My mom found this ingeniously adorable little recipe in an old magazine clipping she found, circa 1984. You serve the stew inside the pumpkin, then scrape the sides off to eat! I am not one to particularly “get into the holidays” but making this dish definitely put me in the spirit of fall and Halloween.
The recipe basically called for using a large pumpkin, but for some reason eating the insides of a jack ‘o lantern did not sound appealing to me, so I instead used sugar pie pumpkins and served them individually, so everyone can scrape as much (or little) pumpkin flesh into their stew as they want. I also tried this with a Kabocha squash because I’ve seen them relatively year round at Sprouts. It worked wonderfully well, but do note that Kabocha squash doesn’t take quite as long to cook.
If you’re doing a little dinner party with the single-sized pumpkins, you can write the names of guests on the caps and place them at each seat or kind of pile them in the middle of the table with some greenery for a centerpiece.
I would like to stress one key point here: Do not overcook the pumpkin. It’s probably better to leave it a touch under cooked because you are going to give it another 10 minutes in the oven once its filled anyway. If you over cook the pumpkin, it may split or just plain fall apart. If you are just wanting to make stew on a weeknight, you don’t have to serve it in the pumpkin; just add diced pumpkin (or even some of the pre diced and frozen butternut squash) when you put in the peppers and other veg for a pretty quick weeknight stew.
- 1 pumpkin or 4 small sugar pie pumpkins for individual pumpkin bowls, about 7 pounds
- 1.5-2 lb Italian sausage cut into pieces smaller than 1 inch
- 2 cups sweet peppers chopped into large-ish bite sized pieces
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced or finely chopped
- 2 apples cubed
- 2/3 cups dry white wine
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon white or brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat oven to 350. Cut the top of the pumpkin (or pumpkins) and clean out the seeds and strings. Place pumpkin open side down on a baking sheet with a lip and add about 1/4 inch of water. Bake the pumpkin until tender, about an hour for a big one, 45 minutes for sugar pie ones or 35 minutes for kabocha squash. Do not over cook.
Once you have about 20-30 minutes left on the pumpkin, brown the sausage chunks in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion, salt and pepper to taste and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and apple and sauté until al dente.
Add the wine, water, sugar, thyme and the sausage. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove pumpkin from the oven and pour out any remaining water in the pan. Flip the pumpkin cut side up in the pan and fill with the stew filling, mounding it at the top if necessary. Return to the oven and bak for another 10 minutes so everything is warmed through and the flavors have melded into the pumpkin flesh. Serve directly in the pumpkin bowls. If using one large pumpkin, scoop the sides of the pumpkin flesh when serving so everyone gets some pumpkin in their bowls too.
Non-game substitution: Any store-bought Italian sausage will do the trick.
Vegetarian Substitution: You can just axe the sausage for a wonderful vegetable stew. You can even throw in a can of white beans or give it a good sprinkle of parm to increase the protein factor and make it a meal.