One of Nick’s favorite foods is pepperoni pizza, and you can imagine my inner cringe whenever he orders and eats (a whole) one. Awhile back, though, he very willingly tried some vegetarian pepperoni I had bought, and he liked it! Since then, I have made this pizza for us multiple times. It hasn’t replaced pepperoni pizza entirely in his diet, but it serves as an excellent substitute that is hearty and satisfying enough to quell his pizza cravings for a time after eating it.
I make my pizza sauce at home, and I make it uniquely (albeit sneakily) healthful. My secret ingredient – pumpkin! Weird as it may sound, when mixed with tomato sauce, the pumpkin taste fades entirely to the background, and it serves as a perfect thickener while allowing the tomato and herbs to shine through. I highly recommend everyone try this; it’s a healthy and surprisingly tasty addition. Why not get fiber and vitamin A as you’re getting your pizza fix?
I don’t think I can really call this a “recipe,” but here are the supplies you’ll need.
1 pizza dough of any kind, storebought or homemade
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce, plain or Italian-style
1 can (any size) canned pure pumpkin
1 pkg vegan pepperoni
Mozzarella or vegan cheese of choice
Black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, dried Italian herbs as desired
For weeknight convenience, I use Pillsbury thin crust pizza in the can – it’s accidentally vegan! Check it and see for yourself. I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and stretch the dough out across a greased baking sheet. (If you have something like this pizza stone from Procook, even better!)
To make the sauce, I mix equal parts tomato sauce and pumpkin. I don’t really measure; I just dump in the whole 8-oz. can of sauce, and then throw in approximately the same amount of pumpkin. (Save the rest of the can of pumpkin, though, for the cookies you’ll see in here later this week!)
I add a couple spoonfuls of black pepper and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper. If you didn’t use herby tomato sauce, definitely add a spoonful of basil or oregano or both, or a dried Italian herb mix. Put in as much garlic powder as you want (I recommend lots) or, if you have the time/inclination, mince some fresh garlic and put that in. Basically, just add whatever you want that will make it taste good to you; it’s very open-ended. Whisk everything together. If you’d like a particularly luxurious sauce, include a spoonful or two of olive oil.
See how the pumpkin disappears? The only trace of it you’ll detect is a pleasant sweetness that actually enhances the juicy tomato taste. Smear that goodness all over the unbaked crust, and break out the pepperoni. I use Yves. The texture was slightly odd to me when first tried a piece plain, but when baked on pizza, it’s fantastic. I always put the pepperoni under the cheese so that it doesn’t get crispy or burnt (which is a danger for me, since I like a well-baked pizza).
Sprinkle your cheese on there – use Italian blend or mozzarella for vegetarian, or any decently melty dairy-free white cheese you can find for vegan. For extra flair, I like to sprinkle a pinch more dried herbs on top.
Bake it for however long your crust package tells you to. Underbake or overbake as desired. I always wait to take mine out till the cheese is nice and brown, with those delicious dark spots throughout.
Who’s hungry?! Slice up and dig in. The omnivore in your life will love it, and you’ll be providing them (and yourself) with nutrition disguised as junk food. Sneaky? If you don’t tell them what’s in it, then sure. Delicious? Without a doubt.