This Unforgettable Fall Dinner Starts with a Big Fancy Pumpkin

Dense, creamy, and fiery-fleshed, heirloom pumpkins are ripe for roasting.

Photo: Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer

Hands down, my favorite pumpkin for cooking is the Long Island cheese pumpkin. Tan, smooth, and squat, these gorgeous gourds resemble wheels of cheese; their creamy, dense, and vibrantly orange flesh only adds to the illusion. An heirloom varietal preserved by seed savers in Long Island, New York, its flavor is a cross between butternut squash and sweet potato, with a vegetal aroma akin to its melon and cucumber cousins. With a thick skin and a large, flat cavity, these pumpkins are perfect for roasting whole — they sit stably on a baking sheet and can accommodate your choice of hearty fillings.

Last fall, after impulse-purchasing a case of cheese pumpkins, I went on the prowl for recipes to use them up, only to find bread-, cream-, and yes, cheese-stuffed versions. Hoping for something a little lighter and weeknight dinner–friendly, I calculated a rough ratio for cooking rice inside the pumpkin, aiming for a risotto-like texture. I love pumpkin in red curries and how the sweet aroma complements coconut milk, lemongrass, and ginger. And while this makes a hearty and warming main course, it also makes a wonderful side dish for roast fish or pork. Bring the whole pumpkin to the table on a rimmed baking sheet or platter and spoon the saucy rice, studded with tender pumpkin, into shallow bowls.

Seek out tan-skinned, smooth Long Island cheese pumpkins, orange-skinned Cinderella, deeply ridged Fairytale, or dusty, green-tinted Calabaza for this recipe.

Whole Roasted Pumpkin with Green Beans and Red Curry Rice
Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer
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