It may be because it is the season and you can see it placidly sat on all greengrocer’s counters. It may be for its warm and enveloping color, which recalls that of the leaves on the trees or of the logs lit in the fireplace. Or it may be because I associate it with warm and velvety soups, creamy risottos and steaming tortelli dressed with melted butter and Parmesan cheese. In any case, fall is not fall if there is no pumpkin to cook in the kitchen!
Every year in this period I venture to search for new recipes to cook pumpkin. Two years ago, for example, I prepared pumpkin buns. Last year it was a great success the baked pumpkin salad with black cabbage, sage and hazelnuts by chef Samin Nosrat and published in her illuminating cookbook “Salt, fat, acid, heat “.
However, my natural inclination to look back rather than forward leads me almost always to peruse old regional cookbooks in search of ancient recipes, which tell a story related to the territory.And so I have to tell you that first of all in Liguria pumpkin is used to cook the savory pumpkin pie, a great autumn classic.
In the hinterland of Genoa there is a small village, Murta, which has built a gastronomical festival around its savory pumpkin pie. It takes place every year in November during the San Martino festivities and has become a popular phenomenon over the years.
In the west of the city, then, between the neighbourhood of Sestri Ponente, Pegli, Pra ‘and Voltri, they cook pumpkin farinata, which has nothing to do with the famous chickpea farinata. It is cooked in the oven in a large pan like farinata but it is a sheet of unleavened dough (like the one you will find in the recipe below) covered with grated raw pumpkin, seasoned with parmesan and oregano and baked. I discovered the existence of this pie yesterday doing some research for this post and in this moment in my kitchen there is some grated pumpkin giving its water and ready to be baked in this pie! If I like it I will post the recipe.
Today, however, I share the savory pumpkin pie recipe that has always been cooked in my house, which by the way, more or less, is the same that you can find in Ligurian cookbooks. Like most of the Italian Riviera savory pies, it’s a shell of thin layers of puff pastry made with flour, water and oil (not the classic puff pastry) that contains a dense, soft and velvety filling. The sweetness of the pumpkin here is balanced by the savouriness of the Parmesan and the freshness of the ricotta cheese. To add even more flavor there are those who add dry mushrooms in the filling.
Multiverse dish like all vegetable pies, savory pumpkin pie is a light single dish, a side dish or an aperitif if served in small squares. It is good hot or lukewarm. In short, it is always good as long as the pumpkin is sweet and tasty!
- 250 g of all-purpose flour, unsifted, plus extra for shaping the daugh
- 120 ml of water, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- a pinch of salt
- 1 kg of pumpkin cut in slices
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to grease
- 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- Salt, t.t.
- Pepper, t.t.
- Nutmeg, t.t.
- Pour the flour in a bowl, add 80% of the water and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and start kneading.
- If necessary, add some more water from time to time until the dough is firm and homogeneous, but still very soft.
- Take the dough off the bowl and continue kneading with the lower part of your palm on a surface well dusted with flour for 5/10 minutes. The dough will become more and more elastic this way.
- Divide the dough in 6 small balls of the same size, cover with a cooking film or with a humid cloth and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven at 200°C (425 F).
- Lay the pumpkin slices on a baking tray covered with cooking paper, drizzle some oil and salt and bake for 40 minutes or until soft and cooked.
- In the meantime, cut the onion in slices and brown them in a big skillet with 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When gold and smooth shut the fire.
- When the pumpkin is ready remove the skin, squeeze the pulp and add it to the golden onions. Cook at medium heat, stirring from time to time, for about 5minutes so to dry a little bit more the pumpkin pulp.
- Remove from the fire, put the pumpkin in a bowl and add the eggs, the parmesan cheese and the ricotta cheese. Stir, taste and season with salt and pepper and nutmeg (not too much!).
- Grease a cake tin of 22/24 cm (ab 9 in) with olive oil. Take one of the dough balls from the fridge (leave the other in the fridge) and roll it with a rolling pin on a surface well dusted with flour.
- Roll until 1 mm (0,04 inches) thick. You can use your hands to stretch the dough: when you have rolled it in a thin disk put it on the back of your hand and with the other gently stretch the borders in all directions.
- You shall obtain a disc wide enough to cover the cake tin and get out of the edges for a couple of centimetres (ab 1 inch). Don’t save flour! Use as much as you need to avoid that the dough sticks to your hands or to the surface.
- Cover the cake tin with the rolled dough and grease the surface of the dough with a very thin film of olive oil. Repeat the same operation with other two dough balls remembering to grease with oil the surface of the rolled dough each time.
- Once the three layers’ base of the pie is finished it is time to put the filling inside and level with the back of a spoon.
- Cover the pie with three other layers of dough finely rolled and greased with oil as above.
- Once the cover is completed, cut the dough in excess from the borders of the tin and roll the edges inside to seal the filling being careful not to leave holes.
- If you wish you can have fun and try to inflate the pie: leave a small hole in the dough before sealing, blow through it under the last layer of dough and quickly seal it.
- Cook in the oven at 200°C (425 GF) for about 45 minutes or until the dough is gold and crispy.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. The day after is even better!
Talking about Samin Nosrat, the first episode of the new culinary series “Sale, fats, acids and heat”, taken from her wonderful cookbook (unfortunately not yet translated into Italian), was aired on Netflix last 11th October. The first episode, on the use of fats in the kitchen, opened with the Liguria extra virgin olive oil (yeeee!). Then Samin cooked our focaccia and our superb pesto, considered as a perfect example of how three different types of fat (oil, pine nuts and cheese) come together to create the best sauce in the world. If you have Netflix do not miss this episode, but I would also say the whole series. I have read the book and I assure you that it is really worth it!
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