Articles / We Carve Pumpkins, So Why The Hell Don't We Cook Them?

We Carve Pumpkins, So Why The Hell Don't We Cook Them?

Published October 23, 2020

Almost nobody cooks with fresh pumpkin. We’ll spends hours carving them into ornate jack-o-lanterns, but when it comes time to make pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup or pumpkin whatever, we reach for the can. Halloween is next Saturday. Pumpkins abound. If there was ever a time to think about cooking one, it’s now.

Yes, peeling and cubing a pumpkin takes some time, but in these two recipes I’m suggesting, that constitutes the bulk of the work. There’s pumpkin risotto (perfect for a weekend dinner…maybe even Halloween night), and penne with pumpkin or squash (easier to throw together on a weeknight). It’s worth noting that you can always substitute any orange winter squash for pumpkin if you like (speaking of squash, I’d regret not mentioning that you can turn it into an incredible vegan schnitzel. Just saying.)

Both recipes are meant to evoke a classic Italian dish called tortelli di zucca, stuffed pasta with a filling of zucca (a pumpkin-like vegetable), nutmeg, eggs, parmesan and crumbled amaretti cookies. It’s amazing, but a serious project. These penne and risotto spinoffs capture many of the same cozy fall vibes without much of the angst.

Sugar pumpkins, which are smaller and more flavorful than anything you might carve, are the best for cooking and are easy to find, even in supermarkets. To cut one up, start just as if you were carving a jack-o’-lantern: cut a circle around the stem, then pull up on the stem and discard it. Using the cavity as a handle, peel the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler.

Then cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds with an ice cream scoop or heavy spoon. You can discard the seeds or roast them (more on that in a sec). Cut or scrape off any excess string and cut the pumpkin into approximately 1-inch cubes. (A 4-pound pumpkin will yield about 8 cups of cubes.)