This stunning savory stuffed pumpkin is bound to be the pièce de résistance at your next party, but don't fret — while it is definitely a noteworthy centerpiece, it won't give you nearly as much grief as a turkey dinner for 12 people!
Apparently I have a soft spot for savory bread pudding, which to this particular Southerner was known as "breakfast casserole" until I realized it is, in fact, the same thing as bread pudding. Thankfully my repertoire has expanded beyond my family’s Christmas morning mash-up of sausage and Wonder bread (which I still love), and now includes all sorts of fanciful combinations of vegetables, meats, and cheeses.
When my editors and I were pondering the idea of stuffing a pumpkin, it only seemed fitting to fill one with an assortment of bread and other delicious things. Upon further recipe research, however, I realized someone had already set the bar pretty darn high for the rest of us: Dorie Greenspan, the queen of all things quintessentially French. Her lovely recipe for “pumpkin stuffed with everything good” has definitely made the Internet rounds, but in case you missed the last wave, what’s the harm in adding one more tasty riff?
I used my tried-and-true savory bread pudding base for this recipe, with a new assortment of add-ins. I was pretty sure I knew exactly what it was going to taste like (after enjoying countless versions of it over the years), so you might imagine my surprise when I was blown away by my first bite. I guess something about the moisture inside the pumpkin just made the filling exponentially better. It had so much more flavor than ever before! And do I even need to mention the fact that it’s baked inside its own beautiful serving dish, giving it major curb (and cleanup) appeal? Here we have an otherwise homey side dish that's now a stunning starlet!
It's probably been said a billion times before, but if you're searching for a perfect dinner party dish, then look no further. This whimsical recipe for savory stuffed pumpkin is guaranteed to impress even your most jaded guests when it makes its grand debut at the table. I promise it's going to be in your holiday canon for years to come. (But don't wait until Thanksgiving to take my word for it; try it soon!)
Savory Stuffed Pumpkin with Sausage and Gruyère
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Epicurious
Serves 4 to 6
1 large baking pumpkin (approximately 5 to 10 pounds)
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old crusty bread, such as sourdough or French baguette
1 1/2 cups (about 5 1/2 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as canola
1 pound uncooked Italian sausage or bulk sausage, any casings removed
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 to 3 heaping cups spinach or Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for the top
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the pumpkin on a flat work surface. Using a heavy-duty knife inserted at a 45-degree angle, carefully cut out a “lid” from the top of the pumpkin. Remove any seeds and cut away any loose strings using kitchen shears. Transfer the pumpkin to the prepared baking sheet and set aside.
Combine the bread cubes and Gruyère in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking it into crumbles with a wooden spoon, until it is golden-brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the bread and cheeses
Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Increase heat to high and add the wine, using the wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until it is almost evaporated. Add the spinach or chard and a generous pinch of salt; stir until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach or chard to the bread mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, Dijon, 2 teaspoons salt, thyme, and pepper until combined to make the custard. Pour the custard over the bread mixture and gently toss to coat. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the stuffing to the pumpkin, filling it all the way to the top. (If there is extra, you can bake it in a small dish on the side.) Fit the “lid" back onto the pumpkin and transfer to the oven.
Bake until the filling is bubbling and hot, and the flesh of the pumpkin can be pierced with a knife. This can be anywhere from 1 to 2 (or more) hours, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. If possible, remove the cap for the last 30 to 45 minutes of baking (sprinkle with grated Parmesan and fluff lightly if the stuffing has smushed down) so the top can crisp up a bit.
Carefully transfer the pumpkin to a serving platter. Slice the pumpkin into large wedges and serve along with a generous portion of stuffing.
- This recipe can easily be tripled or doubled, but instead of getting a larger pumpkin, use multiple pumpkins. The bake time will take longer, but start checking it at the times the recipe calls for.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)