Sometimes my best pizzas come from forced improvisation, when I forget to buy ingredients and have to make do with whatever’s in the fridge. This week, I happened to have a butternut squash, half a block of Pepper Jack cheese, a few handfuls of spinach, eggs, and an almost-empty pint of heavy cream. Turns out that combo is a comfort food lover’s dream. Cubed and roasted butternut squash and cream add just the right amount of lusciousness in lieu of sauce; raw spinach brings sweetness, earthiness, and texture; Pepper Jack gives it a subtle kick; and the eggs, cracked on top before baking, are satisfying both to the eye and to the taste buds. Since our household is divided on the issue of eggs, I opted for just two; if you go with three or four, I suggest assembling and baking the pizza on a baking sheet instead of a baking stone or steel, as it takes quite a bit of finesse to transfer the pizza from peel to stone without the raw eggs jiggling all over the place (possibly into the bottom of your oven).
Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Pepper Jack Pizza (with eggs on top)
Makes one 12-inch pizza
- 1 small (1 to 1.5-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14 to 16-ounce) ball Basic Pizza Dough or Slow-Rise Pizza Dough (or pre-made pizza dough)
- 2 loosely packed cups baby spinach leaves
- ¾ cup grated pepper jack cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 to 4 large eggs (optional)
Place your pizza stone or steel (if using) on an oven rack in the middle of your oven. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, just place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 400°F.
To prep the toppings: Place the cubed butternut squash on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast the squash for 25 minutes or until it’s tender and just beginning to caramelize. Remove the squash from the oven and set it aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 500°F.
To stretch out the dough: Place the dough on a clean work surface and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a 12-inch square or disk, making sure that it retains the same thickness throughout (more or less).
If you’re using a pizza stone or steel: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
If you’re using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza: In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and the roasted squash. Transfer this mixture to the dough, then top with the cheese and drizzle on the cream. If you’re also adding eggs, crack them into separate ramekins and carefully slide them onto the pizza, evenly spaced, about 2 inches from the edge.
To bake the pizza: If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, first make sure the pizza slides easily on the peel (or inverted baking sheet) and slip more cornmeal or flour underneath the dough if needed. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone or steel using quick shimmying movements. Bake the pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden, the cheese is melted, and the egg yolks are cooked through but still a little squishy. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board.
If you’re using a baking sheet, place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.