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How to Use the Whole Pumpkin

How to Use the Whole Pumpkin

Discover a dozen ways to enjoy the whole pumpkin with our delicious guide! (Word to the wise: there will be no pumpkin spice. After all, we are still Italians.)

On a recent glorious Saturday, an Eataly Magazine editor traversed across the upstate New York foliage to pluck a pumpkin from a field (full disclosure: it was a field of pre-plucked pumpkins, but she didn’t know that in advance). After carrying it from train to subway to mile-long walk home, she was determined to get the most out of the golden gourd. She turned to our chefs for advice; the answers have become our new stem-to-seed approach to pumpkins.

As we dive into the heart of jack-o'-lantern season, it's time to relish the stringy pulp (creative cocktail, anyone?), meaty flesh (stuffed ravioli!), and even textured leaves (Italians put those in salad). Whether hunted in the "wild" or snagged from Eataly's market, learn how to wholly enjoy your next pumpkin.

Pumpkin

Want to find out how to use the whole pumpkin? Read on to see how to make the most of your zucca this season, from seed to stem.

 

STEM

We admit: the stem initially stymied us. But we found some delicious and decorative uses, however obscure.

1. Decore galore!
The craftier among us suggest severing stem from gourd, air drying for three days, and then using in a seasonal display (a bowlful of pumpkin stems looks antler chic; you can also sew and stuff velvet around the stem to create small decorative pumpkins).

2. Never underestimate cucina povera.
Food lovers above all, we scoured our archive (and our nonna’s archive) for recipes with any mention of pumpkin extremities. You will love the resulting pasta sauce, a relic of cucina povera (the no-waste "poor cooking" style from rural Italy)! After deeply cleaning the stem, slice it into thin, ¼-inch strips. Blanch it (plunge into boiling water, then immediately dunk in an ice bath), then fry in extra virgin olive oil with diced garlic until the stem becomes soft and aromatic. Toss with chopped tomatoes, and serve with your favorite chunky-sauce-catching pasta!

Stem

SHELL

There are surprisingly countless ways to enjoy a pumpkin's colorful exterior, from the ubiquitous October jack-o'-lantern to a tasty oven-roasted masterpiece.

1. Two words: roasted pumpkin.
Simply stuff the gourd with your favorite ingredients (like the below creamy cheese sauce), and toss the whole thing in the oven. After cleaning the entire pumpkin, cut off a “lid,” and scoop out the seeds and strands, leaving the flesh. Then, heat 1 cup of heavy cream, ½ cup milk, 3-5 crushed garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoons thyme leaves (play with ratios based on pumpkin size). When hot, season with salt and pepper, and pour into the pumpkin, along with about ½ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano. Return the lid, and roast at 300°F for 1½ hours. Then, remove the lid, sprinkle with more pepper and about ¼ cup more cheese. Turn the heat up to 400°F, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is perfectly golden. Garnish with a few more thyme leaves, and serve.

2. Decore some more!
During Halloween, we felt partial to using the shell as a jack-o'-lantern. (It helps to have world-class chefs behind the carving knife.)

jackolantern pumpkin

LEAVES

Word to the wise: while younger leaves are edible and delicious, older leaves are overly tough (and just not very tasty). Look for the freshest, greenest pumpkin leaves available.

1. Salad.
If you come across a pumpkin with green, softer leaves, simply clean them, tear into bite-sized leaves, and lightly saute in olive oil. Use the leaves in a tasty salad with your pairing and dressing of choice (points for pairing with roasted pumpkin flesh and roasted seeds).

2. Cucina povera strikes again!
See our pasta sauce under our stem section above; blanch, fry, and add the leaves to the same dish!

Pumpkin Leaves

PULP

Yes, you can (and should!) enjoy the stringy, slippery innards that are intertwined with seeds.

1. Infuse spirits.
Get Halloween off the brain: we’re talking more liquor, less ghoul. Follow our guide to infusing spirits, and use the pulp (seeds optional) with your favorite combination of flavors (we like the sound of cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans). Pair with apple cider for a very seasonal cocktail!

2. Stock!
A wonderful addition to almost every soup recipe, this pumpkin stock is easy to make and adds a great depth of flavor. Simply remove the seeds (placing them aside for future use, of course!), and add the pulp to a large pot with heated extra virgin olive oil. Stir for a few minutes, toasting it. Then, add a large, roughly chopped onion, a few optional vegetable scraps (see Chef Dan Barber’s wastED concept), and 6-8 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer for at least half an hour. Strain the stock into a large bowl, and enjoy this pumpkin gold as the base of your future soups, stews, and even risotto!

soup zuppa

FLESH

After removing the seeds and pulp, simply scraped the pumpkin “flesh” – the meaty insides of the gourd – from the shell. From chopped to pureed, this savory vegetable is versatile beyond its signature pie.

1. Stew.
Chop the meat into small cubes, and add to your favorite seasonal stew, as you would any other squash (pumpkin would make a delicious addition to this ribollita, for example).

2. Ravioli.
Puree the meat until it is smooth, then add to your favorite stuffed pasta (snag the recipe for pumpkin ravioli here). In the spirit of this quest, our chefs garnished the pasta dish with pumpkin seeds and batons.

pumpkin ravioli

SEEDS

The pumpkin's flat and flavorful seeds are easy and fun to prepare. After cleaning them, roast the seeds in one layer in the oven at 300°F for 30 minutes, drying them out. Then, add desired seasonings (the simpler the better: see our ideas below), and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Let cool, and serve the seeds on their own or as a savory, colorful garnish.

1. Go back to basics.
Embrace a classic flavor combination by seasoning your seeds with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.

2. Cheese it up.
Using the same ingredients above, add a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano and a sprinkling of thyme.

Pumpkin Seeds

Now you are ready to wholly enjoy your next pumpkin! Before you pick up a carving knife for your Halloween needs, we hope you think twice about the golden gourd.

Buon appetito!

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