Round or elongated, smooth or lumpy, yellow or green. … there are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins: from the long Napoletana, with a hard skin and orange stringy flesh to the Berettino from Piacenza, with an elastic skin and a yellow and juicy interior; from the Blue Hungarian, gray-blue and flat with yellow-orange, sweet and flavorful flesh to the American Butternut, shaped like a small violin with thin smooth ochre skin and very fine consistency.
There are others like the sugary Delica, dark green and round and the Moscata from Provence with ribbed cream-colored skin and firm flesh. In short, an almost endless choice to draw from according to the flavor and its use in the kitchen.
Delicate and low in calories with lots of vitamin A and minerals, the pumpkin can be matched easily with several ingredients and is suitable for many preparations: soups, ravioli, pies, sautées, puddings, desserts, breads and preserves.
It can be roasted, grilled, boiled, fried or steamed. The fibrous ones are more suitable for soups and sauces, the more compact for stuffed dumplings and pancakes. Its delicate taste is enhanced by robust and spicy seasonings such as blue cheese, curry powder and herbs. Combined with fruit or honey, it becomes a delicious dessert.
The fried flowers, roasted seeds and marinated peel are also very good.
How to purchase pumpkin: you must choose a specimen that is fresh, heavy and ripe, the skin clean, firm and free from bruises with a hard skin and no blemishes or dents.
The stalk should be tender and firmly attached. “Knock” on it with your knuckles; it should produce a hollow sound. Given the size and weight of some pumpkins, it is often a good idea to buy only slices, to be kept in the fridge and consumed within a few days, keeping in mind that the waste in skin and seeds is 30-35 per cent.
How to preserve it: the pumpkin is a vegetable that is commonly stored for the winter. It is harvested in late summer and autumn and kept in a dry place. It can also be sliced and dried in the sun or in the oven. Once cut, you should cover it with plastic wrap so it does not dry.
Raw or cooked? Generally, the pumpkin is cooked, but you can eat it raw, grated in salads to preserve its rich content of Vitamin A.
Although sugary, it does not contain more than 18 calories per 100 grams.
Preparation and cooking time: for preparations like gnocchi, dumplings and purées, the pumpkin is usually baked in the oven in slices. For risotto or soup, cut into cubes after eliminating the seeds and skin. If you need to pre-boil it, cook in a minimum of boiling salted water or steam. For gnocchi it is best to bake it in the oven: the pulp will be drier.
How to serve It: traditional dishes made with pumpkin are gnocchi, ravioli, risotto, rice soup. It can be served fried or mashed as a side dish, perfect with beef stew.
Pumpkin is also eaten sweet-and-sour, candied or as jam.
Pumpkin: an autumn vegetable that should be “helped”
It doesn’t take much to boost a pumpkin preparation: a roasted slice, its flavor enhanced by orange peel and a drizzle of olive oil, is a great way to enjoy it.
In stuffed “tortelli”, sweet fruit pickles and macaroons bring out the sweetness.
In creamy soups, ginger or other spices “whip up” a nice contrast.
There’s always a need for a little extra ingredient. The reward will be a great dish.
And the seeds? Do not throw them away: after washing and drying, toast them in the oven at 100°C until golden. Let them cool and then blend with a pinch of salt to obtain a brown powder. For an extra touch of color and taste, use this “flour” to sprinkle an autumn rice garnished with diced roasted pumpkin flesh.
Here’s a delicious and attractive recipe that may accompany a roast or even boiled meat.