Delica pumpkin is the queen of pumpkins – dense, buttery and sweet, almost like chestnuts or sweet potato – and it caramelizes beautifully. The skin is lovely too. A traditional way to serve soft polenta is on a big wooden board in the middle of the table with everyone serving themselves. If you have a board large enough, give it a go.
Photography: Sophie Davidson
For the delica pumpkin
rapeseed oil or olive oil
1 Delica or Kabocha pumpkin, 800g–1kg
a couple of sprigs of thyme
handful of sage leaves
For the soft polenta
600ml whole milk
10g salt + more to taste
200g coarse polenta
50g salted butter
50g Parmesan, finely grated
large handful of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
approx. 60g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan or Gorgonzola
Preheat the oven to 190°C fan. Line a baking tray with foil and brush with oil. Rinse the pumpkin, then slice into wedges approx. 2–3cm and remove the seeds and pith. Rub the slices all over with oil and season with salt. Arrange the wedges on the prepared tray on their sides in one layer. Toss the herbs with oil in a small bowl then scatter them over the pumpkin. Cook in the oven for around 60–75 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and the edges have caramelized nicely.
Meanwhile, cook the polenta. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and add the measured water and fine salt. Bring to the boil then pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking with a balloon whisk for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for around 40 minutes, whisking every five minutes or so. You’re looking for a smooth, flowing consistency – I usually add another 100ml milk at the end of the cooking time to loosen it a little.
Add the butter at the end of the cooking time, whisking it through until it’s melted. Turn the heat off and add the Parmesan, whisking until it’s melted in the residual heat. Add more salt to taste.
Pour the polenta onto a large wooden board, a large serving platter or divide between warm bowls. Top with the roasted pumpkin and scatter with the chopped parsley and hazelnuts. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and finish by grating or crumbling more cheese over everything. Serve immediately, while still hot.
Stagioni translates from the Italian as ‘seasons’, something we’re definitely on board with. Olivia’s first cookbook is based entirely around that — contemporary Italian cooking through the year, from winter through to spring. Her food is comforting and nourishing, and beautifully served. It’s a perfect guide to Modern Italian food. Extracted from: Stagioni: Contemporary Italian Cooking to Celebrate the Seasons by Olivia Cavalli (Pavilion, HarperCollins Publishers). Image credit – by Sophie Davidson.