Tag Archives: Pumpkin

Torta di Zucca (Pumpkin Pie)

27 Nov

Pumpkin pie, or torta di zucca, is a typical American dessert, often prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving. When I first ate it in the US, I thought how I might add a bit of Italy to this recipe. The recipe I propose is my creation, with some additional, typically Italian ingredients in the filling, such as amaretti and amaretto di Saronno liquor, while the crust is prepared with pasta brisee instead of American pie dough. The taste of amaretti goes very well with that of the pumpkin making this dessert doubly delicious (I also use this combination of ingredients with pasta, in the pasta con zucca e amaretti recipe. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served with sweetened whipped cream, but I personally prefer to eat it plain, to fully enjoy the pumpkin’s distinctive flavor. Every time I serve it, it’s really a big success, something a bit different to savor.

Preparation time: 1h+15min.      Cooking time: 45 min.      Servings: 8

Pasta Briseè (Briseè crust)
250 g  (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
120 g (¼ cup) chilled butter
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
60 ml cold water

450 g (1 heaping cup) mushed pumpkin
250 ml (1 heaping cup) fresh cream
50 g (¼ cup) brown sugar
100 g (½ cup) white sugar
10 amaretti cookies, finely crushed
100 ml  (½ cup) Amaretto di Saronno liquor
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs

Preheat the oven to 190°C (425°F)
1. Pasta brisee (brisee crust). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time.  Add the egg yolk until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
2. Filling. To cook pumpkin see risotto di zucca. In a large bowl mix until well blended pumpkin, cream, brown sugar, white sugar, amaretti cookies, Amaretto liqueur, spices and eggs
3. Once the dough has rested, flatten it out on a lightly floured board, then transfer to a 25 cm (9 in) ceramic or glass pie or tart baking dish.  Gently pat the pastry dough in the pan to 4 mm (less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides.  The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm. Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient)
4. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake for 15 min. at 190°C (425°F), then reduce the temperature to 170°C (350°F), bake about 30-35 min. longer until an inserted knife comes out clean
5. Cool on a racket and serve with sweetened whipped cream .  -Paola


Pasta con Zucca e Amaretti (Pasta with Pumpkin and Amaretti)

19 Oct

It is pumpkin season! Pumpkin is an autumn vegetable, very tasty and suitable for the preparation of a variety of recipes This recipe for pasta with pumpkin and amaretti cookies is a perfect, colorful dish on a cold and gray day. Amaretti refer to the almond flavored macaroons, crispy and crunchy, which are traditionally from Saronno, a small city in Lombardy between Como and Milan. The taste of the pasta blends well with the sweetness of pumpkin, the addition of sage gives a fragrant aroma . The flavor is unique and special; it definitely satisfies the taste of those people who love combining sweet and savory foods. I love this recipe because it reminds me so much of my childhood. In fact, this recipe is part of my family’s culinary tradition and goes back to my great-grandmother. Actually, I’ve never eaten it in any restaurant nor have I even seen it on the menu, so this is a true this is an exclusive for my readers. The pumpkin that I use is the “zucca mantovana” (Cucurbita maxima, Kabocha). It takes its name from Mantua (Mantova), a city in Lombardy where it grows in abundance because the soil is particularly suited to this vegetable. Its pulp is tender and very sweet, with its flavor somewhere between sweet potato and chestnut, with an almost nutty taste.

Preparation time: 30 min.        Cooking time: 20 min.            Servings: 4

Pasta con Zucca e Amaretti

1350 g (3 lbs) fresh pumpkin (about 260 g, or 2 cups, mashed)
340 g (12 0z) penne
18 finely crushed amaretti
100 g (7 tablespoons) butter
4-5 sage leaves
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cut pumpkin into 4 pieces, remove seeds and strings. Wash in water. Bake pumpkin at 200 °C -400 °F (see pumpkin risotto‎‎) or steam. While it is still warm, remove the skin and mash into puree
2. Bring approx. 3 liters of salted water to a boil, cook pasta for about 10-11 minutes until al dente (read the cooking time on the package)
3. While pasta is cooking, melt half the butter in a saucepan, add pumpkin and 16 crushed amaretti, nutmeg and cinnamon. Season with salt. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking water to make the pumpkin puree creamier
4. Melt the remaining butter in a pan with the sage to flavor the butter. If you prefer you can remove the sage, however I leave it because I really like its intense flavor
5. Drain and transfer the pasta to the pan, stir gently and add the sage-flavored butter. Transfer onto a serving plate and garnish with crumbs from 2-3 crushed amaretti, Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.

Note: You can use any type of short pasta such as macaroni , mezze penne , garganelli, tortiglioni and so on. You can substitute “zucca mantovana” with butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata).  – Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn

Risotto di Zucca (Winter Squash Risotto)

6 Oct


Fall has arrived, nature has changed its colors from green to yellow, red, brown and ochre, we have exchanged our summer wardrobes for the winter ones and changed the types of food on our tables. It’s pumpkin season!  Winter squash is a very nice vegetable, suitable for preparing a variety of recipes ranging from risotto to ravioli, soup to pasta sauce, cakes to croquettes – and even all by itself.  Fall’s famous vegetable, in addition to being a tasty part of many recipes, is a very good and healthy choice of food, an excellent source of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A), a good source of fiber, potassium, iron, folate, magnesium and manganese.  Pumpkin is low-calorie and contains lots of water, thus a perfect ingredient to use when slimming down.


Preparation Time: about 2 hrs       
Cooking time:            1 ½ hrs + 15-20 min.                   
Servings: 4

Squash or pumpkin risotto is extremely popular in northern Italy during the cold months. Little wonder, because a good winter squash has a delightful tangy sweetness to it, while the risotto has a splendid creamy texture, perfect on a cold, gray winter day with a nice glass of Italian wine!  There are several varieties  of winter squash you can use; the one I like the most is zucca di Mantova (Cucurbita maxima, Kabocha).  It takes its name from Mantova, a city in northern Italy, where it grows.  It has a very sweet, tender flesh, tasting like a cross between sweet potato and pumpkin.  It is large, round and squat, dark green and mottled, often with bumpy skin.  A good alternative is butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) that also has  sweet and nutty taste.  When you choose your pumpkin make sure it is firm all the way around. 

Zucca di Mantova (half) about 750 g (1 ½ lb)
1 liter vegetable or chicken stock
80 g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
300 g (1 ½ cups) Italian Carnaroli or Arborio rice
240 ml (1 cup) dry white wine, at room temperature
25 g (¼  cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly white ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C (390-400°F).  Cut pumpkin in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and stringy material.  Wash in plain cold water.  Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet and bake for about 1-1/2 hours or until the flesh is very tender when pierced with a fork.  Don’t worry if the edges are browned. The natural sugars actually caramelize and give it a richer more complex flavor.  When it is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mush it with a fork.  Set aside half of the puree. You can freeze the other half in a plastic bag or air-tight container for another risotto.

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm up the stock
  2. In a large saucepan heat 50 g (4 T) butter.  Add the chopped onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the rice and stir thoroughly for about 3 minutes, in order to “coat” the rice well with the butter and onions.  (This helps regulate absorption of the wine.)  Add the wine and stir until is completely absorbed
  3. Add a soup ladle or two of the stock until the rice is just covered, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When the stock is almost completely absorbed, repeat this process for about 15 minutes (it depends on the rice’s cooking time, which should be clearly indicated on the package)
  4. Add the squash and cook for about 2 minutes.

The end of the cooking is critical for the final texture of the dish, so when the rice is nearly  tender to the bite, but with just a hint of resistance (al dente), and the liquid you have added up to this point has been mostly absorbed (the risotto should seem a bit “soupy”), add the Parmesan and butter to taste, about  30 g (2 T).

Remove your risotto from the heat.  At this point, stir the risotto vigorously to blend in the cheese and butter.  You can also add some salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Let it stand for 1 or 2 minutes and serve immediately (plan your timing well – it is very easy to overcook risotto!).

Note: Cooking pumpkin is much easier than you think.  There are different methods: Boiling, Steaming and Roasting.  Roasting is my favorite one because it give a richer flavor.  You can roast the pumpkin some days in advance and freeze it until you are ready to use it. This process will speed up your risotto preparation time. 

It is important to know about rice when buying for risotto; choose short-grained round or semi-round rice, rich in starch; among the best rice for making risotto are Italian Arborio and  Carnaroli.  Don’t forget that risotto requires a great deal of attention and continuous stirring!  Risotto is a perfect gluten-free dish.  -Paola

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