We all have those moments we will never forget.
The taste of fresh mozzarella, still warm and dripping from its brine on a hot summer night is one that I personally always will cherish. It was a family vacation in Campania, Italy, and we had been invited to help make pizza with the family that was hosting us that evening.
They spoke little English, and we spoke even less Italian, solely communicating through the universal language that is food.
They could build a whole pizza before we even had our dough rolled out.
Accustomed to perfectly symmetrical American style pizza, we were too caught up perfecting all the wrong things.
Their quick but soft movements left for perfectly misshapen dough, just the right amount of sauce made only from the freshest ingredients and a spattering of homemade mozzarella.
The hot pizzas were transferred to our table, sprinkled with fresh basil, and cut for us all to share.
That night, I experienced the simplest and most flavorful pizza I have ever had.
I will never forget the day I was told I could no longer have gluten.
First came the denial, and then the flashback to that trip.
My memories of Bolognese, flawless tiramisu, and above all, that pizza, made my mouth water, and the news that much harder to hear.
As my health quickly got better, so did my optimism toward leading a gluten-free lifestyle.
The majority of the substitutions were comparable, and in time, I became accustomed to them; however, gluten-free pizza crusts always seemed to fall short.
This recipe is one of the shorter ones that I tested, but just because it has fewer ingredients does not mean it has less flavor.
To celebrate National Pizza Month, I chose a grownup version of my childhood favorite, the Hawaiian. The nutty sweetness of the butternut squash perfectly contrasts the salt from the pancetta, creating a match made in pizza heaven.
Butternut squash and pancetta pizza
Yields: 1 medium pizza (6 to 8 slices)
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons honey or brown rice syrup for a nuttier taste
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups Bob's Red Mill AP gluten-free flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon stone ground cornmeal
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise
5 1/8-inch slices of pancetta
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small ball of mozzarella, thinly sliced
For sauce and toppings
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
On a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle the butternut squash with a generous amount of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the garlic, still in the skin, around the squash and roast for 30 minutes or until squash and garlic are tender.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. (Keeping your oven on, turn it up to 500 degrees so it can begin heating for the pizza.)
Once garlic has cooled, it should easily slide out of the skin. In a food processor, combine garlic cloves, ricotta and 1 tablespoon of oil and pulse until smooth. Reserve.
Thinly slice the cooled butternut squash as well as the mozzarella and set to the side until you are ready to assemble your pizza.
In a small bowl, dissolve honey or brown rice syrup in the warm water.
Sprinkle the yeast into the water and let stand until yeast is dissolved and mixture is foamy, about 7 minutes.
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the yeast mixture and oil.
Using a wooden spoon, stir ingredients until dough starts to come together. Place the dough ball in a well-oiled bowl, cover and allow it to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
Once the dough has risen, sprinkle the remaining cornmeal on a rimmed baking sheet. Turn the ball onto the room temperature baking sheet and press flat with your fingers.
Cover the raw dough with 1/4 cup of the garlic-ricotta mixture, pancetta and desired amount of slivered butternut squash. Top with the sliced mozzarella and clumps of remaining ricotta mixture.
Lastly, drizzle olive oil, add a crack of fresh ground pepper and bake for 20 to 22 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven.
If you so desire, you can make this dough ahead of time and reserve for later use. Simply par bake it at 500 degrees for 10 minutes and store in an airtight container.
Green welcomes comments and questions about gluten-free living at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green was first diagnosed with gluten intolerances as a teenager. Soon after, she developed a blog to share her struggles and successes of adapting to a gluten free life.
Over the years, her passion for wellness has turned into a profession.
A 2012 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in New York, she is continually networking with other gluten-free experts and expanding her knowledge.
Her goal is to make gluten-free an option for everyone, not just those in need.
Green may be reached at email@example.com. Her column is published on the second Wednesday of each month.