For the longest time I thought those cute little pumpkins–no more than 3 or 4 inches in diameter–were nothing more than happy little fall decorations. There they’d sit on the side of the road at farmers’ markets and at well-stocked grocery stores, bright orange banks of mini-pumpkins bearing such ridiculous names as Jack B. Little.
One day I wondered if these little guys tasted as good as they looked. I cooked one up and was delighted. These are among the tastiest pumpkins or winter squashes you will find anywhere. And indeed because these miniature pumpkins are so decorative, you can go ahead and use them as a stylish container for whatever dish you make with them. I serve this soup in them, but you could plate up anything from pumpkin risotto to vegetable chili in miniature pumpkins too.
The season for these little pumpkins is fleeting–they pop up briefly in the fall and then vanish–so be sure to grab them whenever you see them. If you can’t get to them right away, just roast them (as I do in this recipe), scoop out the pulp, and freeze it in a resealable plastic bag for later on.
If you were wondering about alternatives to the Italian flavorings used in this soup you might try lime and fresh ginger or chipotles in adobo sauce.
16 mini-pumpkins, 3 1/2 to 4 inches across
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, finely chopped
About 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (You’ll find the recipe in Episode 103 on my Weeknight Meals web site)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup fresh sage leaves
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnishPreheat the oven to 350°F. Slice off about 1/4 inch of the top with the stems from 8 of the pumpkins. Slice the other 8 in half. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Pull the seeds away from the stringy membrane, clean, rinse, and pat dry.Toss the seeds with the vegetable oil and salt. Arrange in one flat layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.Place the pumpkins and the lids cut side down on lightly oiled baking sheets and bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the pumpkins on wire racks. Scoop out the cooked flesh from the halved pumpkins. Scrape most of the pulp from the remaining pumpkins, leaving just enough in each so that it retains its shape.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the scooped-out flesh from the pumpkins. Pour in enough of the stock to cover and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-high heat for 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in a food processor or pass through the fine setting of a food mill. You should have about 8 cups of puree. Return it to the pot and season again with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350°F in a deep saucepan. Add the sage in very small batches and fry until translucent, about 20 second. (The oil will bubble up furiously when you add the sage to the hot oil.) Drain on paper towels.
To serve, warm the pumpkin shells in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Heat the soup until hot, adding water if necessary to thin it slightly. Put each of the shells into a shallow soup bowl and ladle some of the soup into the shell. Top with a few fried sage leaves, some Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings, and a few of the toasted pumpkin seeds. Place the lid slightly askew on top and serve at once.