We have arrived at this week’s last “basics” post. Today, I’m showing you how to make your own pumpkin purée. I know this is not an Italian recipe, and I’m breaking my all-Italian-recipes “rule”, but around Thanksgiving, I start making many of my favorite, traditional American recipes. Italians do eat many varieties of winter zucca (squash) which they use in velvety zuppe (soups) and fillings for ravioli, tortelli and other stuffed pasta, and I’ll be bringing those recipes to the blog as well.
I’m making a pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dessert table this year, and I wanted to make my filling with fresh pumpkin. Homemade pumpkin purée couldn’t be easier to make. Sure, opening a can is much faster and I always keep a couple in my pantry, but I love the flavor of freshly roasted pumpkin purée and making it from scratch is a great way to take advantage of this hearty winter vegetable when it’s in season. If you can cook a butternut, acorn, or spaghetti squash, you can cook a pumpkin. The only difference when cooking a fresh pumpkin to make purée is that you don’t add any oils or seasonings to the pumpkin flesh before roasting it. You will eventually season the purée once you use it in a recipe. Roasting is the perfect method to cook the pumpkin because it dries out excess moisture from the flesh and caramelizes the natural sugars which gives the finished purée rich flavor and smooth texture.
To start, you will need to buy a sugar pumpkin, which are also labeled “pie pumpkins”. They are much smaller than jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and have dense, fragrant, bright orange flesh that is perfect for eating. The texture of sugar pumpkin’s flesh is also consistent throughout which ensures it cooks evenly and results in a well-textured purée. Aren’t they just the cutest?
The process for making homemade pumpkin purée is easy and straightforward. I had so much fun creating the visual tutorial collage for my basic pie dough yesterday, that I decided to do the same for the pumpkin cooking process. The one thing I cannot stress enough when prepping a pumpkin (or any squash with hard skin and flesh) is to please be careful. Work on a flat, uncluttered surface and use a sturdy cutting board large enough for the task. Make sure your knife is very sharp and keep your hands away from the blade. If the knife gets stuck, gently rock it back out before attempting to finish cutting the pumpkin, and take your time. Cutting the pumpkin to prepare it for cooking is the only tedious part of the process. After that, the rest of the steps are simple and you’ll soon have a batch of homemade pumpkin purée that will shine in your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
The amount of cups of purée you will get from one or more roasted pumpkin(s) will depend on the size pumpkin(s) you use. The amount of water you use to add moisture to the purée will vary on how dry the pumpkin flesh is after roasting. Add the water 1 teaspoon at a time to ensure you don’t add too much at once. Refer to the picture collage above as you follow the recipe.
1 sugar pumpkin (also known as “pie pumpkin”)
- Wash the pumpkin well before cutting it open. Use a sharp knife to cut off the stem end of the pumpkin. Discard the stem.
- Cut the pumpkin in half to expose the seeds and membrane.
- Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and membrane. Save the seeds for roasting if you wish.
- Be sure to scrape out as much of the stringy membrane as possible as it is fibrous and tough.
- Cut each pumpkin half into quarters.
- Place the cut pumpkin quarters on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Do not season or pour any oils over the pumpkin.
- Place the pumpkin into a preheated 375° oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, until the flesh is light golden at the edges and can be easily pierced with a sharp knife.
- Remove the cooked pumpkin from the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes, or until it is easy to handle.
- Use a knife to carefully peel away the skin from the flesh. It should slip off easily. Discard the skin.
- Cube the cooked pumpkin flesh into 2-inch pieces.
- In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the pumpkin flesh with a few teaspoons of water until it reaches a smooth consistency. Add water 1 teaspoon at a time to prevent the purée from becoming too wet. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on how large your food processor is and how much pumpkin you have cooked.
- Transfer the pumpkin purée to a bowl and package it for freezing or use immediately per the recipe instructions.
Pumpkin purée can be frozen for up to 2 months. I like to freeze my pumpkin purée in quart-size plastic storage bags so they lie flat and take up less space in the freezer. To thaw, take the purée out of the freezer the day before you want to use it and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Let the purée come to room temperature before using it in a recipe.