Baking & DessertDinner

By Laura Ratliff and Ryan Smith | April 25, 2012

One of the greatest picnic-friendly dishes to make in the spring is pizza! Not only does it not require utensils to eat, but there are also endless possibilities for your favorite toppings. While 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!

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 spoil 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.

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

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.

Butternut Squash Pizza Recipe

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 45 mins


  • 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. extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 1 bunch arugula


1. Heat over to 500 degrees and heat baking sheet as instructed above.
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.

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