What you really want for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pizza

Come to think of it: Do you even like turkey?

Maybe you do. Maybe I’ve seen you walking around an Orlando theme park, noshing on a drumstick and happy as a Tudor king. But maybe you’re more like me, someone who could at best be described as “turkey ambivalent.” Maybe you have patiently endured years and years of dry, overcooked Butterballs before admitting to yourself you’d really rather not. Maybe you don’t like spending a lot of money on a big bird and facing a fridge full of scolding leftovers for the remainder of November. Maybe, you’d just prefer pizza. I got you.

I know that not going all in on Thanksgiving is an unpopular stance. This was confirmed when I last year wrote a story to that effect and received some very colorful hate mail about it. But my family and I have come to accept that we don’t particularly jibe with either the foods or the mandatory gratitude sentiment of the holiday, and that feeling is stronger than ever this season.

Both my mother and my mother-in-law have died in the past year. The homes they lived in are now occupied by other people. So this Thanksgiving, my family and I are decamping to an Airbnb in a Hallmark movie-worthy river town, where we will take naps, wear loose pants and eat exactly what we want to eat.

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I discovered my very favorite pizza in the world several years ago, on an autumn visit to a friend in Missoula. Normally, I would be skeptical of Montana as a pizza destination, but my friend is a former New Yorker and full-time Italian, so I trusted her. At Biga Pizza, we ate a magnificent creation of squash, caramelized onions and two kinds of cheese. I returned home determined to have as much of exactly that in my life as possible.

My own pizza does not come from a brick oven; it is baked at the highest temperature my old and unreliable oven can withstand. It does not rely on lovingly crafted artisanal dough or freshly roasted vegetables. It is nevertheless insanely good. I do make it with the jammy, slow-cooked onions I always have on hand to throw into… everything, but can attest this pizza is equally fantastic if you swap in some thinly sliced red onion here. It pairs extremely well with beer, obviously.

A pumpkin pizza is not, I will grant you, a turkey. What it is, however, is a vegetarian-friendly, budget-friendly, easy and very good, very autumnal dish that is as appropriate on an exhausted weeknight as it is at an annual family gathering. It is a meal that will not overwhelm or disappoint you, that the people you feed it to will be really happy to eat. And that, to me, is more than enough to be thankful for, any time of the year.

* * *

Inspired by  Biga Pizza and Salt and Baker

Extra cheesy pumpkin pizza with onions


  • 1 package of pizza dough (Trader Joe’s is a favorite.)
  • 1/2 can of pumpkin puree
  • 3/4  cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup of caramelized onions OR 1/2 of a red onion,  thinly sliced
  • Fresh or dried oregano and thyme, if you have it 



  1. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
  2.  Roll your dough in a light coating of oil so you don’t lose your mind stretching it out.
  3. On a sheet of parchment, gently and evenly stretch it into a rectangle. Lift the dough-covered parchment to a large sheet pan. I like to let it rest 5 minutes to bounce back a little, but that’s optional.
  4. Spoon the ricotta on the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border on all sides, then evenly spoon on the pumpkin. Top with shredded mozzarella and onions. Add a generous sprinkle of herbs.
  5. Bake about 11 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Turn the oven to broil and then broil the pizza 1 minute or so.
  6. Cut into rectangles and serve, topped if you like with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Cook’s Notes

I have provided generous measurements for the toppings. Depending on how thickly you roll out your pizza dough, you may need less.

You can easily double the recipe and bake two pizzas to serve up to eight people for a relaxed Friendsgiving.

Read more

on making Thanksgiving simpler

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