Yet again weather forecasters are predicting snow for most of New England this weekend. Although the snowfalls we’ve experienced so far have resulted in small accumulations, this upcoming storm is described as a major blizzard. I’m stocking up on groceries, and planning to make a new pizza to counter the cold.
The inspiration for the pizza came from a delicious meal my husband and I enjoyed recently with friends at Loring Place, a restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. Our table ordered an appetizer of baked ricotta topped with Kabocha squash (similar to butternut), chilies, and mint served with grilled sourdough slices. The dish was so good, our group devoured it in minutes. At home I took those same ingredients and used them for a pizza.
I spread a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan, and thyme over a thin (purchased) pizza round, added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and then arranged cubes of roasted butternut squash plus some crispy bits of bacon. A dusting of Fontina completed the toppings. (To save time, while preheating my baking sheet for the pizza on one rack in the oven, I roasted the cubed butternut squash on another.)
This pizza, which needed only a few minutes in a 450 degree oven, was garnished with torn mint leaves. The sweetness of the squash, the saltiness of the cheeses and the bacon, the heat from the red pepper flakes, and the cooling accent of the mint all combined to make this a special dish —definitely one to ride out a winter storm.
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Winter Pizza with Ricotta, Roasted Butternut Squash, and Mint
3 cups (about 1 pound peeled) diced butternut squash cut into 3/4 -inch cubes (See market tip.)
1 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 thick slices bacon (about 4 ounces) cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
One very thin 12- to 13-inch pizza crust (See market tip)
Scant 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Fontina or sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn in half
Equipment needed: 1 large rimless baking sheet for pizza plus 1 other large baking sheet (rimmed or rimless) for roasting squash
1.]Arrange one rack in the center of the oven and another rack at a lower level. Preheat to 450 degrees F.
2.Place the cubed squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds black pepper. Place the large rimless baking sheet on the center shelf and the baking sheet with the butternut squash on the lower rack. Heat the top baking sheet and roast the squash on the lower shelf for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Using a metal spatula, turn the squash after 10 minutes.
3.Meanwhile, in a medium bowl use a fork to combine the ricotta, Parmesan, and thyme until well blended. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey. In a large skillet over medium heat (or in a microwave according to microwave directions) cook the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.
4.Remove the baking sheet with the squash to a heatproof surface and carefully with potholders (since the baking sheet is hot) transfer the squash to a mixing bowl and toss with half of the balsamic/honey mixture.
5.Then remove the heated baking sheet to a heat proof surface and carefully (since the baking sheet is hot) place the pizza crust on the pan. Using a metal spatula or table knife spread the ricotta mixture over entire surface of the pizza round. Cheese will soften as you spread it. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the ricotta mixture. Then arrange butternut squash and bacon on top of pizza. Sprinkle with grated Fontina or cheddar.
6, Bake the pizza until the crust is very crisp and the cheese has melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and drizzle remaining balsamic/honey mixture over the pizza and sprinkle with torn mint leaves. Serves 6 with one piece each.
For the butternut squash try to purchase squash which is already peeled, a great time saver. About 1 pound peeled squash will yield 3 cups diced. If squash is peeled and diced, be certain to cut dice into 3/4-inch cubes.
For the pizza crust, the brand, Top This, available at my local Whole Foods is quite thin and works beautifully.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2022