Pumpkins haven’t always been popular. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Now, we have pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, muffins and more. While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins are native to Mexico, but are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Americans love pumpkin, but so do the people on the other 6 continents who choose to grow them. America’s love is usually concentrated around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Today, more pumpkins are grown in Italy than in America. In all of Italy’s diverse 20 regions, it is the people of Veneto, who give the pumpkin its highest esteem. The pumpkin — marina di Chioggia, also known as sea pumpkin, after its native town in the lagoon, is the most popular. The pumpkin’s bland and compact flesh make them an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet creations of Italians cooking, such as pumpkin risotto, pumpkin tortelli, cappelletti and gnocchi.
Smaller is Better
Choose sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties. Small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh, they’re perfect for pies, soups, muffins, and breads.
A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.
Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking.
Choose A Cooking Method
There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:
Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
Let the chunks cool, then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, so you can enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.
Pumpkin and Leek Risotto
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 leek
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
Cook the pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Toss the pumpkin with a tablespoon of olive oil and one, small minced garlic clove in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast until tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
Wash the leek well and dice the white and light green parts.
In a saucepan, bring 6 cups stock to a simmer.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the diced eek. Stir for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter.
Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until all liquid is absorbed.
When rice is almost cooked, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking,.until the pumpkin is hot and the rice is tender.
Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve topped with extra Parmesan cheese.
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (packed)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Ground white pepper
- 11/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- Ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts,toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour; set aside.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. (Do not heat the water if you plan to freeze the gnocchi.)
Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl for a few minutes. Place in a mixing bowl and add the pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and a few pinches of white pepper. Stir to combine. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. (It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but don’t overwork the dough or it will become tough and heavy.)
Generously flour the work surface and turn out the dough. Pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll 1 piece into an even rope about 3/4 inch in diameter, flouring the surface as needed.
Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then roll it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression in the gnocchi that’s handy for holding sauce.
Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining 3 dough pieces.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.
Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Add a third of the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float, about 2 to 3 minutes, then let them cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more so they’re just cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat cooking the remaining gnocchi in 2 more batches.
Set aside a large serving bowl.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add 1 teaspoon of the sage. a pinch of black pepper and half of the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan often, until the gnocchi are browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the reserved large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, sage, gnocchi and more black pepper..
Gently toss the gnocchi with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with the hazelnuts, if using. Serve immediately.
Penne Pasta with Pumpkin & Italian Sausage
- 1 lb hot or sweet Italian Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 (14 ½-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 pound penne pasta or any short pasta
- Grated Parmesan cheese and sage leaves for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the sausages until well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Slice into ¼-inch slices and set aside.
Add the garlic and onion to the skillet and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the bay leaf and wine. Cook until the wine reduces by half; about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin; cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles. Add sliced sausage and reduce heat and stir in cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Remove the bay leaf from sauce and add the cooked pasta. Toss together over low heat 1 minute. Garnish with grated cheese and sage leaves.
Italian Pumpkin Strata
A strata is a brunch dish, similar to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture of bread, eggs and cheese. It may also include meat or vegetables. The bread is layered with the filling in order to produce layers (strata) and baked.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb Italian bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 cups half & half (fat-free works fine)
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, peppers and garlic in oil until the sausage is no longer pink; drain.
Combine bread, cheese and sausage mixture in a large bowl.
Mix together the half & half, pumpkin, eggs, salt, pepper and seasonings.
Pour over the bread mixture and stir gently until bread is moistened.
Pour into a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set.
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 25 Savoiardi Ladyfingers
- 6 ounces Amaretti cookies, crumbled
In an electric mixer beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese, pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.
Pour the Amaretto liqueur into a shallow bowl. Dip each ladyfinger in the liqueur before arranging them along the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, overlapping to fit.
Spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers, sprinkle evenly with one-third of the Amaretti cookie crumbs and repeat with two more layers.
Smooth the top of dessert and wrap tightly in plastic and foil. Refrigerate. Best when chilled overnight.