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What to do With All Those Pumpkins: Italy Inspired Pumpkin Recipes

As kids and kids at heart here in America choose costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and look forward to Halloween, we find pumpkins all over our grocery stores and decorating our homes. 

This time of year is a perfect opportunity to have some fun in the kitchen while the pumpkins are in season and create some delicious meals to share with family and friends!

While Halloween as we know it is only starting to catch on in Italy, they have some fabulous pumpkin dishes that will make any Fall lover’s mouth water! 

The Italian word for pumpkin is zucca, it is popping up on menus all over Italy this time of year through the wintertime.  Here are a few dishes you can find on menus in Italy and recreate in your own home to give your family a special and exquisite meal.

Pastas with Pumpkin: Among the most common pumpkin dishes in Italy are pumpkin pastas.  The pumpkin is often cubed and cooked, either boiled or baked in the oven.  Then it can be pureed and incorporated into a sauce or served with other delicious Autumn ingredients like porcini mushrooms.  For these recipes, I like to use either a wide noodled pasta, like Mia Emilia’s La Pasta di Aldo Pappardelle, or a thicker shaped pasta that will hold the sauce inside like Mia Emilia’s Spighe Molisane Cecatelli.  You will also find pumpkin filled ravioli. 

Usually these pastas are served with mild butter or olive oil based sauces that do not compete with the flavor of the pumpkin, but beautifully complement it.

Pumpkin Risotto: If you are unfamiliar with risotto, Fall is the perfect time to give it a try!  Risottos are made from a short grain rice.  The easiest type to find in the US is Arborio, but there are several varieties that work well. 

To make a great pumpkin risotto, start by lightly frying a clove or two of sliced garlic in a great extra virgin olive oil.  In a separate pot while you’re frying the garlic, heat some stock of your choice. I think mushroom works beautifully but use whichever you like best. 

Add the rice to the olive oil and garlic and if you like the flavor, add a little bit of white wine and cook for another minute or two.  Add the cubed pumpkin.  Ladle in the stock one ladleful at a time.  Once the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladleful and repeat until both the rice and the pumpkin are cooked thoroughly.  You can mix in some sage for added flavor, and for extra creaminess, stir in some butter just before serving.  Top with grated cheese and a little bit of Italian parsley.

Pumpkin Soup:

On particularly cold days, what can be better than a pumpkin soup?  Start by sautéing a little bit of finely chopped onion in some extra virgin olive oil and then add chopped pumpkin.  Add in your vegetable stock and you can also add your preferred spices.  If you want a sweeter soup, go for cinnamon and nutmeg, for more savory, you can use sage instead.  Puree the soup and serve with some grated cheese.  I like a hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino.  

Pumpkin with Black Olives:

Some friends of ours in Tampa hosted a lovely group of students from Sicily last April, and they left us with a great calendar full of recipes!  The October one is for Pumpkin with black olives.  Like many Italian recipes, it starts by frying garlic in extra virgin olive oil.  Add in the pumpkin, cut into small pieces, stir to coat the pieces on all sides and cook on a low heat for about half an hour.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spritz with a little bit of white wine vinegar (or you can try your favorite Mia Emilia Balsamic!) and add the black olives.  Mix in the olives and let cook a few more minutes before enjoying the dish.

Grazie al Istituto di Istruzione Secondaria Superior “Luigi Pirandell” per l’idea ed il calendario!

Hungry for Pumpkin?  Try a recipe from our supplier, Spighe Molisane in Italy’s beautiful region of Molise on the Adriatic Coast. 

Cecatelli con crema di zucca e funghi (Cecatelli pasta with pumpkin cream and mushrooms)

200 grams of pumpkin

400 grams of Spighe Molisane Durum Wheat Semolina Pasta, Cecatelli

100 grams of mushrooms (porcini are great if you can find them)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use your favorite form Mia Emilia’s hand selected Italian brands)

Salt

One red chili pepper, sliced

Garlic

Flat leaf (also called Italian) parsley

Nutmeg

  • Cut the pumpkin into cubes and boil for 3-4 minutes.
  • Blend the pumpkin to form a cream. Add the oil, salt and sliced chili pepper.
  • In a separate pan, sauté the mushrooms with EVOO, parsley and garlic.
  • In the meantime, cook the pasta in plenty of salted water for 16/17 minutes and drain.
  • Pour some of the pumpkin cream into the pan with the mushrooms and mix in the pan but turn off the heat.
  • On the plate, create a base of the rest of the pumpkin cream, and add the pasta, the garnish with the sauce of mushrooms, pumpkin cream, parsley, and nutmeg.

Buon Appetito!