Pumpkin: the 5 dishes in Emilia that you can’t miss if you happen to be in these parts.
Pumpkin is a very versatile vegetable and we can find it as the main ingredient of first courses or tasty soups or simply as a snack with its roasted seeds in the oven or with the most classic of cakes.
What about the varieties, from the classic elongated yellow to the more rounded orange and this is the harvest period at least here in Italy which runs from September to November. A curiosity is that flowers are also eaten, but only if they are male. And you will say .. how can I recognize them? Because they have the stem.
I’ll tell you about the 5 dishes with which the pumpkin is created and that if you are in our 3 Emilian provinces you cannot miss it.
1. PUMPKIN TORTELLI
This may be a signature dish of the cuisine of Mantova, but it is also found in Reggio, Parma and Piacenza. Made with squares of dough, it is filled with boiled or baked pumpkin with amaretti, mustard, cheese and nutmeg. The Reggiana variety does not generally use the nutmeg or mustard, but instead uses matured Parmigiano Reggiano. One Piacenza version does not have the amaretti or the mustard, and is made only of crushed boiled pumpkin with Grana Padano and ricotta. Parma versions on the other hand can contain only amaretti and mustard, or only pumpkin, it depends on the area of production. They are usually served with butter or an onion/tomato fried sauce. Tradition requires that the pumpkin tortelli are served as a Christmas Eve starter, since meat is banned in the Catholic faith that day.
2. PUMPKIN CREAM
The pumpkin cream is a very healthy first dish, easy to make and with many different recipes: adding different ingredients allows you to make a wide range of different tasty dishes. One form is pumpkin and potato cream, an easy recipe to make, based on pumpkin and boiled potatoes, with a dash of rosemary and some crumbled Amaretti: the result is a delicate and full-flavoured dish. Any good trattoria will offer this dish in autumn.
3. FRIED OR BAKED PUMPKIN FLOWERS
they are yellow, delicated and very taste. Beautiful to look at, they are excellent in many different dishes. You can find them from April through to the end of Setepmber, and are one of the best-known edible flowers, loved because they are used in so many tasty recipes. It is no surprise that when you add the words “fried filling”, these flowers become a genuine delicacy. These should be light but crunchy. Wash the flowers, pat gently, pass tyrough the flour and fry in a little oil for a few minutes, until they brown. Or you can bake them, filled with whatever ingredients you like. You can also use them raw in salads, to give your salad a refreshing touch. You can add them to beaten egg to make a classic Italian frittata. Not all restaurants or trattoria offer them, but if you ask before you book, you will see what they will find a way to help!
4. PUMPKIN BALLS
To make good pumpkin balls, soft and compact, you need to bake the pumpkin, to make its flesh drier and so better for the dough. One variant uses boiled and mashed potato which allows the pumpkin to bind better, and making it easier to form the balls. The pumpkin should be good quality and not full of water, and you can tell by watching it cook – no bubbles should be visible. Often the balls are buttered, with a touch of sage and some cheese, to render the dish lighter.
5. PUMPKIN CAKE
A classic autumn household cake, and easy to make, it is sometimes found in the dessert aisle with mascarpone cheese and cinnamon. This version is more difficult to find, as restaurants provide the classic form, but in autumn a good trattoria should still offer this different version of this traditional regional cake.