Looking for a Thanksgiving side dish that’s traditional yet a “little” different? These stuffed mini pumpkins deliver big autumn flavors in an adorable little package. Even better? They’re highly nutritious (thanks to the whole grain farro), easy to prepare, and can be made a few days ahead. Our family loves the stuffed mini pumpkins as serving vessels, because those who like roasted pumpkin can scoop some up with every bite of farro pilaf; those who don’t can leave the pumpkin walls intact and just eat the pilaf.
Speaking of the pilaf – this would make a great side dish on its own, any time of the year. The shallots and chicken stock give it a deceptively complex flavor, and baking it in the oven makes it almost foolproof. (My grandmother always cooked rice this way.) A little parmesan cheese added at the end helps bring everything together.
Note: If you can’t find mini pumpkins, you could also use small acorn or delicata squash, cut in half and prepared the same way. The cooking time may be a little longer. (These were Jack Be Little pumpkins from our garden – fun and easy to grow, and they last from Halloween through Thanksgiving just sitting out on the counter.)
Mini Pumpkins with Farro Pilaf and Crispy Sage
Serves 8 as a side dish
- 8 mini pumpkins (about 4” across) or 4 small acorn or delicata squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups whole grain farro
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped shallots (about 2 medium shallots)
- 32 oz. (4 cups) chicken broth
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 large sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan
Prepare Pumpkin Shells
Heat oven to 350F. Prepare 2 baking sheets by coating each sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Using a serrated knife, carefully saw off the tops of the mini pumpkins. (If using acorn or delicata squash, cut in half crosswise.)
Scoop out the seeds and transfer to one of the baking sheets. (Optional, but the roasted mini pumpkin seeds are a delicious bonus. You don’t even need to remove them from the pumpkin membrane – it crisps up in the oven and gives the seeds flavor.) Arrange the pumpkin tops and bottoms on the baking sheets, cut-side down.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until seeds are crisp; remove seeds from pan and continue cooking pumpkins another 15 minutes or until flesh pierces easily with a knife. (Sprinkle seeds with kosher salt.)
Remove cooked pumpkins from oven and set aside. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead; cover cooled pumpkins with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Prepare Farro Pilaf
Heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, rinse farro in cold water; drain.
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons butter and chopped shallot; sauté for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.
Add drained farro and sauté another minute or two. Add chicken broth and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt and bring mixture to a boil.
Turn off heat and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake for 45 minutes. Fluff pilaf with a fork. Gently stir in ½ cup grated parmesan. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more kosher salt if necessary.(Can be made up to 2 days ahead; reheat in a microwave or in a 350F oven.)
Make Crispy Sage Leaves
In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter until foaming. Drop in sage leaves and fry for about 30 seconds. Transfer sage to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve sage-infused brown butter for drizzling. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.)
Drizzle the insides of the baked pumpkin shells with a little of the reserved brown butter mixture. (Optional, but enhances the flavor of the squash.) Stuff pumpkins with farro pilaf. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in an oven until ready to serve. Garnish with crispy sage leaves right before serving.
Looking back at another sqash crowd-pleaser: