I like a good pumpkin dessert as much as the next girl. But I think we need more savory pumpkin dishes on the Thanksgiving dinner table, to show the pumpkin’s full glory and potential. Enter… the stuffed pumpkin. This is one of those dishes that is a breeze to put together, tastes otherworldly, and has an impressive presentation that makes you seem like a kitchen Goddess.
You will need: a pumpkin that is 3 pounds, (or if you want to be whimsical about it you can try to get small ones and serve them individually), leek, gruyere cheese, stale bread, nutmeg, pancetta, thyme, a head of garlic, and smoked paprika. You’ll also need a mystery ingredient which I failed to photograph here…Cream! Heavy cream! The best ingredient there ever was.
Begin by roasting a whole head of garlic. Simply wrap a whole head of garlic, with olive oil, in tin foil. If the cloves fall apart like mine did, that’s A-OK. Roast them in the oven for 1 hour while you get the rest of the ingredients together. When they are done you will be able to squeeze them right out of their casings.
Carve off the top of the pumpkin. It will be full of fresh seeds. If you’re feeling patient you could save some of them and toast them, in fact I recently roasted them and then drizzled them with melted dark chocolate, then popped them in the refrigerator for the chocolate to harden. It was a delicious snack.
Season your pumpkin with a good dose of salt and pepper on the inside. Then set it aside and get the stuffing ready.
Cut the pancetta up into a small dice. It has a more nutty, complex flavor than bacon does which is why I prefer it, but bacon will work if that’s what you have available.
Next you’ll prepare and clean the leek, cutting the white and light green portion into thin slices. You can save the tougher green ends for stock making.
Next, render some pancetta in a skillet and let the fat sizzle and the pancetta crisp. Add the leeks, season them with some salt and pepper and let them wilt.
They’ll become soft and translucent. Try to resist eating the whole thing with a spoon right then and there. It’s hard. Once you have it where you want it, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
Then you’ll cut some stale bread… it can be semi-stale, it’s going to soak up some liquid. You’ll want 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch pieces.
Then grate the heavenly gruyere cheese.
In a separate bowl, combine the bread, gruyere, picked thyme, the smoked paprika and the nutmeg!
Mix it all together, add the pancetta and leek mixture to the bowl… and give it a a nice stir. And don’t forget the best ingredient of all…the roasted garlic! Which you can now squeeze out of their magical skins into the bowl.
Scoop the stuffing into the pumpkin and fill it up.
Then pour on some cream for moisture. Put the lid on top and bake this in the oven for about 90 minutes.
It will become very tender and easily pierced with a knife. That’s when it’s ready.
This is festive to present to your guests at the dinner table, and bonus points if you can find very small pumpkins to serve these as individual servings.
The filling is to die for and highlights pumpkin’s many virtues. Leave a comment below if you’ll be trying this for your Thanksgiving table!
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 head garlic
- 1 3-pound pumpkin, 2 1.5-pound pumpkins or 4 1-pound pumkins
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup pancetta, diced
- 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 cups croutons or stale bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup freshly grated gruyere cheese, plus more for sprinkling at the end
- 1 tablespoon freshly picked thyme
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut the root and top end off of the garlic head, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and roast in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, or until soft.
3. Cut a circle around the stem of the pumpkin and remove the lid. Cut the seeds off of the lid and scoop out the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin. Season the inside with salt and pepper.
4. In a medium-large saute pan over medium heat, brown the pancetta to release the fat. Add the leek and sweat until soft. Turn off the heat and let cool.
5. In a bowl, combine the croutons, cheese, thyme, nutmeg and smoked paprika. Once cooled, add the pancetta and leeks and mix to combine.
6. Remove the roasted garlic from the oven and squeeze the cloves out of the skins. Roughly chop and add to the mixture.
7. Fill the pumpkin with the stuffing mixture. Pour over the heavy cream, put the pumpkin lid back on, and place on a sheet tray covered with a rack or a silicone pad to prevent it from sticking.
8. Bake for 90 minutes, or until the pumpkin flesh is tender and easily pierced with a fork.
9. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the lid from the pumpkin and top the stuffing with the extra grated gruyere. Return the pumpkin to the oven, keeping the lid on the side of the sheet tray so the cheese can brown and bubble.
10. Serve warm, sliced into fourths, in half, or as individual pumpkins depending on their size.
About Georgia Pellegrini:
Georgia’s taste for simple food and outdoor adventure evolved as she grew up in the Hudson Valley. She followed her passion to the French Culinary Institute and then to Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and La Chassagnette in France. Georgia is the author of “Food Heroes,” “Girl Hunter,” and the new book “Modern Pioneering.” She has appeared on Today, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Iron Chef, and much more, and her outdoor Adventure Getaways have been featured everywhere from the New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal, to HBO. She lives in Austin, Texas and chronicles her adventures on her wildly popular website GeorgiaPellegrini.com and her Facebook fan page.