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.
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.
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
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 or acini di pepe
chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
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.
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
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.