My old roommate, Kate, once put a whole butternut squash in the oven and wondered why it was taking so long to cook. I had never seen anyone cook a squash whole. In fact, I thought she was a little crazy for trying it. Since her dinner guest was on the way, we took the squash out of the oven, cut it in half, scooped the seeds out, and it was done before everyone had their second glass of wine (OK, maybe it was done by the third glass).
Turns out, my new favorite way to cook a pumpkin is whole. My roommate, though time-challenged, was on to something. Of the ways to cook a pumpkin, this takes the longest, but it seems to seal in the flavor better and, once cooked, is very easy to work with.
Small to medium-small pumpkins work best for baking whole.
- Heat oven to 350º F.
- Remove the stem and deeply pierce the pumpkin in several places to allow steam to vent.
- Bake until the flesh is soft when pierced (40 to 90 minutes, depending on the pumpkin size).
- Remove and let cool.
- Cut in half, scoop out seeds (save for roasting) and peel the skin.
- Put the pumpkin in a strainer and let it drain.
- Chop, pureé or mash it. For smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin pureé through a sieve.
Note: If you want the pumpkin to cook faster, cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp and chop it into smaller parts. Bake at 375º F.
Don’t forget to roast the seeds! Click here for a recipe.