I absolutely love having friends and family over for dinner. I look forward to it like a child looks forward to Christmas morning. I’ll spend the weeks leading up to the dinner making list after list (I’m a self-declared list-making addict), processing my thoughts, playing with different menu ideas and driving my husband crazy with ‘what do you think about…’ questions. The main challenge is coming up with a menu that allows you to do everything ahead so you can mingle with you friends and not spend the entire time cleaning and missing out on the conversation (gossip really, right?). At the same time, I want our guests to feel welcome and at ease. There must be something for everyone on the table. One of my favorite go-to’s is a pizza party. Not the fanciest notion but when you add in unique ingredients like butternut squash sauce and goat cheese along with every other pizza topping one could wish for, then it becomes elevated. And making the pizza dough from scratch adds in the love I’m trying to convey. You can rest assured that each guest will have something that suits their taste. A warm and welcoming environment all courtesy of the best comfort food out there – or my version of it anyways!
Start early in the day by making your pizza dough. You will need one package (2 and 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast, one and one third cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees), three and three quarter cups all-purpose flour, two tbs olive oil, one tbs salt and one tbs sugar. In most recipes, the sugar is optional. I have tried this dough recipe with and without sugar and find the dough with the sugar added to be airier and smoother. It doesn’t change the flavor but the texture is much better. Begin by sifting the flour to remove any clumps.
Place the warm water in a bowl and mix in the yeast. Allow to stand for five minutes so the yeast can dissolve. You will find yeast in the baking aisle of the grocery. It comes in a small packet. They have pizza yeast as well that works great.
You will begin to see the dough forming and, by the time it is done mixing, it will be one ball, all of the extra bits scraped off the side and caught up in the beautiful pizza dough. Very different from the texture of handmade pasta dough! After eight minutes remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead by hand for two-three minutes.
Drizzle a large bowl with a little bit of olive oil on the bottom and around the sides. Add the dough ball to the bowl and turn, so all sides have been brushed by the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the kitchen counter until it has doubled in volume – one and a half to two and a half hours.
While the dough is resting and rising, assemble your toppings. I decided to kick off this particular night with my butternut squash sauce, goat cheese and pancetta pie. The sauce is my butternut squash puree recipe, thinned out with a little cream, giving it a silkier, lighter texture, much like marinara.
Peel and deseed one small butternut squash. Cut into one-inch cubes and cover three-quarters of the way with water and a pinch of salt. Boil, covered, for 10-12 minutes until fork-tender.
Sautee in a pan with one tsp olive oil. Allow to cook for five minutes until just crisping. They will continue to cook in the oven so you don’t want them to be too crunchy.
Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with a paper-towel. Once they have drained and cooled, set aside.
Back to the butternut squash… drain the tender veggie and add the cubes to a food processor. Be careful when mixing hot foods! Allow a little air to get in. Add one tsp unsalted butter, one half tsp kosher salt, one half tsp fresh ground black pepper, one tsp honey and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Give it a whirl until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
Add one tbs heavy cream. This will thin the puree out but still leave it rich and unctuous.
So pretty! I love the color! I serve it along with marinara for guests to use as the base to their pizza pies.
The dough is alive! Ah! It’s grown and is ready to go. Remove from the bowl to a lightly floured surface.
Cut the dough ball in half. You will get two 10′ pizzas from each batch of pizza dough. I think two pizzas this size are perfect for four people, four pizzas great for eight, etc.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. We have a pizza stone but a non-stick sheet pan will work great as well. Go ahead and put the pizza stone or sheet pan in the oven while it preheats and allow for them to warm with the oven, becoming very hot. This will help form a crisp crust on the pizza.
Flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough to your desired size. Remove the burning hot pizza stone/pan from the oven and place the crust directly on it. You will see bubbles form almost instantly… a very good sign! Brush the crust lightly with olive oil and bake for four minutes in the oven.
YUM!!!!!!!!!! Oh this is good all on it’s own. It smells perfect and has such a great, airy texture. Don’t worry about large bubbles that may pop up here or there. They will ease out as you add your toppings.
I begin with a thin layer of the butternut squash sauce, leaving about an inch border. You want the sauce to cover the pizza but to not be too thick or it will weigh it down. Next I add the pancetta, some thinly sliced onion, minced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, one ball of mozzarella (about a half pound), thinly sliced, crumbled goat cheese (about two ounces), several fresh basil leaves, and a generous shredding of fresh parmesan cheese.
- one package (2 and 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- one and one third cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees)
- three and three quarter cups all-purpose flour
- two tbs olive oil
- one tbs salt
- one tbs sugar.
- one small butternut squash
- one tsp unsalted butter
- one half tsp kosher salt
- one half tsp fresh ground black pepper
- one tsp honey
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- one tbs heavy cream
- three oz pancetta, cubed
- one tsp olive oil
- thinly sliced onion
- one clove garlic, minced
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- one ball of mozzarella (about a half pound), thinly sliced
- crumbled goat cheese (about two ounces)
- several fresh basil leaves
- generous shredding of fresh parmesan cheese