I don’t really like when posts start with “It’s that time of year again!” because it’s always “that time of year” for something, isn’t it? Winter is for peppermint and pine scented house sprays; spring is for baskets of greens and raging allergies; summer is the time for coconuts and tans; and fall is when the pumpkins infiltrate everything.
But sure, I guess it’s that time of year again: Pumpkin time.
Not to sound like a negative turd, but I’m glad that pumpkins are only really revered one month out of the year. We puree their flesh and fold it into pies, roast the seeds that send sharp shards tumbling down our throats, and then whittle their hollow bodies them into jagged-toothed monsters or squint-eyed Bill Cosby effigies. Which means that not only are pumpkins everywhere, but they now also have eyes and are watching you always.
Still, even though the endless pumpkin-flavored everything exhausts me, I’m not completely immune to its lure. When the season comes around I take to them like an eager fist to the face of slackjawed yokels, but never for the obvious uses. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made a pumpkin pie in my life, and I’m completely comfortable with that.
But I did make another kind of pie: spicy chicken sausage pizza pie with a pumpkin-sage cream sauce.
I’m a little obsessed with making pizza. Or maybe just eating pizza, I’m not sure, but somewhere along the process there’s an obsession. I like the smell of the yeasty dough while being kneaded by Bruce, my chartreuse KitchenAid mixer and cooking copilot. I like the crispy crust layered with a thin hull of salt and garlic. And the sage…
Sage has become a recent favorite of mine. It’s pungent and bitter, and to eat it by itself might make you wonder if you just ate poison, but it also gives sauces a new dimension of flavor. When in Italy I would walk up to the fresh herb stalls in center city Bologna semiweekly and ask the vendors for large bushels of sage, which were sold for pennies on the euro, and would be used in a few day’s time.
Brandon and I like to joke about the first time I bought sage in the Bolognese market. I asked the herb lady, “avete salma fresca?” thinking I was really smooth with my rehearsed Italian. Except I wasn’t, because instead of asking for sage I’d asked if she had any fresh corpses. Which was reassuring knowing my socially awkward tendencies transcended all language boundaries.
But then there’s the massive amount of Fontina cheese. I use Fontina because it’s mild and buttery, but also because it melts really well, so your pizza ends up coming out of the oven looking like those stringy cheesy pizzas on cartoons. The amount I throw on could choke a horse and deregulate even the most resilient bowels, but is it worth it? I mean, do I really even need to ask?
So while they’re available, I do TRY and take full advantage of pumpkins before they slip away into post-seasonal obscurity (or before I tire of their omnipresence and creepy jack o’lantern smiles that follow me down and around the block, whichever comes first), but come November 30st, their exit won’t illicit many tears from me.
PUMPKIN SAGE & SPICY SAUSAGE PIZZARecipe: Pumpkin Sage and Spicy Sausage Pizza
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
For the pizza dough:
- 2 cups bread flour (plus extra, if needed)
- ½ tsp dry yeast
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup warm water between 100-110 degrees F
- ½ cup chopped roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Cornmeal, to dust the pizza pan
For the sauce:
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp nutmeg
For the topping:
- 1 ½ cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1 lb cooked, diced spicy chicken sausage
- 4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp melted butter, to brush the pizza crust
- Garlic salt, to taste
For the pizza dough:
- In a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, flour and oil and slowly drizzle in water until the dough comes together. Add more water or flour until the dough is neither dry nor sticky, and continue mixing for 5-7 minutes on medium speed. Add pumpkin seeds before the final mixing stage, if using.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour to rise – dough should be twice its original size.
For the sauce:
- Combine ingredients except for the heavy cream into a skillet and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream. Add more pumpkin puree if too soupy.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
- Once dough has risen, stretch or roll out into desired shape and place on a pizza pan dusted with cornmeal.
- Add sauce and other toppings to pizza, brush crust with melted butter and sprinkle garlic salt over entire pizza, especially all over the crust to give it flavor. Allow pizza to rest and rise 15 to 30 minutes (optional – this will help make the
- Place pizza in oven and bake for 18 minutes, or until crust is browned.
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