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Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST

I had to update this post to let you know that as much as I loved this recipe the first time I made it, with a “traditional” pumpkin that cropped up in my son’s garden totally by accident (a so-called “volunteer” plant), I made it again for my book group with a purchased “cheese pumpkin,” and it was a game changer. The squat, tan-colored cheese pumpkin doesn’t taste anything like cheese, but is named that because of its resemblance to a wheel of cheese.

The interior is brightly colored orange, and is related to butternut squash. It has a sweet flesh that tastes  much like butternut squash and is superior over traditional pumpkins for both savory or sweet dishes, including pumpkin pie.

I filled it with the same recipe I used in the original post, even though the cheese pumpkin weighed twice as much as the pumpkin in the original post. The filling came only about 2/3 of the way up the pumpkin rather than all the way up to the top.  No matter, the filling rises somewhat after baking because of the eggs. It’s actually better not to fill the pumpkin all the way to the top anyway, since otherwise, there won’t be room for the lid to fit securely.

Here’s what the pumpkin looked like about about 2 1/2 hours in the oven. Be sure to remove the lid after about two hours of cooking because the pumpkin contained a lot of water. I actually drained away the water from the pan after removing the lid, then placed it back in the oven without the lid to “brown” the stuffing.

Another tip is to cube the bread and toss with the melted butter in a cookie sheet, rather than brown the bread cubes in a skillet as I did originally. Toast the bread cubes with melted butter in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring them a few times to brown them evenly. Also, after the pumpkin has been roasting for a couple of hours, you may want to cover the sides so that they don’t burn (but keep the top uncovered in order to promote browning of the stuffing).

ORIGINAL POST:

I just love it when Mother Nature gives you some of her bounty without your even trying. It happened recently when a butternut squash grew in my garden as a “volunteer” plant among my rose bushes, and again when my son discovered a long vine with several pumpkins he hadn’t planted growing in his front yard. Either the birds or the wind carried seeds to these new places that provided fertile ground for the welcome plants.

We weren’t sure at first what kind of squash or pumpkin we were dealing with, since it was green for so long.

But as the cold weather progressed, the pumpkin started to turn orange on the bottom.

And the interior certainly looked like the typical orange jack o’lantern. I decided to use my lagniappe in a recipe I’d read about long ago in a memoir called “A Thousand Days in Venice” by Marlena De Blasi. I made several adjustments however, since I felt the amount of cheese in it was excessive (believe me, there’s still a lot of cheese in it). It would also make a spectacular showstopper dish at the Thanksgiving table.

Start by carving out the lid, and scooping out all the stringy stuff and seeds from inside.

Take some good bread (I used ciabatta) and cube it, tossing it in butter until browned.

Saute some mushrooms and onions in butter, adding some fresh sage leaves to give a bit more flavor.

Mix the mushrooms and onions with eggs and three different kinds of cheese – mascarpone, Emmanthaler and Parmesan. Marlena’s recipe calls for three cups of mascarpone, but I cut that way back to one cup and it was just fine. I cut back the amounts on the other cheeses too, and the dish was still plenty cheese flavored.

Layer the cheese mixture into the pumpkin with the bread, making several layers and ending with the cheese mixture.

Place the lid on top and bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours, removing the lid for the final 20 minutes to brown the top. Pierce the flesh with a knife to see if it’s soft and if it’s not, leave it in the oven a bit longer.

Remove from the oven and bring to the table amid oohs and aahs. Scoop out some of the flesh and some of the pumpkin for each person. We had lots of leftover pumpkin after the stuffing was all gone, and it was great for leftovers one night. But I blitzed the rest in a food processor and used it to make the best pumpkin muffins I’ve ever eaten. Stay tuned in the next blog post for that recipe.

By the way, if your pumpkin was too small to hold all the stuffing, place the rest in small buttered ramekins and bake them another night. They make a great side dish — a kind of mushroom bread pudding.

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Baked Stuffed Pumpkin
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large pumpkin (about 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion (about 2 cups minced)
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used baby portobello, but a mixtured of fresh mushrooms and dried porcini would be great)
  • fresh sage leaves
  • sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces Emmenthaler cheese (or Gruyere or Comte)
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter for toasting the bread
  • 6 slices hearty bread, cubed (about four cups)
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into cubes (I didn't trim the crusts).
  2. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a frying pan and add the bread, tossing it to brown all around.
  3. (I did this in two batches so each piece of bread could rest flatly on the pan.)
  4. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and add the onion and mushrooms, cooking until softened and the mushrooms give up their liquid.
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. I also added some sage leaves to the above to flavor them.
  7. Beat the eggs lightly with a whisk, then add the cheesesm and nutmeg and stir well.
  8. Remove the lid from the pumpkin and clean out the cavity of all its seeds and strings.
  9. Into the cavity place one third of the cheese/egg mixture, then layer half the bread cubes over it.
  10. Repeat again with another third of the cheese/egg mixture and the rest of the bread cubes, finishing with the remainder of the cheese/egg mixture.
  11. If you have more than you need, put the rest in a buttered casserole and cook it separately another time.
  12. Place the lid on the pumpkin and place the pumpkin on a heavy baking pan or cookie sheet.
  13. Bake at 375 degrees for 1½ - 2 hours, removing the lid during the last 20 to brown the top.
  14. Test the pumpkin to see if its cooked by piercing the flesh with a knife.
  15. It should be soft.
  16. Serve immediately, scooping out portions of the pumpkin with the stuffing.
 

Stuffed Squash And Pumpkin

Stuffed Squash and Pumpkin

While I lament saying goodbye to the juicy tomatoes, sweet corn and other wonderful summer New Jersey produce, a chill in the air offers an opportunity to welcome back enticing fall produce, including winter squashes and pumpkins. Small squashes, like this carnival squash, are not just pretty to look at,  but they’re delicious too – kind of like an acorn squash that’s variegated. For me, squashes and pumpkins provide the perfect receptacle for stuffing, and hopefully you’ll try one of these three recipes. This first one can be vegetarian if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth – and features a risotto with kale, mushrooms and chunks of squash.







This second one is just a plain old pumpkin – the kind you use for carving jack o’lanterns – only smaller. It’s stuffed with acini di pepe, or pastina, an idea I found on Proud Italian Cook, a terrific Italian food blog written by my friend Marie. Pastina is my all-time favorite comfort food and takes me back to my childhood, when my mom served this to me anytime I wasn’t feeling up to snuff. This version is kicked up a notch with the addition of the squash and the presentation is a lot different from when I was a child.
This third version features a versatile stuffing that would taste great as a stuffing for chicken or turkey. With sausage, apples and bread as the main ingredients, you could throw this in a casserole, serve it with a salad and your dinner would be complete. Actually any of these stuffings would work equally as well in a bowl rather than in a squash or pumpkin, but you have to agree that they look much more inviting like this. If you’re so inclined, just cut the tops off the squash/pumpkins, scoop out the insides, then rub with some olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lids back on, and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until they’re softened a bit, but not so soft that they lose their structure.

For the bread and sausage stuffing, you’ll need to bake it again for about 30 minutes, at about 400 degrees. For the pastina and the risotto stuffing, no further cooking is needed. Just slice into it and enjoy.



Stuffed Squash and Pumpkins


Printable Recipe Here


Choose small pumpkins or squash. Cut a circle on the top and extricate the stringy parts and seeds. I find a grapefruit spoon helps a lot here. Oil the interior, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put the lids back on (it helps to steam the interior) and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour. If you’re serving it with the pastina or the risotto, you might want to bake it the full hour (or until tender enough to eat). For the bread/sausage stuffing, you’ll be placing it in the oven again, so 45 minutes should suffice.

Bread/Sausage Stuffing

This makes enough to fill 2 to 3 small pumpkins or squash

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, minced
3 T. olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage
about 4 cups bread, cubed (use a sturdy Italian bread)
1 apple, chopped into small pieces
minced parsley
salt, pepper
1 egg, beaten

Saute the onion and celery in the olive oil until limp. Take the casing off the sausage and cook with the vegetables until barely cooked through. Drain off some of the fat, but not all. Add the bread, parsley, salt, pepper, and apple and combine. Whisk the egg in a bowl, then add it to the stuffing ingredients and mix through. Place stuffing inside pumpkin and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Keep the lid off to get a nice browning on the top. If it looks like it’s getting browned too quickly, lower temperature to 350 degrees.

Pastina Stuffing


squash
pastina or acini di pepe
chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
parmesan cheese
thyme

I don’t give quantities for this because you can be free and loose with it, depending on how much squash you want to use, how liquidy you want the pastina, etc.
Roast some squash in the oven by rubbing with olive oil, salt and pepper and baking for about 1/2 hour at 375 degrees. Cut into small pieces. When I roast squash, I usually make enough to have leftovers the next day.
Simmer the pastina in some chicken broth until cooked through, and add the squash pieces to the pastina. Make it to the consistency you like by adding more or less chicken broth. To me, it tastes best and looks best when it’s almost like a porridge, and not too liquidy. Sprinkle with a little fresh thyme, grated parmesan cheese and pour into individual pumpkins.

Risotto Stuffing


This makes enough to fill three or four small pumpkins or squash

1 cup arborio rice
3 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 leaves lacinato kale or any other type of kale
8 mushrooms
1 cup squash or pumpkin, cut into small pieces
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, hot
about 1 cup cheese (you could use parmesan, cheddar or fontina – any cheese that melts well. I used a cheese called Herdsman, freshly made from Cherry Grove Farms, not far from Princeton in Lawrenceville, N.J.)

Saute the onion in the oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and saute slightly. Add the rice and stir to coat. Pour in the wine and stir some more. Add the kale, cut into small pieces and the squash or pumpkin. Add the hot broth, a ladle-full at a time, and stir after each addition. Keep doing this for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Add the cheese, but reserve some for the top. Pour into the pumpkin or squash, sprinkle with a bit of the reserved cheese, and serve.