9.29.2018

Gad-Zucca!

Last fall, while wandering through the Sunday morning Heirloom Farmers Market, I spotted this beauty.

I had to have it. But, I had run out of cash. You see, I give myself a weekly market allowance.

The farmer said, “It was meant to be yours. Pay me next week.” (I did.)

“What is it?” “A pumpkin,” she said. Okaaaay.... or a coach for Cinderella, had she a problem with warts?

Actually, I think it is absolutely beautiful. But, once I had it home, I was paralyzed - what do I do with it?

It adorned our hearth for a couple of months. Mark kept asking if it would go bad, or if I was ever going do anything with it.

I eventually googled “bumpy blue-green pumpkin” and found out it’s an Italian heirloom variety called Marina di Chioggia, often referred to as Zucca Santa (holy pumpkin) or Zucca Barucca. It is used a lot in the Veneto for ravioli, cicchetti, risotti, gnocchi, and simply eaten roasted plain. Today's recipe, other than the roasting, is a risotto.

One January weekend afternoon, I decided to bite the bullet and fire up the oven. I sliced this 12-pound behemoth into 1 1/2-inch slices - I think between 20-24 - and roasted them until they were caramelized and tender.

This made about 8 cups of pumpkin purée, which I froze in smaller portions to use throughout the year.

It was a great investment!

~ David


Roasted Marina di Chioggia Pumpkin
1 pumpkin - 10-12 pounds – or other variety
olive oil


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and brush it liberally with olive oil.

Wash pumpkin and cut in half. Scoop out seeds and the thin fibrous layer. Slice into 1 1/2-inch slices, and place as many slices as possible on their sides on the oiled foil. You will need to roast in batches.

Roast the squash for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until it is caramelized and pierces easily with a sharp knife. Remove slices to a cutting board, and repeat the roasting with remaining slices until they are all roasted. You may need to add more oil, or replace the foil if it tears.

Once cool. Cut off the skin with a sharp knife; discard skin, and add roasted flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Process in pulses until smooth, then freeze in 1 1/2-cup amounts for future use.

Note: I did not season the squash so that it can be used in both savory and sweet preparations.

Pumpkin Risotto
Note: this is not a traditional version, per se, although it is inspired by traditional Italian flavor combinations and simplicity.

6 cups light chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin purée, warmed
6-8 fresh sage leaves, chopped 

salt and freshly ground white pepper1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
4 amaretti cookies, crushed
Bring broth to a boil on the back burner, then reduce heat and keep it at a low simmer.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt olive oil and butter together. Add the shallot and sauté until clear, but not brown. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until rice turns opaque. Add the wine, and continue stirring until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Then, add a ladleful (1/2 cup) of the hot broth and continue stirring until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. You can tell it’s right when you drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan and it briefly leaves a clear trail. Continue adding the broth, one ladleful at a time, in the same manner until you have but one ladleful left.

Add the pumpkin and sage, and cooked for a couple of minutes until fully warmed through. Then add the final ladleful of broth, season with salt and white pepper, and stir until the risotto is al ondine (literally “wavy” - not too dry or too wet). Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and then divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with a quarter of the crushed amaretti crumbs. 


Serves 4.



28 comments:

  1. Love making risotto - my 'meditation therapy'! Two lessons here: must make some pumpkin puree to have in the freezer also ere our winter pumpkins disappear . . . and try adding some to my next effort with the use of amaretti biscuits being all new. Have to show a photo of your heirloom beauty to neighbourhood market gardeners with a ? !!

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    1. I think of risotto making as therapy, as well! It’s nice to be at the stove storing for 20 minutes without having to think of anything else! I will be curious if you were market gardeners know of this pumpkin! Let me know.

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  2. We use this autumn beauty when making risotto with sage and white wine and have it roasted also, as an delicacy since it tastes almost like roasted chestnuts. Beautiful post David. Thank you so much !

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    1. It does have a really unique and wonderful flavor, doesn’t it? It’s different from any of the other pumpkin sidenote…

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  3. I have seen this pumpkin and now I have to buy it and experiment with it. Your risotto looks divine. Thanks David.

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    1. I love the look of this pumpkin – it’s so different from the others, but it taste so good!

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  4. I love how these pumpkins look, warty skin and all. I'm a big risotto fan, but I think my favorite part about this recipe is that you topped it with a cookie garnish. Brilliant.

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    1. Shouldn’t every dish including cookies, Valentina?

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  5. I love the photos for this, what a delicious sounding autumnal meal.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline – it was fun to photograph this one!

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  6. Terrific post. I love using heirloom pumpkins/squash -- they have excellent flavor, and always look so interesting. I've never had pumpkin risotto -- yours looks so nice. Thoroughly enjoyable read -- thanks.

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    1. Thanks, John – I’m surprised we don’t find more heirloom varieties in the market… You are absolutely right – the flavor is really superior!

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  7. How does the flavor differ from our orange pumpkins? I had a gorgeous pumpkin soup in the VIP lounge at Kingston airport in Jamaica (of all places) and I think it might be a relative to your pumpkin. I asked about it and the chef came out with a big green pumpkin! He was going to give it to me, but I told him the US border control wouldn't be very happy with me if I brought it with me! ;)

    LOVE risotto so much, I'm sure I'd want triple helpings of this! I'll actually be writing about our "cruise and cook" on Lake Lugano soon. It included making risotto with the owner of a grotto! You need to put this on your bucket list, David. Honestly, such an incredibly wonderful experience.

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    1. Christina - this pumpkin is more nutty than others we have in the states. It also has a bit more water than our pie pumpkins. Your cruise and cook tour sounds wonderful!

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  8. David, how wonderful! I like the idea of preparing it all unseasoned and freezing in batches of a certain size to use throughout the year. Your pumpkin risotto, traditional or not, sounds very good indeed.

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    1. Whenever I can, Jean, I need things in bulk and freeze them. That said, there are very few things that made this criteria! Cooking or large pumpkin is definitely one of them.

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  9. Pumpkin and sage - a match made in heaven! Turn it into risotto and I may be knocking on your door for a taste. Love it!

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  10. That's one ugly squash you have there. But a tasty one I'm sure. Pumpkins were almost non-existent over here until a few years ago, but I still haven't seen any Zucca at the market. No worries though we have other varieties to use in your fine risotto recipe.

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    1. But, Ron, there is such beauty in its ugliness! I absolutely love the color, and the flavor is unsurpassed.

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  11. I love all the different varieties of winter squash/pumpkins! ANd how smart to have a market budget (I spent $100 my last market -- oops!)!

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    1. Inger - If I don’t set a limit at the market, I would go broke!

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  12. This post was a fun read!! And this pumpkin risotto looks heavenly to me! You already know I've got a pumpkin obsession and this definitely going on our menu soon, David :)

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  13. One of the first times I ever had pumpkin it was in a risotto, this dish takes me back. I would love a dish right now.

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  14. It may be a bit strange looking but your pumpkin sure did produce delicious sounding results.

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    1. Never judge a book - or pumpkin - by its covert, right Karen?

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