It’s that time of the year again when mantles and table tops are dressed with clusters of tiny pumpkins to ring in the harvest. A lot of my friends buy the miniature pumpkins at the supermarket since the big ones won’t fit in their apartments. Then once Halloween is over they get thrown out. Rather than putting good food to waste, here’s a tutorial on how to cut, peel and cook these colourful little squashes.
Step 1: Wash
Thoroughly wash the outside of the pumpkin, removing any dirt and dust. Pat it dry with a towel.
Step 2: Stabilize
The tricky part about cutting into pumpkins or any other kind of round produce (eg: onions) is that they’ll roll around on the cutting board, making it easy for the knife to slip and cut your fingers. To solve that, using a sharp knife and slice across the top and bottom of the pumpkin to create a flat surface for it to rest on. You can also place the pumpkin on a towel to further prevent the pumpkin from rolling around when you’re cutting it.
Step 3: Peel
Using a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler, peel away the outer skin.
Step 4: Half
Cut the pumpkin in half.
Step 5: Gut
Using a large metal spoon, scrape out the pumpkin seeds (keep them for toasting later) and the stringy guts.
Step 6: Section
Cut the pumpkin halves into smaller sections, and then into smaller chunks to prepare for roasting.
Step 7: Roast
- Preheat the oven at 375°F.
- Place the pumpkin on a lined baking sheet and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add enough oil so that every chunk is slightly shiny, but not so much that there is excess oil on the pan.
- Bake for 45 min to an hour, or until the pumpkin is soft with a slightly crispy exterior.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Bonus: try roasting some pumpkin seeds.
Since the oven is already on, you might as well give the seeds a roast to make a snack out of them.
- Separate the seeds from the guts in a colander under cold running water.
- Like the pumpkin, drizzle the seeds with a very light coat of olive oil, salt, and pepper (or some cayenne for some heat).
- Roast them on a baking sheet (use the pan that was used to cook the pumpkin to minimize cleanup) at the same 375°F temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the seeds turn a light brown and become crispy.
Pumpkin and Pancetta Spaghetti
This easy to make and colourful pasta is a delicious way to serve fibre-rich pumpkin. The squash’s natural sweetness compliments the salty pork while the spinach absorb all the flavours in the pan. I prefer using fusilli, penne, or any other kind of pasta with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the bits of pancetta and cheese.
2 cups dried whole-wheat fusilli pasta
1/3 cup pancetta cubes
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin, cubed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
3 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al denté. Drain and set aside.
- In a large oiled pan, sauté the pancetta until they start to brown and crisp. Add pasta, roasted pumpkin, and spinach leaves. Toss altogether.
- Add the milk and parmesan. Stir gently until the spinach leaves begin to wilt, the cheese has melted, and the milk has mostly evaporated.
- Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to finish. Garnish with parmesan shavings. Serves 2 hungry pumpkin eaters.
Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.