Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pesto Pizza with Butternut Squash

One unexpected use for home-made pesto is as part of a pizza topping.  Because the pesto gives this pizza an elegant flair, I wanted other ingredients that matched that feeling.  The unexpected theme continues with tender roasted butternut squash and two kinds of vegan cheese.  I start tonight with a recipe for home-made pizza dough, but you can use a store-bought brand (such as Whole Foods) if you're in a hurry.

For the Pizza Dough:
  • 1 package dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2/3 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add 1 and 3/4 cups flour to the yeast mixture, along with the cornmeal and salt.  Stir to form a dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes - it should be smooth and elastic by the end.  Here's a link with a quick reminder on the steps to kneading.  As you knead, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated as well. Cover and let rise some place warm and free from drafts for about 40 minutes - it should be doubled in size by the end.  I always let dough rise in a closed, unheated oven, to protect it from drafts in the kitchen.

4. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes, then roll into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to a pizza pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Crimp around the edges of the dough with your fingers to form a rim.

If you don't like the sound of my pesto and butternut squash topping, then stop reading right here and do with this pizza dough as you please.  It will work for any topping, from as simple as marinara sauce and vegan cheese to as complicated as you like.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/6 of the crust), Calories 161

And now on to the rest of the pizza.

  • 6 (1/4-inch thick) slices peeled butternut squash*
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gouda Sheese**
  • 1 recipe Pizza Dough
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) drained can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup Classic Pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese**
1. Combine the butternut squash, sugar, and olive oil in a bowl, then transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender.

2. Sprinkle the Gouda over the prepared Pizza Dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Top with the roasted squash, the tomatoes, and the dried oregano.  Drop the pesto by level tablespoonfuls in dollops over the pizza.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated cheese.

3. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges, and cut into 6 wedges.

*If you want to get even fancier than butternut squash, try making this pizza with slices from an adorable sugar pumpkin - particularly if you plan to make it later in the fall.

**When it comes to the vegan cheese on this pizza, your possibilities are endless.  I liked using the Gouda from Sheese (a British company), in combination with the vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods as the second brand.  But you could mix and match to suit your tastes.  Swap out the Gouda for shredded Daiya mozzarella which would give the topping a creamier, more buttery feel, or get rid of the cheese from Galaxy Foods and use a mix of Sheese and Daiya.  You could even try vegan Parmesan sprinkles for the second cheese, although in that case I recommend using less than 1/2 cup since their flavor is concentrated. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 slice), Calories 310 

Tasting Notes:
The combination of salty, garlicky pesto and sweet, tender butternut squash in this topping was quite simply to die for.  It instantly rates a "5" in my book for taste, but I have to deduct a point for presentation.  Both the squash and the pesto were dolloped here and there, meaning many bites were missing these two ingredients entirely.  Next time, I would generously slice more squash - enough to cover the pizza dough - and I would drizzle the pesto evenly on top, rather than dropping it by tablespoonfuls.  Then, each bite would be just as heavenly as the next.  I also recommend pulling the pizza from the oven about 3 minutes earlier than specified, unless you like your crust super-crispy.  It was a tad too crunchy for my preference.



  1. This pizza looks so delicious - can't wait to try it out (without the tomatoes though!). I also like the way you cook the pumpkin. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for your comment! Hope you enjoy the pizza, I bet it will be equally delicious minus tomatoes.