With Thanksgiving and holiday season just around the corner, it is always useful to have an accessible pumpkin recipe to fall back on, with which to grace the table.
Pumpkin and squash are not relished in my family (except by yours truly) and so I rarely go to any great length in seeking out recipes. However, since I was cooking for an event in Boston just a few days ago, at our Giardini di Sole showroom in SOWA (http://www.giardinidisole.com/blog/2014/11/a-roman-themed-spread-with-a-boston-flair-giardini-di-soles-boston-gathering-november-18th/), I looked to my North American partners Sandy and Libby for some advice. With no cooking facilities within the showroom itself, the recipe had to be a) portable, b) Italian and c) crowd-pleasingly good. With the usual flair that characterises Sandy’s problem-solving outlook, she came up with the idea of adapting Marlena di Blasi’s recipe for ‘Zucca al Forno’ (the link to this recipe is provided at the bottom). It promised to be just as Sandy had predicted … very good indeed. And I shall definitely make it again at home … and who knows, I might even convince other members of my family to re-think their reluctance to pumpkin.
Take a look at the adaptation of the original recipe.
Ingredients: 12oz of mushrooms and 12 oz Emmenthaler cheese, 7 slices of firm textured day-old bread, 2 cups mascarpone, 4 oz freshly grated parmesan, 3 eggs, freshly grated nutmeg, 2 large onions. Salt and pepper. A pumpkin weighing between 2 and a half to 3 pounds.
Chopped onions need to be cooked in plenty of butter … Cut up mushrooms are then added to the onions after about 5 minutes … Trim the slices of bread of their crust …. The bread needs to be transformed into croutons: by frying it in plenty of butter. The cooked mushrooms, the grated emmenthaler, the parmesan, the freshly grated nutmeg, the mascarpone and the eggs … all need to be combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to preferred taste. Divide into three equal portions. The pumpkin requires three layers of this mixture, plus two layers of the croutons.
I placed the knife in the middle to indicate that we are dividing the croutons in two portions, one for each layer.
Draw a ring around the top of the pumkin. This will make it easier for you to cut the top of the pumkin off. You will need a sharp knife for this and lots of patience as well as strength. Take your time and be safe. All the seeds and stringy bits have to be removed … And here is our emptied out pumpkin (well, yes, a few seeds were left … who cares), acting as a vessel for all the goodies that are now going to be filling it. The first layer goes in …. Followed by the first layer of croutons. Continue with the second layer of the mixture, followed by the second layer of the croutons and finish with the third and last layer of the mixture. Here it is just before the top was placed back on again. Pop the pumpkin into the preheated oven … and bake for 1 to 1 and a half hours. Ovens are irritatingly quixotical in their design and so you will have to judge for yourself when the pumpkin is indeed ready. We transported the pumpkin to the showroom, wrapped in plenty of aluminium paper. Here I am about to ‘unveil’ this beauty (which had just been warmed up in a microwave oven) ….
And here it is in all its glory. And yes … nothing was left by the end of the evening !
Zucca al Forno Ripiena con Porcini e Tartufi
(Whole Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Porcini and Truffles)
Serves 8-10Ingredients100g/3½oz (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
350g/12oz fresh wild mushrooms (such as porcini, ceps, chanterelles, portobelli), rinsed, drained, dried and thinly sliced (or 115g/4oz dried porcini, softened in 125ml/4floz/½ cup warm water, stock or wine, drained and thinkly sliced)
2 whole black diamond truffles from Norcia (or 2 canned black truffles or 85g/3oz black truffle paste) (optional)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
750g/1 lb 10oz (3 cups) mascarpone cheese
350g/12oz Emmenthal cheese, grated
115g/4oz fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
8 slices firm-textured, day-old white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 2.5cm/1in squares
1 large pumpkin or squash, about 1.8-2.25kg (4-5 lb) in weight, its stalk end cut around to form a cap, seeds and string removed from the cavity (retain stalk end for later)MethodPreheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5. In a medium sauté pan, melt 40g/1/2oz (3 tablespoons) butter. Add the onions and mushrooms and sauté until both soften and the mushrooms give up their liquors (if using dried mushrooms, strain the soaking liquid and add it to the sauté pan). Add the truffles or truffle paste, if using, and mix well. Add salt and the pepper.In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, except the bread, remaining butter and pumpkin or squash; season with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Beat until well combined, then stir in the onions, mushrooms and truffles. Melt the remaining butter in a sauté pan and brown the bread, tossing the pieces about in the pan until they are crisp.Place the pumpkin or squash in a large, heavy baking dish or on a baking sheet. Spoon one-third of the mushroom mixture into the pumpkin, add half the crisped bread, another third of the mushrooms, and the remaining bread, ending with the remaining mushrooms. Top off with the pumpkin cap and roast in the oven for about 1½ hours, or until the pumpkin flesh is very soft.Carry the pumpkin immediately to the table, remove its cap and spoon out portions of its flesh with the stuffing. The dish needs only a cool, flinty, dry white wine as accompaniment.Reproduced with the kind permission of Marlena di Blasi from her book, A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance, published by Virago Press