sheet out of the oven and make the pizza right on the hot baking sheet. Then, I’ll typically bake the pizza for about 5-10 minutes.

This particular pizza was a little different, since butternut squash takes longer to cook. I preheated my pan as normal, but rather than baking the pizza at 500 degrees, I turned the oven down to 450 degrees and cooked the pizza for a bit longer.

Butternut Squash Pizza with Fresh Arugula

Butternut Squash Pizza with Cheddar and Arugula
Adapted from Real Simple

1 lb. pizza dough
Cornmeal, for the pan
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 oz. grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 bunch arugula

1. Heat over to 500 degrees and heat baking sheet as instructed above. Then,
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the squash, onion, thyme, oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
3. Dust the heated, inverted baking sheet with cornmeal. Reduce oven to 450 degrees. Shape the dough into a large oval and place on the sheet.
4. Scatter squash mixture over the dough and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
5. Using clean scissors, cut fresh arugula over the still-hot pizza.

Cutting Arugula over a Butternut Squash Pizza

The last step was inspired by a New York City pizza legend, Di Fara. The Brooklyn shop’s owner, Dom DeMarco, handcuts fresh basil over all of the pies that come out of his oven.

In our case, the freshly-cut arugula was the perfect finishing touch for a pizza that was already excellent. We might not have Dom DeMarco’s experience (or his oven), but using a trick from a seasoned pro made for an at-home pizza that was devoured in an instant.

– Laura

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