Food & Ingredients

Chef Leo Spizzirri Talks Flavorful Recipes and the Craft of Pizza-Making

In the first installment of our new “Chef’s Corner” series, Spizzirri chats with Brian Hernandez and shares a recipe for “Tarte L’Automne.”



Growing up on the mean streets of Chicago, Chef Leo Spizzirri has been in the pizza business since he was a kid. Working his way up from dish boy all the way to corporate honcho for one of Chicago’s largest and best-known pizza chains, Spizzirri has done it all, including coming up with a lot of killer recipes. After learning about the art of pizza in Italy at the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, Leo decided to open his own consulting business. The Pizza Project Group is geared towards helping everyone, from those just starting a pizzeria to established restaurateurs, learn everything about the pizza industry from the ground up. To kick off this new multimedia series, which will include in-depth online Q&As with leading pizzaioli and industry figures as well as video recipes, I decided to consult Spizzirri about a flavorful recipe to usher in the fall season.

“Autumn marks the end of summer,” Spizzirri says, “and as preparations are made for winter, we find the final harvest of the season brings us an abundance of squash and pumpkin. I decided to stay away from pumpkin, using butternut squash as a sweet ingredient and highlighting how wonderfully savory it can be. For this recipe, I utilize my Forno Bravo wood-fired oven to roast my butternut squash as well as poblano peppers. The combination of the creamy squash and smoky pepper makes the perfect combination to pair with smoked pancetta and a delicate yet salty French feta. My final touch is the addition of Italian amaretti cookies that bring a hint of sweetness and texture to cut through these savory ingredients. I hope you enjoy. Happy Harvest!”

Click Here to read an extensive Q&A with Leo Spizzirri about brand ambassadorship, menu creation, seasonal pies and much more!



Wood-Fired Roasted Butternut Squash

1 2-3 lb. butternut squash
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare your wood-fired oven to reach an ambient temperature of 450˚. With a fork, pierce the outside of the squash 10 to 15 times, pushing through the flesh to the ends of the tines. With a knife, carefully cut the squash in half from stem to base. Use a spoon to clean the cavity of seeds and stringy bits. Rub both halves of the squash completely with olive oil. Season the flesh side of the squash with salt and pepper. Place the prepared squash, flesh side down, on a sheet pan or sizzle plate. Roast inside the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the flesh is fork-tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and let cool in a bowl until ready to use.


Wood-Fired Roasted Poblano Peppers

2 fresh poblano peppers
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare wood-fired oven with a bed of hot coals that will achieve an ambient temperature of 600˚. In a bowl, coat poblano peppers with oil. Arrange peppers on a sheet pan or sizzle plate. Place peppers into the oven near the coal bed and allow them to sear until the exteriors turn black and charred. Turn peppers and repeat until they are black and charred on all sides. Remove peppers from oven and place in a bowl. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow peppers to steam for 1 hour. Remove peppers from bowl and peel skins from flesh. Open peppers to remove seeds and stem. Cut cleaned peppers into ¼”-wide strips and cool until ready to use.


Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce

2 c. wood-fired roasted butternut squash
1 c. mascarpone
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add roasted butternut squash and mascarpone. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a potato or bean masher, blend until mascarpone is completely incorporated and no white streaks remain. The mixture should not be completely smooth like a puree.



Tarte l’automne (Autumn Pie)

1 300g dough ball for wood-fired pizza
5 oz. roasted butternut squash sauce
8 strips wood-fired roasted poblano peppers
1 oz. French feta cheese
8 pieces smoked pancetta, thinly sliced
2 Italian amaretti cookies, crumbled

Prepare wood-fired oven to an ambient temperature of 600˚. Stretch out dough ball to a diameter of 12”. Spread butternut squash sauce onto dough evenly. Scatter poblano peppers on top of sauce. Scatter pancetta onto pizza, bunching each piece up instead of laying them flat. Spread feta onto pizza evenly. Bake pizza until fully cooked. Remove from oven and spread crumbled Amaretti cookies evenly. Cut and serve.

To learn how to create this recipe and learn more about the craft of pizza making, read the full article at In our exclusive Q&A, Leo talks about his humble beginnings all the way up to the opening of his new pizza school, the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy, in November 2017.

Brian Hernandez is PMQ’s test chef and USPT event coordinator.