When I visited Mantova in Italy on a school exchange trip at the age of 14, I was a philistine who hated nearly all foods. My host family served me a plate of pumpkin ravioli to my intense disgust. (I think my 14-year-old self genuinely thought pumpkins were only for Halloween or Cinderella.) My more mature taste buds now consider the classic pumpkin ravioli, in a brown-butter sauce with crispy sage and freshly grated Parmesan (the sweetness of the pumpkin madly but brilliantly paired with a smattering of amaretti crumbs) one of the best dishes of all time.
It would certainly be a contender for my last meal on earth. Ravioli, though, is an absolute faff to make, so I’ve taken all those harmonious flavors and placed them instead on another Italian classic. Sage-scented brown butter and crispy sage leaves, strewn over buttery rounds of dough, glistening with bubbling cheese, take pizza to a whole new level.
Ingredients Of Thai Style Pumpkin
Makes 2 large (about 30cm) pizzas
For the dough
225g plain flour
75g spelled flour
1 teaspoon caster sugar
7g fast-action dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
180–200ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons fine polenta, for dusting
For the pizza topping
250g ricotta cheese
320g peeled and deseeded pumpkin or butternut squash (prepared weight)
3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
15g sage, leaves picked
2 x 125g balls of mozzarella (drained weight)
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
2 amaretti biscuits, crushed to fine pieces (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions Of This Delicious Recipe
First, make the dough. Put the flours in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large bowl if you plan to make the dough by hand. Put the sugar and yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the other. Make a well in the center and add the oil, then pour in three-quarters of the water.
Begin to knead using the dough hook or your hands, adding the remaining water gradually until you have a soft dough – you may not need all the water; it shouldn’t be sticky, just moist enough to come together. Knead for 10 minutes on an oiled work surface or using the dough hook, until the dough is soft and elastic, then return it to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, start the topping. Place the ricotta in a sieve lined with muslin over a bowl and allow it to drain (this ensures your ricotta won’t be watery).
Slice the pumpkin or squash as thinly as possible into half-moon slices and place them in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and the nutmeg and paprika, then season well with salt and pepper and toss with your hands to coat the pumpkin or squash in the oil mixture.
This Recipe Is Serve immediately.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. It will begin to bubble and spit and separate out into golden liquid and white solids. Keep it on the heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the white solids start to turn golden brown and the butter starts to smell nutty (about 3–4 minutes altogether). Remove the pan from the heat immediately, then throw the sage leaves into the pan while the butter is hot. They will sizzle and spit. Leave them in the butter for 2–3 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon and leave them to drain on kitchen paper. Set both the butter and sage aside.
Once the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven as high as it will go (around 240°C/220°C fan/gas mark 9 is ideal). Scatter the polenta evenly over two large baking trays.
On a floured work surface, divide the dough in half and roll out each half so that you have two circles, each about 5mm thick. Place one circle on each baking sheet.
Tear the mozzarella into small chunks and spread these evenly over each circle of dough. Break half the drained ricotta into lumps and scatter these over too. Arrange the pumpkin slices over the top, scatter the remaining ricotta over, then scatter over the Parmesan.
Drizzle the brown butter all over both pizzas, then drizzle them with the remaining olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bake for 10–15 minutes (the time will depend on the heat of your oven, so keep checking through the door!), until the dough is golden and slightly crispy around the edges, and the cheese is bubbling. Remove from the oven, then scatter over the crushed amaretti biscuits (if using) and the crispy sage leaves.