Tag Archives: pumpkin

La zucca magica

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Nigel’s soup, and other stories

Good manners: the noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.
~ Bennett Cerf

If I kept a food diary, I would have documented a pretty colourful week. A slice of sweet-as-hell “Anzac cake” (from a bustling cafe); perfectly toasted croissants with melting cheese and salty ham; chocolates scooped from a basket; salmon, cream cheese & alfalfa artfully arranged on mini pikelets; rolls stuffed generously with smoked chicken and glistening salad and smeared with sundried tomato paste; crispy spinach samosas; a bag of perfumed feijoas (a gift); chocolate and caramel slice cut into pretty scalene triangles……

Now, before you think I’m whipping all these things up in my humble kitchen, I am not. Food has just been raining down on me for some reason. Fruit was dropped off at my front door, chocolate was left on my desk at work, coffee was delivered to me with a smile. Seriously. And I had a work lunch and a workshop/networking lunch in the last two days – not a usual occurrence – and we were totally spoilt by corporate chefs/caterers.


Along with all of this food, I’ve been reading a book I found in the library – “Climbing the Mango Trees” by Madhur Jaffrey – a story about her childhood in India, complete with lovely descriptions of what she ate growing up. An edible book!

Since food has been spilling into my life this week, I haven’t had much need or want to cook.

I have cooked two things this week though:

a slightly modified (to suit what I already had) version of Nigel Slater’s pumpkin, tomato & cannellini soup (pictured above) – I made what looked like a small pot of it, but the soup seemed to last forever… warm and sweet and tangy and perfect on the two rainy afternoons and one cool night when I had it (this soup is great for keeping in the fridge/reheating in the microwave – yay!)…

and an experiment composed of end-of-week fridge and pantry remnants – pasta with parmesan shavings and a sauce of butter, brown sugar, garlic, leek rings, cannellini beans, rosemary, lemon, a tiny trickle of soy sauce and milk which turned slightly frothy as the sauce began to roll into a gentle boil on the too-hot (unstoppable) electric stove.

… Side note: definitely falling in like with cannellini beans these days.

Time to sleep – good night and have a great weekend, everyone!

Penne con la zucca

People ask me: “Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?”… the easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.
~ M. F. K. Fisher

Penne con la zucca. I love it. Everything about it. Its name, for one – “zucca” (Italian) sounds so classy and exciting – everything its English equivalent, “pumpkin”, is not. I don’t know about you, but the only time I’ve thought the word “pumpkin” sounded remotely exciting was when I was a kid reading “Cinderella” – and even then, it only got to be her coach for a few precious hours.

I discovered this magic recipe for penne con la zucca through the equally magic Google today, while looking for ways to dress up my pumpkin wedge for lunch. I hadn’t read even half of François-Xavier’s post before I ran into the kitchen with my laptop…

The rain coursed down the kitchen window like a slow tear running down a woman’s cheeks as I wiped my wet eyes (from working with a potent onion) and chopped the pumpkin into clumsy matchsticks.

It was very easy to cook, even easier to eat… the epitome of comfort. I like it best when food makes you at once alert and entirely caught offguard… this did exactly that for me.

Think warm, soft and caramelised pumpkin strips; sweet, lightly browned onion; wintry cinnamon and nutmeg; melting parmesan flecks; fresh black pepper and pasta al dente. It reminded me of a monkey’s wedding. Abstract, I know :-)

I modified the recipe a little, omitting the cream, adding garlic and cinnamon, and I loved it. I have no doubt the original version of this recipe is delicious too! This dish took around 30 minutes to cook, including preparation time.

On his blog, François-Xavier says that penne con la zucca is one of his “10 best pasta recipes”… I think it may just become one of my favourites too.

Happy Easter, everyone!

    Penne pasta, or any short, tubular, dry pasta – 1 serving
    1 tbsp butter, or 2 tbsp olive oil
    1 large onion
    2 cloves garlic
    350g fresh pumpkin (approximately)
    Parmesan cheese (I used grated)
    Nutmeg (fresh if possible, I used packet)
    Black pepper
    Peel and cut the onion in half, then slice thinly. Smash, peel and mince the garlic cloves. Set aside.
    Peel the pumpkin and remove the soft flesh and seeds in the middle. Chop into thin matchsticks.
    Heat the butter in a skillet, add the onion and sauté over medium-high heat until the onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the chopped pumpkin, and mix.
    Lower the temperature to medium-low and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the onions and pumpkin are well soft. Adjust the heat as necessary. When it is nearly cooked, add in the cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. Mix and leave aside.
    In a very large pot, throw in some salt and pour in some water – bring the water to a rolling boil, then add in the penne and cook for a minute or two less than the cooking time stated on the box or packet.
    Drain the pasta, replace it in the hot saucepan and add in the pumpkin sauce. Mix well – the heat from the saucepan and sauce will finish ‘cooking’ the pasta. Add in the parmesan and extra seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
    Yields one serving.