There are certain ingredients that I return to again and again in these pages because our ancestors depended on them for sustenance. One is the pumpkin. You may remember the paean to pumpkin I quoted last year in the article calling pumpkins, Survival Food on the Ohio Frontier.
Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.
Poem written in 1630s America, from History.org article on pumpkins .
The recipe for pumpkin macaroni and cheese that I am sharing today has no other relation to pioneers other than the fact that it is a pumpkin. I found this on the cooking site of my friend Stephanie Stiavetti last year, and such a delicious recipe deserves to be shared.
If you are looking for a really spectacular dish to put on your holiday table–this pumpkin stuffed with macaroni and cheese fills the bill. Not only that, it only looks fancy. It is really a very easy recipe–once you get the darned strings and seeds out of the pumpkin.
Be sure to read the notes with the pumpkin macaroni and cheese recipe to get some more ideas about how you can make the recipe your own. Cook like our ancestors. Use what you have on hand.
And keep in mind when our great-grandmothers cooked pumpkin, they weren’t cooking those thin-walled, tasteless things that we’ve been buying to carve jack-o-lanterns. Their pumpkins were smaller and meatier and tastier. It is only in more recent times that the taste and bake-ability was bred out of pumpkins. Now, fortunately, you can get the good cooking pumpkins once again.
Macaroni in a Pumpkin
|Prep time||45 minutes|
|Cook time||1 hour, 30 minutes|
|Total time||2 hours, 15 minutes|
|Meal type||Main Dish, Side Dish|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot|
|Website||The Culinary Life|
- 1 or 2 Pumpkins (Pie pumpkin or sugar pumpkin--NOT carving kind. See Note.)
- sea salt
- 4oz elbow macaroni
- 5oz fontina cheese (See Note.)
- 2oz Gruyere cheese (See Note.)
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (chopped, or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram leaves (or 1/4 tsp dried)
- 1 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
- 1/4lb mild Italian sausage (optional)
- 3 scallions (chopped, optional)
|1.||Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut "Lid" from pumpkin as if you are going to make a Jack-o-lantern, and remove seeds and strings as best you can. Generaously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.|
|2.||Put the top back on and put pumpkins on rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 45 minutes for one larger and 30 minutes for two smaller pumpkins.|
|3.||If using sausage, brown crumbled sausage in a spoonful of olive oil. Remove with slotted spoon and drain liquid.|
|4.||Cook macaroni according to directions. When cooked al dente, drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.|
|5.||Cut cheeses in 1/4 inch cubes, toss with herbs and scallions, macaroni (and cooked sausage) in a bowl.|
|6.||When the pumpkin is done--just beginning to yield to a fork on the inside, but not mushy--take it out of oven and fill with the pasta filling|
|7.||Scoop filling into pumpkin or pumpkins and pour cream over. Put top back on. Return to oven and bake one hour for one large pumpkin, or 45 minutes for smaller ones. Fifteen minutes before finished, remove top to let the filling brown slightly. If it seems too liquid, let continue to bake another 10-15 minutes.|
|8.||Serve sliced in sections, or scoop out the inside, including some of the pumpkin in each serving.|
|9.||Stephanie at www.theculinarylife.com suggests you can make the filling ahead of time and refrigerate until the day of the dinner. Then bake the pumpkin and fill as directed above.|
Besides being the most beautiful dish you can put on your Halloween or Thanksgiving table, this recipe is a gift to the cook because it is quite easy to make and very flexible.
Cheese: Stephanie Stiavetti, whose website Http://www. theculinarylife was my source (from which I deviated freely), suggests using 5 ounces of Fontina and two ounces of Gruyere. I did make it that way and it was deliciously creamy.
I also tried it with 5 ounces of Gouda and 3 ounces of Asiago. Stephanie basically says "use whatever you have on hand", mentioning cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss cheese, Jarlsberg. Another person made it with aged cheddar and chorizo and chipotle. Do your own thing!
Herbs: The same advice holds true for the herbs. I grow a few herbs, so used what I had--fresh thyme, marjoram and oregano. We don't care for sage, which was part of Stephanie's rosemary, thyme and sage suggestion.
Cream: I used half and half this time, but did follow Stephanie's instructions to use heavy cream the first time I made the recipe. It all depends on how adventurous you are feeling, although admittedly the heavy cream adds a lot to the creamy texture.
The only place where I would definitely not compromise is in the use of a pie pumpkin or sugar pumpkin instead of a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. The thicker-walled baking pumpkins are becoming easier to find in stores, and are far superior for baking to the pumpkins bred for carving with their emphasis on thinner walls and little taste.
Now go wow your guests!