Marlena de Blasi’s first book about her life in Italy “A Thousand Days In Venice” is one of my favorites. Not only am I mesmerized by her story of getting to live and love in Italy, but she has a true passion for food and cooking and I want to get up and cook after each and every chapter! I’ve read this book a few times over the years and I’m always drawn to her recipe for “Whole Stuffe Pumpkin Stuffed with Porcini and Truffles”. I finally decided that it was time to stop thinking about it and just go ahead and make it! We were having a small dinner party and being that it’s autumn I thought it would be a perfect addition to a fall menu. My first quandry-Halloween is long gone, where would I find a pumpkin? I mentionned this to my friend L. who works at a famous local farm, and she was kind enough to bring me a selection of winter squashes to choose from. I was thrilled to get this heavy box with a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and narrowed it down to two that resmbled pumpkins, but are actually some other variety of squash (lighter in color than a pumpkin). Back and forth I went trying to decide between the taller or the one that was wider and more squat. In the end I went with the the shorter of the two, thinking that it would be easier to layer the ingredients in it.
The filling consists of sauteed mushrooms and onions that are then mixed together with egg, mascarpone, parmesan and emmenthaler cheeses. The recipe calls for truffles (in addition to other mushrooms), but in the absence of this pricey and precious ingredient, I used dried porcini and a sprinkling of truffle salt. You make croutons from some crusty bread and these get layered into the squash in alternating layers with the mushroom/cheese mixture.
Whereas trying a new recipe out on dinner guests may be too intimidating for some, I love it! I figured that it would either be a real winner or we’d get a good laugh and fill up on the other dishes. A few years ago I attempted to make the timpano from the”Big Night” for these same guests and so I knew they would be gentle if my stuffed squash wasn’t a roaring success. (The timpano was okay but I hated the crust and it fell apart as I tried to serve it in beautiful wedges as seen in the movie). Back on went the lid and into the oven it went!
I have to admit that although I used the book by de Blasi as a guide, I did not follow her amounts for ingredients. She calls for using a 4-5 pound pumpkin, which would be much too small for the amount of filling. As it was, I used a 6 pound squash and I only used about a third of the cheeses that she stated and about half of the mushrooms. The amount of filling I made was perfect for my squash. After about an hour and a half it came out of the oven-a little burnt on the outside, but perfect on the inside.
The croutons had absorbed the creaminess of the mascarpone and the combination of this flavorful bread with the mushrooms and squash was delectable! My guests were asking “What is in this? We love it”. Yes, it was delicious and I would definitely make this again. For now I’m happy that there’s a little leftover that I can have with tonight’s dinner!
1 large pumpkin or round squash, about 6 pounds in weight,
cut around stalk end to make a cap, seeds removed from cavity
2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
(I used a mixture of crimini and hen of the woods, but feel free to use chanterelles, portabelli, or cepes)
1 ounce dried porcini, softened in 1/2 cup warm water and drained
1/4 teaspoon truffle salt, optional (use sparingly)
8 ounces mascarpone
6 ounces Emmenthaler cheese, grated
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and frsh ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices firm textured, day old white bread, crusts removed,, cut into 1″ cubes
Melt 2 tbsp.butter in saute pan and add onions and mushrooms over medium high heat until some of the liquid is evaporated. Add salt, pepper and truffle salt, if using. In bowl combine the rest of the ingredients (except bread and butter). Add mushrooms to this mixture. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in pan, add bread cubes and brown bread on all sides until crisp. Place squash in large baking dish and layer 1/3 mushroom mixture then 1/2 crisped bread and continue layering ending with mushrooms. Cover squash with its cap and roast for 1-1/2 hours or until the flesh of squash is soft. Remove cap, scoop out filling with squash and enjoy! Serves 6-8.
I served this with a veal shoulder raised braised in white wine with shallots and fennel but it would be a wonderful meal served alone with a salad.