Thursday, October 20, 2011

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


pastina or acini di pepe

chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

parmesan cheese


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.

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  1. All three offerings look wonderful for a dinner party but I like the risotto best. I'll bring the lobster. ;)

  2. They look so scrumptious and comforting! I really like the ideas.



  3. You just welcomed autumn into my home. Can you believe we cannot get pastina in MN? We get it from NYC! I think I will try one of these this weekend. We only have 2 more weeks of Farmer's Market yet - time to embrace fall!

  4. Che meraviglia Linda. Do you know? This is my pumpkin period. I'm in love with "zucca" this time and I'm looking for new ways to cook it and to use it. And your presentation is really great. Un bacio, Pat

  5. It is very cold and rainy and windy here,and this recipe looks like it would be very good for the soul,the presentation is wondeful,great for a dinner party.thanks so much for sharing

  6. per la verità non amo la zucca ma le tue fotografie meravigliose mi piacciono molto! Buona giornata Linda, un abbraccio....

  7. They all look fabulous. Pastina makes me think of being a kid too!

  8. Oh how I adore stuffed squash! These look wonderful.

  9. Every week when I shop I buy different squash and I'm always looking for new ways to make them. I'm going to make it next tme with sausage and apples that sounds so good, a perfect fall meal. Did I tell you I love all your photos? I feel so comfy cozy looking at them I want to go get my robe and slippers on and eat this in front of a fire! Thanks for the sweet words, luv ya!

  10. ottime le tue proposte con la zucca, sono entrambe da provare, la presentazione è favolosa.
    Un abbraccio Daniela.

  11. These are so cute! I can see these at a party, or even at an ambitious Thanksgiving. I love the idea, great post!

  12. Oh my goodness...all three of these look simply so inviting! You have just made me very hungry!
    I will be making some of these this week!

  13. I find the larger winter squashes disappointingly bland, so I'm turning to the smaller ones as well. Those stuffings looks fabulous!

  14. I love pumpkin recipes and each one of yours looks so appetizing Linda. I have not had pastina in years and now I have an urge for it served in a pretty pumpkin!

    I'm finally home from our two week trip in California. We had a wonderful time but the two minor, yet alarming, earthquakes we experienced in San Francisco convinced us that as much as we love CA we could not live there.

  15. The presentation is so appealing. This one is such a healthy recipe!

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  16. What a great idea...I want to make these for a dinner party.