There are many varieties of pumpkin but in most people’s mind, the name conjures up an image of the “American pumpkin” which, when emptied, is used as a lantern at Halloween. This variety, which first originated from America before spreading to the rest of the world, can grow to the considerable size of 35 kg and is also the one with the highest sugar content. Its skin is yellow streaked with green and its flesh is orange in color. There are hundreds of ways of cooking it: oven baked, steamed, in risotto or soups, fried in batter and even in the form of pickle or jam. When slightly salted and roasted, its seeds make an excellent snack but it also gives us a reddish oil for cosmetic and culinary use. Even its flowers, only the male ones though, are a treat when breaded and fried. However, what interests us most is its flesh which is sweet, slightly almond flavored and velvety, with an aftertaste of papaya and coconut.
Pumpkin: Classical pairings
Pumpkin, pickle and chili pepper. Nothing enhances pumpkin more than a note of piquancy. For centuries, this has been confirmed by the typical Mantuan tortelli which – as tradition demands - contain apple pickle. Even an “ordinary” cream of pumpkin soup takes on a new assertive twist with a hot spicy note.
Pumpkin and chestnuts. Whenever you think of autumn, these two products immediately spring to mind. Their popularity depends on the fact that they share two molecules which recall “earthiness” and the flavor of walnuts.
Pumpkin with nutmeg and cinnamon. When used in desserts, the pumpkin flavor is enhanced by these two spices with their sweet aftertaste. They are added to almost all gourd-based desserts.
Pumpkin and chocolate. A good quality 70% dark chocolate with its buttery and bitter undertones can only mitigate the sweetness of pumpkin and enhance its fruity notes.
Pumpkin and truffle. The king of fungi is used to being the star of the show and does not tolerate the intrusiveness of overpowering ingredients, so it adores the gentle pumpkin. Shave truffle generously on pumpkin risotto, soup or puree.
Pumpkin: Original pairings
Pumpkin with bacon. Like all sweet and creamy textures, pumpkin loves the savory flavor of bacon, fried until crisp and sprinkled on top of a pumpkin and potato puree.
Pumpkin and pinus mugo. Its resinous, balsamic notes well suit the neutral taste of pumpkin and give a fantastic new twist to the classic pairing with aromatic herbs, such as sage and rosemary.
Pumpkin with Chanterelle mushrooms. Both being rich in earthy notes, pumpkin and mushrooms are a perfect match but chanterelles also have a fruity flavor they share with pumpkin.
Pumpkin, lime, and ginger. We have already seen that pumpkin loves flavors which are hot, spicy and citrusy so what could be better than these two ingredients which encapsulate all such nuances of taste?
Pumpkin and gorgonzola. Blue cheeses team up well with the notes of dried fruit typical of pumpkin. Another excellent pairing is with a nice fresh goat’s cheese since its acidulous notes offset the sweetness of pumpkin.
Pumpkin: Top chefs' pairings
One of the legendary dishes of Dal Pescatore restaurant in Canneto sull’Oglio is Nadia’s three-starred pumpkin-filled tortelli, the Santini family’s signature dish. One of the latest desserts created by World's 50 Best Restaurants star, chef Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana, is the tirami-zucca, which is similar to traditional tiramisù, with the addition of a pumpkin cream to mascarpone, paired up with amaretto, coffee, and grated chocolate. Three Michelin starred chef Jonnie Boer from De Librije in Zwolle, Holland, has created a dish combining pumpkin and langoustines, bergamot juice, pumpkin seed puree, and distilled cucumber. Two dishes which have left a lasting impression on the customers of The Square and Kitchen W8 restaurants in London are signed by two-starred Philip Howard who loves pumpkin with scampi, pumpkin puree and a horn of plenty rings on a bed of creamed mushrooms.